Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Will the Real Asshole Please Stand Up?

Credit where credit is due. Today’s Ask Polly column in New York Magazine nails it. Polly understands the problem and lays it out clearly and concisely. Of course, she adds her usual quantity of mental drool, but her first response is on point, and thus worthy of praise.

In the letter a woman explains that she does not get along very well with her boyfriend's family. Their interactions have ranged between strained and rudely dismissive. She cannot figure out why this is so, but offers precious little information about herself, her demeanor, her decorum, her general attitudes. Aside from her self-righteousness she tells us nothing about her self. It's the first important "tell."

But, we see quickly that she is quick to take offense, and that she has some excessively hygienic attitudes toward a certain virus. Anyway, here is the letter. I trust that you will see what the problem is:

When I first started dating my boyfriend two years ago, I met his brother about six months into the relationship. It was over dinner while he was in town for work (we don’t live in the same city, thank sweet baby Jesus), and while I proceeded to ask him questions and attempted to engage with him, he couldn’t bring himself to ask me anything or even feign interest in getting to know me. Every time I left space open in the conversation for him to start a new topic or give him the opportunity to ask me something, silence followed. To my bewilderment, he texted my boyfriend after dinner with something along the lines of how great it was to meet me and what a great time he had. I wonder if we attended the same dinner.

I thought his wife would soften the edges around the relationship, but she only made it worse. I met her a few weeks later during a weekend at my boyfriend’s parents’ beach house with a group of friends. The first time she saw me, she made none of the usual pleasantries. She didn’t say it was nice to meet me, she didn’t approach me to hug or shake my hand. She just smiled at me. I ended up approaching her and made all of the above aforementioned pleasantries. She is an impossibly bubbly person who I find, quite frankly, to be a fake-ass bitch. The four of us went to dinner and she spent the entire time talking about herself with her body and eyes turned away from me, even though she was sitting directly across from me. One time she was coming into our part of town and I texted her to see if she wanted to grab lunch. She didn’t respond. It was only after my boyfriend said something to his brother that she then proceeded to be obsequiously nice to me to the point where I felt embarrassed for her because it was clear she had been called out and was overcompensating with an incessant string of texts.

I don’t understand what their issue is with me. I wish I could say the relationship has improved, but it has not. They invite us on group trips, and we see them regularly at their parents’ house. My boyfriend has been incredibly supportive and is in agreement that they are self-centered and have not treated me well. He has gone as far as discussing with his brother how he and his wife need to do better since we are getting engaged at the end of this year. However, I feel an immense amount of anger towards them that I am not sure can be mitigated. I have tried my best to be open-minded and get to know both of them, but they continuously disappoint me. They are hypercompetitive people who seem to derive joy only from keeping up appearances without true regard for what anyone else is going through. The only times that my future brother-in-law will talk to me is when he wants to glean information about certain work-related matters that I understand. Recently, after I wished her a happy birthday, my future sister-in-law took a week to respond to me via text. My boyfriend is fairly close with his brother, and he has stated that he would like to remain so even if the situation between us doesn’t improve. I need to respect this, but quite frankly, I wish my future brother-in-law and his wife would just drive off a cliff.

They are about to have their first child, and I have told my boyfriend that once they do have the child, I would like to wait two weeks before we go see them as I have a lot of anxiety about COVID-19 and the possibility of them contracting it while they are in the hospital. My pandemic precautions have been extreme, so this is not out of character for me. My boyfriend has said that two weeks is a long time to wait before seeing his brother’s first child and that he needs to think about it. If he goes without me, I will need to quarantine away from him for two weeks once he gets back, and then at some point, I will need to go up with him again to see this baby because I’m supposed to care. Why should I care, though? Why should I care that these people who do not give two fucks about me procreated? I know I need to do this and fake nice for the rest of my life in order to keep the peace, but the rest of my life is a very long time, and I am already very tired of being angry.

How do I find the grace and inner peace I need in order to spend the rest of my life with my wonderful boyfriend who comes with this set of asshole siblings?

Angry Future Sister-in-Law

Whatever you think about boyfriend’s brother and sister-in-law, the letter writer is obviously a piece of work. AFSIL, as we will call her, seems to have no awareness whatever of what she is contributing to the situation.

Polly, however, sees it clearly:

But then you had a very bad attitude going into meeting the future brother-in-law’s wife. That energy set the tone. Maybe your brother-in-law helped to fuck that up, too, by telling his wife things about you in advance that were formed mostly from his own fear and insecurity and worries that he’d messed up your initial interaction.

Even if she didn’t have any advance warning that there was a problem, she still would’ve picked up on your dislike and distrust the second you met her. People always know when you’re conflicted. You knew that she was conflicted, and she knew that you were conflicted. The only way she could see to save that dinner together was to perform the part of the enthusiastic storyteller.

As noted, we know very little about AFSIL, beyond the fact that she has a bad attitude. She is generally angry, full of herself and perfectly self-righteous. We do not know anything about her appearance, her manners, what she does for a living, how she treats her boyfriend…. We could go on. 

Here, the woman should take Polly’s advice and do an inventory about her own obnoxious attitude, and the negative energy she is throwing into the mix. I would suspect that the brother and sister-in-law do not like the way AFSIL is treating their brother, but we know nothing about that. I believe that the boyfriend in question should do some soul-searching of his own and start asking some serious questions about his relationship.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This woman would have to write an even longer letter if I were her sister-in-law because she'd never get a reply out of me.