Dec. 22nd, 2008

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We went to Tania's tree-trimming party Saturday night. She put on a nice spread with ham & shrimp, macaroni salad, Swedish meatballs, a cheese & spread tray, apple cobbler & fruit cocktail. She took a lot of time and effort to make a nice get-together for her family. We all had little gift bags full of ornaments to hang on the tree & it was just cozy & nice.

It would have been a fantastic evening, honestly, if it weren't for the fact that Rob's family is kind of like one of V. C. Andrews' families. This is where a monarchy can go seriously awry.

I can't really explain Rob's mom. I see her from a one-sided perspective, and it's not positive in the least bit. I honestly believe that she's got something wrong with her, her brain is broken. Maybe she's got narcisstic personality disorder or something. She's a control freak, she's vindictive and manipulative, she's mean and she refuses to accept that she may be wrong at times. Tania, her daughter, is 8 years older than Rob, so she was able to at least get out of the house a little bit sooner than Rob. Their mother apparently had a psychotic episode when Tania got knocked up before she was married. Tania didn't care about the father but was forced into marrying him rather than just be thrown out of the house, pregnant & with no money, by her mom. Not so psycho, my mother did it to my middle sister... but their mom never let Tania live it down. It's still a big sore spot, how much shame she brought on their family, how her father's relatives shunned them because Tania has an illegitimate child, how it made their family a laughing-stock, they had to move because of Tania's indiscretion, you name it. (My mother was pissed because Terry fucked a black man & refused to have anything to do w/Terry after that, but it was personal, between them. My mother never stopped Jody from spending time w/Terry, never denied her the rest of the family - Jody could take me to see Terry... My dad was cut off from his first half-grandson & grand-daughter because of it, and I think that's the only real fight they ever had - my mother even admitted to being a bitch about it but she refused to bend). So Tania ended up marrying the father of her baby, & Frank was abusive to her, was growing pot in their basement, never worked but spent a lot of Tania's money on the QVC channel & gambling w/his buddies, that kind of thing. When Tania got the balls to get a divorce, it became another disgrace upon their family because most of the relatives are Catholic.

Rob's dad mostly stayed out of the family affairs. He drove a 4-hour commute to work each day, left about 4am & came home around 7pm, ate dinner & went to bed. He was a weekend & holiday dad. Rob's family was also physically isolated - they lived out in the country where you had to drive an hour & a half to go grocery shopping. Rob's parents didn't have a social life... it was just Margaret at home with the dog & the two kids, & after Tania left, it was Margaret at home w/Rob. Margaret's always been a clean freak w/carpets you can't walk on & furniture you can't sit on (the mother in Drop Dead Fred reminded me a lot of Margaret - that white carpet no one was allowed to walk across, yeesh). Rob was always a small kid - he looked like McCaulay Culkin & Joey Lawrence smacked together (bright red lips, Joey Lawrence haircut) and he was hyper-sensitive (well, he still is sensitive). His mother had nothing better to do all day than mentally & emotionally torture this poor kid. Filled him w/all kinds of fears & paranoias & health scares, kept him in this antiseptic environment, completely cut off from other kids his own age & when he did finally get to go to school, he was bullied constantly & unmercifully. When Rob's dad was home, if 'the guys' wanted to go & do something but Margaret didn't, she would spend the entire time berating Tony (Rob's dad), teasing Rob for going along w/his dad & making everyone miserable. If they went to a restaurant she didn't like, the food would make her sick, which would make Rob sick, & Tony would have to take everyone home. If Rob sided w/his dad on anything, Margaret would literally plot revenge on her own kid, to the point of devising ways to hurt him physically without actually beating him, like loosening the screws on his bicycle seat. But, when Rob got into drugs & petty larceny, it was his dad who slammed him up against a wall & threatened his life.

Margaret constantly reminds Tania & Rob how she can't brag about her children to the rest of her family, of how they both are screw-ups and have disgraced the family name... How she can't believe they would be so stupid when she's gone her entire life without making a mistake, that kind of thing. She calls her own kids stupid. She also doesn't hold her tongue when it comes to other people. Because of the snakes, I stink. She won't stand next to me when we're out with them, she sniffles & holds her breath when she walks by me & has told me to my face that I reek. She doesn't care what we do w/the house anymore because the whole place stinks like me & my snakes. I'm like, whatever, lady.

Margaret is also a racist, and I know I've complained about that before. James, Tania's husband, is black. I tried to warn him before he & Tania got married, but apparently he did not believe me. She stood in our living room one time & complained bitterly about James for about 4 hours because black men want nothing more than to steal blonde-haired white women & use them and turn them against their families because black men want revenge on the white race - and with Tania being blonde, this was all James wanted. James is a huge dude, but he's also sweet and kind of naive. He was adopted, and his adoptive family is huge and welcomes everyone with open arms - no one is a stranger & it doesn't matter if you're black, white, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Communist Chinese, etc. He played the keyboards for his church back in whichever Carolina they came from (wherever Wilmington is), and he just has this easy-going & open nature. I wanted badly to ask him if he'd ever encountered racism back East, because he seems kind of stymied when he's around Margaret. Saturday night, he sat in the living room alone to eat while we all milled around in the kitchen. He kept pulling Tania aside to complain about how her mother treated him like he was invisible. Margaret's also making him pay rent, but not Tania, & she's made it clear that he is the one paying, not them as a couple. He's uncomfortable because he & Tania have been together almost 10 years, but Margaret considers him to be Tania's housekeeper or something, or like he's there for protection since Tania's a single woman living alone, kind of like a big dog. He also doesn't understand why all the secrecy and intrigue is necessary or why he should feel as if he's ashamed because he loves Tania & wants to be with her. Margaret does not know that James & Tania are married.

Rob's mom, for those of you who may not know, controls all of the family's finances. She had her elderly relatives all place their estates into her name & as each one died off, that money just fell into her hands. She's got one remaining brother who still lives in New York & she's slowly taking over all of his finances & property. Rob's dad was one of the founding members of New York City's Operating Engineers union and he's got a pretty decent pension. They've always owned their own homes and they (well, really, the mother-in-law owns) own the house Rob & I live in & the mother-in-law just bought a house for her daughter & a separate house for her grandson (which is actually supposed to be for the grandson & her last remaining brother - who is smart & is staying in New York). One of the first things Rob's mom always does when someone pisses her off is threaten to yank away all financial support. Now, since we all live in homes that she owns, that means losing the roofs over our heads. It's quite a pickle. Rob tried to explain that to James the other night, after the in-laws had left, but I can tell James isn't going to be content to just eat it & smile. I'm always, much like Margaret, thinking about the bottom line. I've done some less-than-savory things for money over the course of my lifetime, and I'll probably continue to do so because well, keeping the lights on is more important to me than being a free person living in a cardboard box.

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