Sunday, November 28, 2010

Highs and lows: The "You're not worth it" edition

This week I'm going to lead with my Low first, since it was a pretty big, uncalled-for scene and I have a feeling it's changed things drastically in my husband's life going forward.

Before I explain my low, I should preface it with this: From the beginning of D and I, his mom's side of the family has not liked me. Not because I did anything in particular; in fact, I went out of my way to be extra polite and respectful to them when D and I were first dating because I actually liked them, and I thought they were good people. They gave me no reason to think otherwise. At the time, D was living in a studio apartment off the side of his aunt's (mother's sister's) home, and so I was always invited over to watch movies with all of them, have dinner, laugh over drinks. Normal we're-acclimating-you-into-the-family things that any girlfriend goes through.

But then things began to change after D proposed to me just before Thanksgiving. All of a sudden things were chillier over at his aunt's house. They fought over petty things with him more, snubbed me when I'd stop by and gradually distanced themselves from being around when I'd come over to see him. I was confused as was D, though it took him much longer to see these discrepancies that I noticed right away. About a month later this aunt threw a giant family Christmas party at her house (as, I was told, she does every year) and everyone on that side of the family was invited. Other aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins filled her home and though we were invited, we were largely ignored by most everyone there -- most of whom I had never met before and so had no chance to make a good or bad impression before I was obviously judged and ostracized. I felt super uncomfortable that night and was still confused why we were being snubbed. They all knew D well, had practically helped raise him through childhood since he grew up with a single mother, but for some reason when I entered his life as a serious significant other, it was like they preferred to no affiliation with him.

And then I found out why.

Turns out it's because I'm not a Christian like D is (and I use the word "Christian" loosely because aside from being baptized as a baby, D has never really gone to church, never read the bible, etc.) D's about as Christian as Jon Gosselin is an esteemed father figure. But according to D's family, not being Christian was just the part of the problem -- the other part of the problem was what religion I actually was. And this is where things become muddled. 

I was raised as a Muslim -- but I use the term "Muslim" very, very loosely. My mother was born and raised in Afghanistan but is very liberal and has now lived in the United States longer than she's lived in her home country. My father is a blond haired, blue-eyed Midwesterner from Illinois who was never really raised with any religion (as his parents thought most religion was a farce). So me and my siblings were raised as Muslims, but that basically meant we grew up not eating pork. We still had a Christmas tree in our house every winter, still had Easter egg hunts every April -- we were and are a very normal, all-American family who happens to have a multicultural household, like most Americans. Technically my mother told us as kids that we were Muslims, but I think that was more her culture talking. Looking back on it we really weren't anything...we just existed. Spiritual, but that was about it.

But the moment that side of D's family found out I was a "Muslim" that's when everything changed. I was no longer suitable for D, they told his mother, because I "wasn't one of them." They waxed poetic on "like begatting like" and said some pretty terrible, hurtful things that I'm sure I was never supposed to hear but eventually caught wind of. I was shocked that there were still people who were that small-minded about religion and differences, especially -- and this is the comedic part -- toward a person (me) who doesn't even believe in organized religion. All of a sudden I was "lesser than" because I wasn't a "Christian" and they brought out just about every stereotype you can think of regarding terrorism and Islam when they joked to D about how my family must be -- a family they had never even met but had only heard were "muslim" and therefore must be terrorists and other terrible bigoted stereotypes. Obviously.

D was pissed and embarrassed they were capable of saying such things; he was just as shocked as I was. And, in the the end, they wanted "no part of our marriage." They made this very clear when all of them (there were dozens) did not even RSVP to our wedding invitations with a "yes" or "no." They obviously wanted to make a statement about what they thought, and they succeeded. It hurt a lot to witness bigotry firsthand.

That was over three years ago. In May of this year, D and I sent out commencement invitations to his law school graduation, and against my urging that we leave them out of the loop, that they don't deserve to be given a second chance in D's life, he sent graduation invitations to them anyway, hoping to somehow mend the fragile fences they themselves built when we married. And again, nothing came as a response to his graduation notices. No phone calls, no congratulations. Nothing. In fact, one of his grandmothers had the audacity to send back her invitation, unopened. Totally classy move.

So it goes without saying that I think these people are complete trash. Their words and actions piss me off, yes. But I refuse to dwell on their ignorant shortcomings or allow their bigotry to hurt me. I don't know them, nor have I have ever known them and so they have rarely crossed my mind in these last four years. Unfortunately, though, they are a segment of D's family and while he is more than fine putting them out of mind during the duration thus far of our marriage, every single time we see his mother we're reminded of the chasm because she's constantly trying to bring us back all together.

D's mother is a hippie all about peace and love, and was ostracized herself many years ago by this same family and for some reason she's convinced that the answer to all of this is for D and I to forgive them and apologize. Which I'm sorry, but I cannot do. I have friends and family who love and respect me that I don't even have time for because of my busy schedule, so why should I make time and grovel on my hands and knees apologizing (for what???) to a bunch of small-minded pricks who said nasty things behind my back to my future husband, calling in to question his decision to marry me? I can't do it. In the words of Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing when he gets into a fight with that waiter who knocked Penny up, "You're not worth it."


This last week we were again brought into a situation of having to deal with the family since one of them -- D's aunt -- died in a car accident a few days before Thanksgiving. Yes, it's tragic and all since she was only 34, but there is a part of me that's glad it happened. Terrible terrible terrible, I know. But this blog is all about being honest so there you go. I finally admitted it out loud. They've got some horrible karma coming their way and I feel like this is just the beginning. I can't find it in my heart at all to feel sorry for them about this loss, or feel sorry for her. I just feel nothing. 

As you can imagine, going to her funeral the day after Thanksgiving was the last thing I wanted to do. I made that very clear to D, and he didn't blame me, but he stressed we needed to go out of respect for his mother, and so I reluctantly agreed. Well, we picked D's mom up on the way there and we didn't even make it onto the freeway before she was blowing up at D for being 10 minutes late to pick her up. I get that she was stressed out about the death and all, but please. The way she was shrieking was childish and uncalled for. Then she launched into a lovely tirade about D needs to grow up and mend what's happened between us and the family. D completely lost it and I've never heard him yell so loud in my life, he was practically roaring at her over his shoulder about their bigotry and racism to the point of where I had him pull the car over to the side so we wouldn't get into an accident. 

They were roaring back and forth and then -- for some reason -- I got pulled into the fight because his lovely mother started yelling at me that I was "too strong-willed" and that D needed to grow some you-know-what's because I needed to be "dealt with" (and by "dealt with" I had a sneaking suspicion she meant something along the lines of physical discipline, which really got me fired up since no man has or ever will lay a hand on me like that. That is the last thing D would ever dream of doing, but it makes sense she'd say something like this -- she's been divorced four times and has most likely witnessed domestic abuse first-hand. Sorry honey, but I'm not you.) 

I turned around and flat out told her we were never going to apologize to them and that they didn't deserve it, and then she began hollering about my parents (whom she's only met twice). She spouted off some false assumptions about them and their marriage (how are they any of her business and what do they have to do with this conversation??) and that's when I told her to get out of the car. Which is something I'd NEVER do, but she crossed a definitive line and that was it. D sided with me, and told her to get out, and so we dropped her off on the side of the road with her yelling at me that I was a "bitch." Needless to say D and I skipped the funeral. 

That enough drama for one afternoon? At this point I don't ever see myself speaking to this woman, much less this family, again. Getting to know her these last four years, the way she acted in the car was the completely opposite of how she normally is and what she trumpets herself as being. I have lost all respect for her. D feels very betrayed and keeps wondering out loud how he'll ever trust her again. Which is a good question. Because I don't. As far as I'm concerned I'd be overjoyed if I never had to deal with any of this bullshit again.


Thanksgiving (the night before) was terrific. My parents had 18 relatives over so our house was full of cousins, aunts, uncles and significant others, eating, talking and laughing for hours. Was definitely one of the most memorable Thanksgivings of my life.


  1. I'm proud of you for staying strong and proud of D for standing by you. I wish I had the right words to say, but I am sad to say that after searching my heart, no matter how much I wish I did, I don't. I can say I know very well how you feel, and if I could give you hugs and comfort and fix all of it, I would.

  2. I'm not sure that there are any words to say that would make any sense or provide any comfort to you at this time. Religion has long been an excuse for bigotry, ignorance, hate and war. I was raised a catholic and I have seen some of the most pious church-going people do unchristian things to their own families whether it was unkind words or actions. I'm just really sorry that you and your husband have had to experience, the saying is true that 'you can't choose your family!' At least you have each other. Take care and here's to more highs! xx

  3. I am so sorry to hear about your husbands family. It really is truly amazing how ignorant people are.

    I am glad you your family is supportive and gave you a great Thanksgiving Eve.


  4. Well holy shit. I'm reading this over my second cup of tea today and am in complete shock and awe.

    First of all, I believe what you did was courageous. You didn't falter in any way, shape or form and become a submissive woman (I'm assuming your MIL meant that as well). Secondly, sometimes your "family" doesn't really act as such. Believe me, my father's side of the family ostrisizes my immediate family for my grandparents divorce that happened when I was only 5 years old. They even went to great lengths to keep my godfathers death a secret until after the arrangements and my great aunt Toni called my father at 7 am on Thanksgiving morning to bear the news. Lovely people, right?

    I also want to add that I've had to cut out some people in my life based on my relationship with M as well. M is what I like to call a Neopolitan (the best of all the flavors): 1/2 black, 1/4 Puerto Rican and 1/4 white. And some of those people couldn't accept us. All they saw was skin color. So, I cut them out of my life.

    I understand what you are going through. You are a very strong and courageous woman, and I know you and D will get through this together. ANd, the people that matter most are still very much a part of your lives.

  5. I'm sorry. I know (slightly) how it feels. My ex boyfriend whom I lived with for nearly 4 years, broke up with me because his mother told him to. Mainly, because I am Jewish. My religion is very loosely defined, my mom goes to temple fairly regularly and my dad does not. I don't attend either. Christmas and Hannukah have always been celebrated in my house, with friends and family. I never told my ex I wanted him to convert or anything along those lines, I was happy being a very non-religious couple that participated in religious holidays (we always had a Christmas tree, did Easter brunch, etc.) But, that wasn't good enough for his mom and unfortunately, his mom won. He never sided with me, he never saw her as being a bigot and he never understood why I was so upset. Needless to say, we broke up. Also, he know lives with his mother, probably where he belongs.

    I think it's great that D supports you and is able to speak up to his family when they are very wrong. I hope you're able to escape the drama soon.

  6. Wow, what a holiday. I'm so sorry that you and D have to put up with that shit. I don't understand how people can be ignorant like that and have huge fights about inconsequential things like that. I hope for your sake that it won't come up again but I also hope for D's sake that he can reconcile with his family. It's so hard to have that divide and he shouldn't have to put up with it. I'm so sorry for all of that. Again, what a holiday...!

  7. Wow! Holy wow! I'm speechless. I just can't imagine going through that with it's your own husband's mother!? My heart goes out to you and "D". I hope you can put this whole awful family and scenario behind you and just spend the rest of your life around people who are your biggest fans - those who love you and encourage you and complete you, no matter what your background, religion or culture is.

    I know I'd love to have you over so we can talk about our lack of faith, our love of films and how we're all just basic human beings trying to find our place in this world.

    Lots of love!