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Friday, December 10, 2004

The cake is finished. After an hour and a half (AN HOUR AND A HALF!) of comparing little decorating thingies for the top of the cake in Michael's. AN HOUR AND A HALF! IN ONE AISLE!

The thing is, I hate shopping. All shopping. Hate it hate it hate it. And if I have to do it, I like to be by myself. And I do it quickly.

My mom-in-law, however, likes to shop. And she's not a quick decision maker.

She also simply does not believe me when I tell her certain things are not available here. Her reasoning is that if she can get them in the Spar at Mayor's Walk, then she can jolly well get them in the USA. So when she's looking for a particular item, she looks. And she looks. And she looks. And then (oh the embarrassment, now I know how teenage Stephen feels when he skulks in the background cringing at his parents) she berates hapless shop assistants for the store's shortcomings.

After our morning episode of Torture by Michael's (and bear in mind that she spent a couple of hours there on Wednesday as well) I came right out and told her that I just couldn't do the shopping thing anymore, that I'd gladly drop her off wherever she wants to go and pick her up again whenever she wants, and that if my dad-in-law is up to driving, then of course they can take the car instead of being fetched and carried. But I just couldn't bear to spend any more time in any shops.

I know she's a bit disappointed by that. I would like to be the perfect daughter-in-law and enjoy the whole Girls Out Shopping thing. But I just can't do it.

I love my in-laws, and I know they love me. But in many ways, they know so little of me. And so little of Bobby, too. They don't know anything about our religion, for instance. And they assume we share their prejudices - which are many and varied, but prejudice against gay and lesbian people is probably the biggest.

And this blindness to who we really are is at least partly our own fault. I think it started back when we were at varsity. They disapproved strongly of the fact that Bobby was involved in student politics. Events like his parents storming into his flat at midnight and berating him because they'd heard via the grapevine that he'd been briefly arrested that morning, or like his dad ranting at him in a fury because he had an ECC sticker on his folder ... I think Bobby just decided that it wasn't worth the anger and the pain, and it would be easier to simply not share anything other than surface day-to-day things with his parents. The emotional distance grew, and in the end it was almost like living two lives : "real" life for the whole week, and then Sunday lunch with the folks, where nothing contentious or true or important was ever discussed. The plus side : no unpleasantness. The minus : no authenticity.

It's the children who save our relationship with them. They're the bond. Because they love our children as much as we do, and they think that we're good parents. A bit odd in some ways, maybe (that Ann! always with her head in a book! But she's a lovely mother, really!), but basically good. And that's the glue that holds us together. I love them very, very, much. Even if they do infuriate me on occasion.

I would like there to be more honesty in our relationship, though. I feel as though I hide a lot of myself from them, because I don't want to worry or upset them and it's easiest not to rock the boat. But it would be so nice to be able to be more honest about who I really am and what's really important to me.

Maybe refusing to go shopping is one tiny step in that direction.

Or maybe it's just me being unkind.

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