Dinner with a Side of Drama

Get the family together, they said — it'll be fun, they said

Lisa Dexter

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Photo by Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash

I’ve been married for 22 years. Over time, my husband and I have come to realize that our relatives have many traits in common, particularly our respective mothers. While that might make them equally irksome occasionally, it does not make them kindred spirits. They have unflattering opinions of each other, to put it mildly. My husband and I got a front-row seat to their opera of clashing attitudes before we even got married.

The meeting

About a month before the wedding, we invited our close relatives to dinner so they could all meet each other. There wasn’t a large crowd for various reasons (illness, estrangement, death), but our mothers both attended. My mother-in-law had to drive two hours and is the kind of person who always arrives early, so we asked her to show up 15 minutes past when we wanted her there. My mom lived closer, but she could be headed next door and show up late, so we asked her to arrive thirty minutes earlier than we had planned. They appeared almost simultaneously, and all was well until they started comparing notes and turned on us. Still, at least we had everyone together.

We took the family to an expensive, snazzy steak house. Ok, it’s in a mall, but it’s a pretentious mall with little individual stores where you have to walk outside among the fancy landscaping to get anywhere. After a short wait, we were brought to our table, a large, round hunk of wood jammed into a cozy, elevated nook toward the rear of the building. It was a quiet spot in an otherwise-loud restaurant where we could all get to know each other. After we ordered appetizers, the waiter returned with a manager and told us they’d mistakenly given us the wrong table and would be moving us to the center of the bustling main section. This announcement was the spark that brought our respective mothers’ personalities to life, and those front-row seats started to pay off.

On the move

My husband’s mom, Mary, is very much opposed to any form of overt confrontation. She smiled pleasantly and told the staff she completely understood and was sure the new table would be fine. My mom did no such thing. My mom will return a half-eaten pizza to the grocery store…

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Lisa Dexter

I am a freelance writer from the Chicago area. I have one awesome child, one sweet husband, one clingy cat, and one website: www.thinkingwhiletyping.com.