Sunday, 25 May 2014

Strangers In A Strange Land

Do you ever build something up in your head and then the reality isn't nearly as bad as you thought it would be? Yeah, me too! Except this week, the reality was even worse than I imagined.

Earlier in the week, I was duly informed that my presence was requested at family dinner. Which is fine, except it wasn't my family. Or at least, not just my family. Oh no, this special feature included me, my Mum, my sister, sister's boyfriend, sister's boyfriend's mum and sister's boyfriend's brother.

One of my friends asked me "What do you call that, dinner with your in-in-law's? In-law's once removed?"

I responded "Hell. You call it hell."

I love Rodders (my sister's boyfriend) with his french accent and kind eyes. He calls me 'Nibbler' and is very sweet and caring. He and my sister make a lovely couple. But there are dental exams I've been more excited about than this mini-summit.

The appointed day arrived and my sister had the good sense to bring myself and my Mum for a pre-meet-drink in the pub below her apartment complex. By the time we were on our second round, we were all feeling much more relaxed. "It'll be fine!" I told my sister, convinced with the helping hand of Pinot Grigio that this could be - dare I say it - fun? It was either that or the compilation of Johnny Cash songs the bored barman was playing that put me in such a chipper mood.

Either way, we gathered ourselves and made the final leg of the journey, arriving at our destination to meet the family. When I think of the greetings, the hugs and the kisses and the "So nice to meet you!", I shake my head at the naivety of it all. Little did we know what we were in for.

We sat down. Drinks were poured. We made small talk. Even the small talk started off wrong. I can't even begin to describe the awkwardness of it all. The passive aggressive comments. The sweeping generalizations.

One example from Rodders mother, about fifteen minutes in, "Oh Vicky, you worry too much about what other people think! You must stop that it!" said patronizingly and with  a straight face.

My reply was "Oh how little do you know me..." as my sister sat there, barely containing her laughter.

I never thought we were going to actually sit down to dinner. Minutes felt like hours and I knew there would be no escape until at least three courses and one post-dinner drink had been consumed. And we had already begun talking about religion.

I knew Rodder's mother was an ex-nun and was still heavily involved with the church. She began to make her own personal case for sainthood. Honestly, there are puppies I've met that need less praise and when that's combined with false modesty, my patience wears thin.

She told us how she was basically Mother Therese 2.0, except in lieu of  humility and a spiritualistic presence, there was a heavy french accent and a lot of holding her hand to her chest.

I have no problem with religious people. In fact, there are many times when I wished I had such faith to hold on to in difficult times. I have great admiration and respect for those who believe and abide by the convictions of their church. But I do have a problem with hypocrisy.

As part of her "Aren't I Wonderful" presentation, she went from saying how great the church was - to saying how horribly the church had treated her and how she could never forgive them, all in the same breath. Struggling to swallow the drink I had just taken, I managed to ask "What?" in a surprised tone. Oh yes, the Catholic Church, especially the nuns had treated her very badly and she went on to tell stories that would make Frank O'Connor feel like he had a privileged upbringing.

I listened and nodded and commiserated on the troubles she had. Just let it go I thought to myself. Just let it be. But I couldn't. I had no illusions as to why on our very first meeting, she was regaling my family with these stories. As she once more spoke about how badly she was treated by the church on account of religious beliefs, but she did all this great work with them, I asked "So why are you still involved with them?"

That momentarily stopped her in her tracks as she looked at me puzzled. "Why are you still involved with them? By your account, they treated you dreadfully and yet you still work with them. I'm not saying what they did is right, but religion is not a pic'n'mix. You don't get to side with the parts you like and discard the parts you don't. For better or worse, when you sign up to a religion, you sign up to it all. Which is fine, but I find it difficult to reconcile the bad things this institution and individuals did to and you remaining an active part of everything your blasting."

Rodders brother, who had been sitting in silence, goes "Good question". Oh dear.

Not long after, the doorbell rang. Rodders and my sister wondered who on earth it could be. It was a priest.

Oh yes, Father D just "happened" to drop by and would be joining us for dinner. Apparently, he had gotten his days "mixed up" and was meant to be coming by another night. But for someone who was gate-crashing a family occasion, Father D was very relaxed and very informed of who we all were.

Sneaking out to the balcony for a cigarette, I told my sister "This is like a bad Father Ted skit!". The night got worse from there. At one point, Father D asked me my religious belief's and my reply was "Just because Jesus and I broke up, doesn't mean we don't talk from time-to-time". I think I could actually see him mentally calculating how many rosaries to do for my soul.

He also ratted me out. After a considerable amount of wine and two courses, I took two bites of the heavy dessert on offer and knew I wasn't going to be able to finish the bowlful. Not wanting to offend Rodders mother (at least not her cooking, anyway), his brother happily swapped his empty bowl for my full-one and it was all grand. Until I was informed yesterday that Father D ratted me out to Rodders mother and she in turn gave out about it to my sister. Git.

I told my sister yesterday that I adore Rodders and love having him as part of the family. But that if they ever intend on getting married, elope.

Mucho Love,

Vicky xoxo

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