Friday, January 4, 2008

A good son-in-law

Spending Christmas with Mademoiselle Red’s family triggered a few memories of other moments spent with other parents.
And definitely, definitely, the Irish are my favourites.

The English (Blairism for the dummies)

It was an intellectual, well-off family. University professors who owned a house in the south of France, where I joined them for a week in the summer.
They were very smart people who had an opinion on everything. Good Labour people who always had a thought for the masses while drinking their Pimm’s.
I was treated well – although a bit condescendingly - until the eldest son showed up with one of his Oxford classmates. The whole family was instantly fascinated by this young aristocrat who was just back from Zanzibar “because he liked the name”. and whose dad appeared on The Guardian on a daily basis. I was suddenly treated as a domestic.
I remember thinking it was quite funny at the time that such bright people with such beautiful ideas would fall for this kind of thing.
But then again the whole England did.

The French (Desperate housewife)

The hugely successful father was never around and his wife did not work. The mother was still a very attractive woman who must have been a very pretty young girl, and who managed to get herself a very handsome promising young man.
She was bored and she was hyper active : tennis – i played with her and she was a tough cookie - gym, shopping, cooking, jogging,...
She also had another younger daughter who looked exactly like her and their relationship was quite tumultuous. I will never forget the fights, the screams, the sound of hands hitting flesh – the daughter was quite up for it too -, the blood running from their nose. As i will never forget that all of this stopped magically as soon as the husband came back at night.
We could then have dinner as a happy family.

The Italians (Mafia Blues)

It was a school trip and technically they weren’t supposed to know that I was with their daughter. But, they did. I remember they smoked like salmon, talked all the time, loved everything French and insisted on feeding me every couple of hours.
One night, we were coming back from the restaurant, the dad heard a noise in the garden and rushed to his office to get a shotgun. A few years ago a gang of men tried to abduct his daughter and he managed to escape by running over one of the men with his car. Since then he lived in constant fear that the mafia was going to take his daughter.
We spent quite a surreal moment waiting for the police to arrive, all of us dead silent, the father with the gun on his lap.
I don’t think I slept more than 5 minutes for the rest of my stay with them.

The Americans (Guess who’s coming for dinner)

I spent Christmas with them. The father was long gone, abandoning the mother and her two daughters. She didn’t want them to grow up in the ghetto so she went down south to this quiet city, where she enrolled at University and found herself a good job and a good career. She was proud and had a really strong personality. It was the first time in my life when the colour of my skin actually mattered. I am white and was not expected to be. You see, growing up, she used to not be allowed to hang out with white kids. She had to piss in different toilets and drink from different fountains. And when she moved to the suburb where she now lives, white people around started selling their house, afraid that she would be followed by more black people.
We had a nice Christmas though. That’s until the other daughter - the one who was always screwing things up, the one who couldn’t keep a job or a boyfriend, as she was introduced to me - showed up with her girlfriend. No one knew she was gay before. The mother just pretended that she did not understand what had just happened and we proceeded with our dinner. But it has to go down as one of the most tense and uncomfortable moments of all my life.
Mind you, it could have been worse, the girlfriend could have been white.


Pedro said...

Another fantastic reason as to why this is the funniest blog to read.

Rosie said...

so what did they make of you? did you charm them?

The Major said...

Pedro: I'm glad you enjoy that much. Note that it makes me laugh too.

Rosie: Now that's a good question. I'll have to ask them though because i have no idea...

Nick said...

That's one thing I hate about the English, that ubiquitous status-seeking and social point-scoring, always watching everyone else like hawks to work out whether they're lower on the heirarchy or higher. If lower, they're immediately treated like the doormat/domestic. If higher, it's non-stop grovelling and brown-nosing to get accepted by them as equals. There's very little of that in Belfast, thank God, the greengrocer or the plumber is as respected as the doctor or the academic.

Caro said...

smoked like salmon