But he's still just a boy. He can't be thinking of dating seriously. My goodness! He's only 25!

But he’s still just a boy. He can’t be thinking of dating seriously. My goodness! He’s only 25!

When you marry an only son, you should brace yourself for a rough ride on the high seas of parental expectations.

Ironically, the qualms were mine, not theirs. The VPs (Victor’s Parents) welcomed me with open arms and optimism. Their son loved me and that was good enough for them. Unfortunately, that wasn’t good enough for me. I always had to complicate matters.

Usually the complication stemmed from some inadequacy I found in me compared to [fill in the blank]. In this case, I knew The VPs were secretly judging me and I wasn’t going to win the contest without some serious bribing work on my part.

Hey, You! Yeah, You. A mutual friend asked me if I could just slide you a few of these here green backs too you as long as you don't interfere with our "mutual friend's" future plans. Do we have a deal?

Hey, You! Yeah, You. A “mutual friend” asked me to slide you a few of these here green backs if you  you don’t interfere with our “mutual friend’s” future plans with your son. Do we have a deal?  And just to be clear, our “mutual friend’s” name starts with “L” and ends in “orna.”

The VPs were, by my standards, rich. I felt like a donkey–all clunky and scruffy–who had wandered into a paddock of thoroughbreds, groomed and ready for showing.

Hey, fancy horse face. I know I'm not much to look at, but I've got charm.And I make people smile just by looking at me. Can you do that, Mr. Show and Glow?

Hey, fancy horse face. I know I’m not much to look at, but I’ve got charm.And I make people smile just by looking at me. Can you do that, Mr. Show and Glow?

They had a huge stately home with so many rooms that a person could wander around all day and easily get lost. Well at least I could did. I grew up in a trailer where finding your way from Point A to Point B was remarkably simple and quick.

Their spacious home was filled with fine antique furniture. I lived with an odd collection of mismatched pieces, some which my step-grandfather had picked up at the local landfill and fixed with his Topper beer-inspired magic.

The VPs lived on a quiet road in the midst of an apple orchard. We shared small plot of land with my grandparents off of a major thoroughfare, directly across working dairy farm and its accompanying stinky, fly-buzzing ambiance.

They used matching sets of elegant crystal glasses for drinks and had multiple sets of fine china. We had an incomplete set of Looney Tunes glasses collected from the local fast food joint and had our everyday dishes and our everyday dishes, take your pick.

Yosemite Sam was my favorite. Which one was yours?

Tweety Bird was my favorite. Which one was yours?

And friends. The VPs seemed to know everyone within a 50-mile radius who they would invite for any number of soirées. We had no friends and never entertained anyone outside of the immediate family. Anyone coming to our trailer door who did not closely resemble an old, irritated Finnish woman (my grandmother) or a balding old man with beer breath (my step-grandfather) created a flight (Lisa), fight (Tina) or freeze (me) response.

Left: Lisa trying to get the heck away. Right: Tina assessing situation to take appropriate action. Right: Me: frozen and just trying to hang on until the danger is over.

Left: Lisa trying to get the heck away. Right: Tina assessing situation to take appropriate action. Right: Me frozen and just trying to hang on until the danger is over.

I was marrying well above and beyond my social class and I was terribly self-conscious about it. By the time I met my future husband and his family, I had pretty much concluded that my family and I were abnormal and that I had to scramble to elevate us to merely peculiar and simple. I adopted the strategy of “the less said, the better” regarding my “trailer trash” past and aimed to present them with a smart, funny, sweet future daughter-in-law . They didn’t need to know about all that vodka I was drinking or that I didn’t believe in the God they seemed very attached to.

This is not a perfect replica of me in my early 20s. I NEVER smoked any kind of cigarettes!

This is not a perfect replica of me in my early 20s. I NEVER smoked any kind of cigarettes!

The VPs accepted me as I was, or who they thought I was or who I thought I was. (It was a long time ago and I was drunk a lot of the time, so I get easily confused about these memories.) I felt inferiority. But I tried to walk if off, which works a lot better if you have a leg cramp, not an inferiority complex.

I kept telling myself that my family wasn’t all that different from The VPs. I was raised with love, just like Victor was.

  • So what if my father killed himself and Victor’s father was still alive to ask him to work around that big old house for free?
  • So what if I gave up on God and that his whole family was in love with that diety?  
  • So what if I was  socially inept because the adults in my life chose a life of cloistering and he was socially adept because his family befriended everyone and gave them a party just to drive home the point?
  • So what if my mother and grandmother were kleptomaniacs who kept us well stocked in mismatched paper napkins and juice glasses from cheap restaurants while his mother went to finishing school and knew all about garnishing, wearing make-up even if you are sick, and not stealing from diners?

Okay, so I had to impress these people–let them know that their son hadn’t picked an alcoholic, heathen from a sketchy family, which he kind of did?

To make up for my obvious failings, I poured my energies (drunk or sober) into managing The VPs’ impression of me. I know now that it was unnecessary, because their son ditched me, but, at the time, it seemed critical to my success as a future wife to their precious son.

Striving for this image, but...

Striving for this image, but…

The problem was: the harder I tried, the worse I looked.

Barely achieving this image.

Barely achieving this image.

What could I possibly have done to have left a bad impression on my future in-laws? Stay tuned!