Fifty-one percent of women would sooner dust than see their mother-in-law, reports a new iVillage survey
. And 28 percent of women would prefer a root canal.
And a truly intrepid 36 percent report they'd rather go to the gynecologist. While I actually greatly enjoy my annual visits to my charming Dr. Cherry (his real name, I swear), I also adore my 88-year-old mother-in-law Lucille, who has always been a generous, fabulous friend to me.
It probably helped that by the time her tall, handsome son Aaron finally proposed to me in 1995, after a six-year, off-and-on courtship, he was a never-been-married nice, Jewish, commitment-phobic TV comedy writer in his 40s whom they feared would never settle down.
I knew all three of us would get along fine when we announced our engagement 15 years ago and Lucille pulled out a bottle of fine bubbly and whispered to me, "Thank God he chose you. We hated all his other girlfriends."
Although I'm a politically liberal, urban freelance writer like Aaron, they were thrilled to learn I came from a conservative Republican "normal"-seeming suburban clan in West Bloomfield, Mich., not unlike Aaron's in Westchester, N.Y.
I often joke that my meshpucha
was run by a Jewish doctor-god, Aaron's by a Jewish judge-god, so in essence we grew up in the same family. We were also both the artistic black sheep, and thus our folks bonded immediately over their joy that their neurotic, left-wing New York offspring were miraculously doing something -- for once in their lives -- socially acceptable.
After several therapy sessions' worth of discussion, we decided to honor both sets of parents by marrying twice in two weeks. For the first wedding I wore a black dress, and Aaron's father, Isaac, the judge, officiated in a bohemian Greenwich Village ceremony. For the second wedding, Aaron's parents schlepped to my mother's country club, where I wore white as we were married again by Rabbi Groner, from my childhood. Aaron's parents joined mine in a chorus of mazel tovs and hallelujahs.
Since they were closer in proximity, Aaron's parents came to my book readings. I'll never forget the time I noticed Lucille standing in line at Barnes and Noble with a stack of copies of my new book. How could I not adore this woman!? Especially because it was a sex-drugs-and-marriage memoir called "Five Men Who Broke My Heart
" -- that my own family hated and featured her son as a character. (He wasn't so enamored with his portrayal and threatened to write a rebuttal entitled, "The Bitch Beside Me.")
Lucille, on the other hand, read it carefully and called to tell me she enjoyed it, though the racy parts freaked her out a bit. How honest was that? Her memory isn't what it used to be, so she recently told me she'd reread that book and was taken aback by my provocative revelations a second time. That, a daughter-in-law can forgive.
Not that all my connections with in-laws are such love fests. My next book, a novel this time, called "Overexposed
," nonetheless draws from real-life relationships. In fact, it chronicles my difficult connection with my close New York girlfriend who wound up marrying my brother, moving to Michigan, and popping out four kids in six years. In other words, becoming the daughter my mother always wanted.
Interestingly, my own parents and siblings hated my portrayal of my sister-in-law, while my mother-in-law bought several copies and called to tell me how much she enjoyed it (probably because it wasn't about her immediate family).
And, as far as being a dutiful daughter-in-law, my husband and I are both workaholics, and we don't get to Westchester as often as we should to visit. But unlike the rest of our crazy Jewish clan -- who, when we show up to their houses, greet us with the incongruous line, "Why don't you ever visit?" -- Lucille accepts our limitations.
We speak often on the phone, send cards and presents, and see each other for holidays when it's convenient. We used to love when we'd (selfishly) send a car for her and she'd come hang out with us in Greenwich Village, though we know it's much easier for us to travel at this point and we should do it more often. Still, the lack of guilt trips she lays on us is endearing. How many Jewish daughters-in-law can say that?
Mostly I love the sense of humor my husband inherited from her. It's been evident even during the darkest days after she lost her beloved husband. During the Worst Fight Ever with her kids, "The wrong parent lived" was once yelled at her. God knows what reaction some parents might have had. For the next month, whenever Lucille left a phone message, it always began: "It's the wrong parent calling..."
Luckily, from the beginning, she's always been the right parent-in-law for me.
Susan Shapiro, a Manhattan journalism professor, is the author of the recent novels "Speed Shrinking" and "Overexposed." You can reach her here.
Her most recent piece for Lemondrop was an excerpt from "Overexposed"
on how she came thisclose to meeting her own nice, Jewish doctor -- before meeting the love of her life, of course!
More about mothers (and MILs) on AOL:
-Shocker -- Survey Finds Mothers-in-Law Very Unpopular With Wives
-Gossip, Lies & Meddling MILS: The Lives of 11 Modern-Day Princesses
-How I Finally Got Over My Mother's Death