html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Actively like me. Not just tolerate.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Actively like me. Not just tolerate.

I’ve been trying to tell you guys all along that my only absolutes for the men I would date are nice and funny and smart. Then I state a preference for dorky engineers or against serial killers, and I get comments about how I need to be more open minded because the man who is right for me might not fit my exacting criteria. In the Options post, I got a comment suggesting that I branch out from white men. The commenter had no way to know that my seven year ex wasn’t white; I’ll let the implications about racism on my part go for now. However, the experience of dating someone from an extended-family culture left me with another absolute, one that I mean profoundly and without exception, and which may well exclude men from other races. I am not fucking around when I say that I will never again date a man whose mother does not like me.

My ex’s mom hated me on sight. She hated me because I wasn’t of her race, her religion, wasn’t smaller than her son, didn’t wear designer clothes, couldn’t offer her family status in their native country like a girl from a good family would, because my parents are divorced, because I don’t eat meat like a reasonable person. She hated me. Things always stayed civil, if you don’t count the times when she would pull me aside to suggest some weight loss goals, but round about year four, when it looked like I could well be permanent, her opposition became more overt. She would call to tell him that it looked scandalous that my car was parked outside his apartment (and seriously! Fifteen minutes after I arrived the phone would ring from a city on the other side of the world, with a complaint about my car! Fucking amazing. All those aunts, all with nothing better to do.). She would announce family emergencies as we were on the verge of leaving for vacations. She would campaign against time spent with my family, who liked him unreservedly from the first meeting. My favorite was that she kept a list of reasons he shouldn’t be with me in her day planner.

It killed me that there was nothing I could ever do that would make me good enough for her son. That we were always delighted in each other’s presence wasn’t enough. I could never love him faithfully enough, or cook enough good food (and god knows my rice would never taste right) or put enough work into keeping a house or be kind enough to his siblings or get enough education or do anything that would convince her that I was a better option than any size-two girl of his race. The big extended family had some nice and some truly cracked-out people in it, but she genuinely believed every last stupidly drug-addicted or recklessly promiscuous or painfully shortsighted cousin, every mean or shallow or petty person in that family would have been sullied if he had married me.

She fought hard, too, which put me in an awful position. There was no possibility she would ever give, so he always had that pressure on him from one side. If I yielded, said that I guess we could skip that trip if his mom really needs him, well, she would do it again and I would always lose. If I held firm, said that we had planned this and we bought tickets and it was important to me, then I had to watch him feel terrible about the decision. I never got the feeling his mom cared how hard that was on him.

It was sad and awful for me, and worse for him. I am not willing to have that problem again. To nice and smart and funny, you can add “his mom likes me” as a rock-hard absolute. For the rest of it, I’m willing to let the world surprise me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What exactly constitutes a flawed man?

1:03 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

You aren't really going to make me explain that, are you?

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How else would we know? Is it simply lacking any of your 4 definite criteria? Or is it something more?

1:54 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

You sound sincere, so...

Of course I know that everyone is flawed. I was being sarcastic below; knowing full well a statement like that would lead to dating no one. I thought his whole comment was ridiculous and I was perpetuating the attitude it ascribed to me.

Still, I thought about it a little more yesterday and came up with a different interpretation that also fits. My full grown sister and I were home one weekend when my baby sister was three or four. My baby sister was horrid that weekend, all fits and screaming and sheer impossibleness. My grown sister and I were in the garden, taking a break, when she said "man, the Little is just awful this weekend" and I agreed. Then my sister said "She's perfect." I agreed to that too. Everything our baby sister does is perfect, including the bad stuff. To us, she is flawless.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Cladeedah said...

I have the best mother-in-law in the world. She is sweet and kind and thoughtful. I couldn't imagine being married to someone whose mom refused to accept me.

This rule of yours is a good one... unless, of course, mom's dead.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Ooooh! You're right! Dead moms can hate me.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Macneil Shonle said...

Ah, your ex must have been a second (or third) generation American, to have such a "backwards" family sticking to closed values.

Your mother-rule is a good one. I held the complement to that rule: If my mother didn't like my gf at the time then I took it as a sign that I had bad taste in that particular selection. (And given that my mother is an open person and only prone to not like someone if there was a good reason; and given that I had a slight rescuer complex.)

Overall, women have better taste in me than I have taste; and my mother always liked the ones who selected me first.

But now your danger is the tragic one: You meet the perfect guy, and his mother loves you more than he does.

5:01 PM  
Blogger m/p said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:58 PM  
Blogger m/p said...

damn, that woman is mean. im glad you got out when you did, instead of having to spend a lifetime of never being good enough for the prince.

ive been lucky. the mothers of the boys of my longest relationships lived far far away.

this is one is on my list for a man: to have his family live at a safely far distance. i want him to love them, for them to love him and me and my son, but to do so from a car ride or plane ride away.

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Megan, I'm just a lowly non-real pixle but I have to say I couldn't help but smile . I'm sorry because I know this must have been a terrible experience for you but that is what aunts *do*...I mean, like, they seem to be professionally trained to interfere! Anyway, you have come out of it sparkling -as usual.

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a sad story. Truly rotten. That is all.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

You know, she wasn't mean in general. But she knew the path that had made her and everyone she knew happy, and she was watching her baby stray from it, and she was damn well gonna get him back in line. She was also bright and incredibly energetic and had no outlet for either except managing her family. So it got managed.

I did finally ultimatum him (but not over this stuff). He didn't choose me. You're right, I should have done it far earlier. Like, before he left for another country for a year and a half.

It is great consolation to me that this is all my former best friend's burden now. I hope to god he hasn't changed.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

"...then I had to watch him feel terrible about the decision."

Since the internet is all about poorly-informed snap judgements:

His fault for allowing himself to be used as a pawn that way. He needed to put a stop to that nonsense, and his inability to do so poisoned the relationship. The minute you see the guy can't take your side, time for bye-bye.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Sometimes he did chose to be with me, sometimes he thought his family really needed him. I really and truly believe that a married couple should choose and support each other against all others, so I am with you there.

But I don't think it is as black and white for a college relationship. Why should a college boyfriend pick his girlfriend on a close call against a family need? Man, family is forever.

Or, think of the opposite. I never had to do this, but imagine I had sided with someone who is no longer my boyfriend against my sister or parents. In retrospect I would definitely feel I had made the wrong choice.

I'm so lucky that my family has a strong "we'll support you with whoever you're with" motto. But responding to (real) family obligations isn't grounds for immediate dismissal from me.

Snap judgement of my own: Such a strong bias in favor of romantic partners is a very western way to think.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Decent point on your 'snap judgement,' although both my parents' families are Westerners and quite close-knit. I'm just a misanthropic black-sheep.

I'm not sure "westerner" is the right category. I know lots of close-knit Central/Eastern European families. Seems like it's the Nth-generation WASPs / Mutts that are less close-knit.

I think the proper response is something like "You know I love you and respect your judgment here, but what you are now doing is completely disregarding mine, and you are actively hurting me in the process by using our close relationship as a weapon. That's not acceptable."

3:50 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I can't believe I'm defending him here, 'cause now I love the thought that his mom is putting the screws to him over his relationship with my former best friend. But I'll keep going:

He wasn't disregarding my judgment or using my love as a weapon. He was genuinely agonized when this stuff came up. Now his mom was cheerfully willing to do all of that. But the reason this was so hard for him is that he wanted to be with me, and his family also had an excellent claim.

He could have stood up to his Mom, I suppose, but holy shit. Who wants to take that on? I mean, the whole point of this thread is that the hard-core Moms are terrifying.

4:02 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Sorry, I was unclear as to who was talking to whom when I theorized the "proper response."

I meant that as HIS proper response to his family. It seemed that his Mom was indeed using the relationship as a weapon, and that can't stand. Or else he's going to eternally suffer genuine anguish.

And if the guy can't call BS on that sort of abusive behavior, then either she's too scary and/or he's too wimpy. Either way it's time for the girlfriend to run far away.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

No no! It is time for his current girlfriend to suffer this situation for years, trying to please an un-please-able potential MIL who will never approve of who she is. And it is time for him to waffle, torn between the two, never deciding until the last minute which way he'll go. His current girlfriend should put up with this shit for at least several years, before realizing too late that he will never make an assertive decision. Mom should stay scary! He should stay wimpy! And my former best friend should act just like I did, the way she did for all the years we were close.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

Hi. So, I assume Ex and Ex-Best are still going out, then? Really? Whoa. (I also assume the comments that you moderated out of existence were from the Ex's mom.)

When TJ and I met, it didn't take long to realize that we could potentially get married because we both had moms named Linda who were crazy in the same type of way. It would take a while to describe this "way" but has to do with obsessing over logistics and traffic and repeating everything six times. Anyway, I knew we were going to get married because we both understood the trials and tribulations of dealing with "Linda Logic."

Never mind that he wasn't Jewish or that he, like, plays squash and watched hockey on TV. Never mind that one Linda is CLEARLY the prototype for the "Jewish Mother" and the other is really quite WASPy, they are strangely exactly the same! And so we had all the compatibility we'll ever need to draw on based on the bond of the Lindas...

In short, Moms are serious business and they invade every aspect of your personal, work, and social life no matter what anyone says.

Read more about this mom topic on my blog! (That is, if I ever get it going, given that I spend my disposable blog time reading yours and not writing mine.)

5:29 PM  
Blogger Megan said...


I think so. I haven't heard anything either way for a year or so. I think word would get back to me if they split.

I've never moderated a comment; the comment authors retracted those.

I freakin' love that you are blogging and can't wait to see what you'll have to say. I told Chris to check you out.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"my rice would never taste right"
and "all those aunts with nothing better to do"

Hehe, may be it's the racism talking here, but I immediately thought of asian parent. And reading your post today, seems like I was more right than wrong.

So are you saying that if you met the perfect guy, you would dump him if his mother hates you? Even if he chooses you every time? Isn't it a bit harsh?

I'm asian myself, and though my parents are no where nearly as mean as your ex's mom, I would not waffle if I was in your ex's shoes. I would make my mother understand that she can't change with her complaints. Like you said, married couple should support each other against all others, including their parents.

So can you may be add "or can make his mother back off" in addition to "his mom likes me".

6:22 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

In all my years of having all Asian-Am friends and in years of dating one, I have never seen them make their mother back off. I would include your exception, but I don't believe it exists.

Also, I don't want to be the cause of that confrontation ever again. It too hard on him and me.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised by the widely expressed opinion that this is a simple problem with potentially simple resolutions.

My personal details aren't that relevant... but they're the example of this type of situation that I'm most familiar with.

My mother only approves of my dating jewish girls. Her father escaped the Holocaust, her grandmother was murdered in it. She will claim that marrying a non-jew will wipe our ethnic group off the face of the earth, effectively accomplishing the intended goal of the Holocaust.

That is a serious emotion! I personally disagree with her reasoning, but the fact remains that she feels this way.

Given this emotion, I'm skeptical that it's so righteouss to tell your mom to fuck off... which is approximately how I interpret some of the recent suggestions.

I'd agree with megan that the situation sucks sucks sucks. But if you've formulated a simple "proper response," then it's possible your just more insightful then I've been... but you also might be oversimplifying the emotions involved.

The backstory will be different for different ethnic groups. The real issue remains the same.

As a final note, people judge each other by all sorts of superficial criteria. If someone wants to label ethnicity criteria (such as my mother's) as rascist, please explain how they are worse then preferences for certain breast or cheek bone shapes... which are equally superficial and are socially acceptable.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

Pssssst!!! Megan! JUST MARRY this DAN guy. He's just admitted to being an NJB, and he clearly is about to propose to you. Right Dan?

9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I'm certainly not advocating telling your mom to fuck off, not right away anyway. But say if she brings up Holocaust, I would argue that marrying only jews is doing precisely what the Nazis wanted. Wouldn't that just be following the Nuremberg Laws and racial purity. Hmmm, a much better way would be to only date 7ft tall blond german dudes, and convert him to Judaism. :-)

Ok, it probably wouldn't work, but the point is you tried. I've seen plenty of my asian friends not even trying to introduce their gf, because they "think" the parents will not approve. That's just too much.

I'm all for superficial. Megan likes engineers, but not lawyers. That's great, it's what she wants, and not because her father likes engineers.....

BTW, it may be rare, but there are asians who can make their mother back off. I've seen it.

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the encouragement Dubin! But I'm not sure Megan has come clean about her standards yet.

First she wanted nice, funny and smart. Then she added maternal approval (paternal approval is apparently negotiable). Next thing you know, she's going to add she's met him or lives within 2000 miles.

Even assuming I'm nice enough, smart enough, and she could kick the shit out of me-- some namby pamby rule that we actually know each other would be a real dealbreaker.

Depending what you mean by "tried", Megan's ex tried too, and it sounds like she'd have traded that experience for 6 years with her head in a vice.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

You know, I've never run into paternal disapproval. Although my first boyfriend's dad was way too enthusiastic with the approval, and kept asking for details on what it was like to fuck me. I stopped going to his house.

8:56 AM  

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