a Women Writers' Showcase
By Tina Portelli

Every family suffers from the in-law syndrome.   Sometimes it is the mother-in law who will drive you mad.   Sometimes it is the father-in-law who is so annoying that you can’t stay in his company for more than an hour.  But this is understandable because they are elderly.   They can irritate and sometimes hurt us, but we accept this unacceptable behavior in a more tolerable and compassionate way.

What makes me really suffer is when we have issues with our contemporaries, our brother or sister-in-law, especially if they are of the same gender.  There is always that element of competition within the family circle.  And that can sometimes extend to outsiders too.

No one would ever guess that my sister-in-law of twenty-five years doesn’t want me around.    Could it be because others do?     She appears to like me on the surface, I would say she loves me in her way, but her actions speak volumes.   Does she think that I am deaf and blind to her strategic dialog? Public eyes are fooled as well.   She seems the perfect in-law.  Sister-like almost.  But she does not fool the two brothers, our husbands,  or me.

Many years ago we planned a beach weekend with our families, which also included a group of her friends, all couples, with their kids.  Before the trip I had asked her if I should pack dress clothes for the evening, but she said, “Oh no, it’s only the beach, no need, we aren’t going out”.   On the second day of our long weekend, all the girls decided to go out for some music and drinks.   I quietly left the common room to be alone, knowing I had nothing to wear and couldn’t join them.   As the husbands sat around the television watching sports, I sat with my book.    My brother-in-law asked me, aren’t you going out with my wife and her friends? I explained I did not bring an appropriate outfit.   When one of her girlfriends came into the room to ask me the same question, I embarrassedly told her the same. 

“What do you mean, she told us all to bring dress clothes, we were going out on one of the nights”.

It was obvious she never intended for me to join the group.   Moments later, she did suggest I baby sit with the kids.  Did she think I wouldn't notice her plan to go out?   And so I did watch the kids, feeling rejected and foolish.   That was fifteen years ago, so I’ll attribute that time to immature girlish behavior.

But what excuse can I make for her tonight, when we are almost fifty, our children grown.   As she planned a pre-prom buffet for her daughter, inviting family and friends, I was happy to be included, of course.    It was when I called her back to check the time I should arrive, that my brother-in-law gave me the details of the event.   “People will be here about four o’clock for coffee and sandwiches, my daughter is leaving at eight. ”

An hour later, my sister-in-law called me because she forgot to tell me the time, not knowing that I already spoke to her husband shortly before. 

“Be here around seven, you don’t have to rush”.

So, I have been asked to come and join the party three hours after it starts and an hour before it ends.

Sister-in-law, what a terrible thing to do, shame on you.

Tina says, "I am 54, single and live in Brooklyn, NY.  I work in Manhattan as a full time office manager.  My writing is a newly found passionate hobby. I get my ideas from personal experiences and the adventures of family and friends.  I have never taken a writing class, but three years ago I started practicing meditation.   I attribute my newfound passion of writing to that practice, meditation gave me a clear and open mind.  No better friend than the soul of my pen."  Contact Tina.