Meeting the Parents is a tough proposition.
“All right, now look, Focker. I’m a patient man. That’s what 19 months in a Vietnamese prison camp will do to you. But I will be watching you, studying your every move. And if I find that you are trying to corrupt my first born child, I will bring you down, baby. I will bring you down to Chinatown.“
But you know what’s even tougher? When you already have one core partner, two kids (by him) but are in an open relationship and then meeting the parents of your second boyfriend.
‘His Mum wants to meet me.’ I said to my partner. ‘Apparently she read my blog on polyamory. You know, the one where I announced that I thought I was in love with him and said we were just living in the moment.’
‘Wow.’ He said. ‘Are you scared that she’ll think you’re taking his focus away from having a family?’
‘No.’ I said. ‘But now I am.’
When you’re openly polyamorous, you’re so used to criticism that it starts to be rather trite and almost inevitable. But whilst hearing it from strangers doesn’t hurt, hearing it from your new boyfriend’s Mum might be a little more personal.
My boyfriend’s mother is Icelandic. There’s very little small talk I can derive from that unless she would be wearing a splendidly thick sweater. I had visions of being asked about my intentions or expectations…but the problem was neither her son nor I had any. So what would we talk about? Hopefully not that at any rate.
Nevertheless I curled my hair, covered the pimples that had sprung up from a million christmas parties and dressed for the occasion. The wind was howling, it was pissing it down with rain and the lawn outside my house had turned into a mud bath. She would get me wild eyed, dirty and au naturel. Sod’s Law.
As we sat down together at the restaurant table, she said ‘I’m a professor in accounting. But no one believes me so I used to say I was a hairdresser.’
It was true. Professors in accounting weren’t usually as glamorous.
‘She’s just been headhunted by a prestigious business school too.’ said my boyfriend.
‘Congratulations.’ I said ‘But I’m also an accountant. Well not a financial one. A management accountant.’
Me too.’ said his mother. ‘They don’t look like you either.’ We shared a smile. Mutual admiration is a great basis for friendship.
Where are you from?’ she said.
‘It’s complicated. But I usually say Manchester.’
‘Ah I used to work for Manchester business school.’
‘My father was a professor of economics there for over 20 years.’
Conversation flowed with the pinot noir and coincidences were counterpointed by flashes of kindred spirit. It was like meeting an older me. As we regretfully left the restaurant and his mother behind, I wondered; had it been a dream?
‘Are you okay?’ said my boyfriend as I breathed out heavily. ‘I think she really liked you.’
‘I really liked her too. I just hope I didn’t make an ass of myself. Did it ever occur to you that we’re fairly alike? You know the management accountant, secretly smoking, red wine loving, party girl. Are you attracted to me because I’m like her?’
‘That description would apply to a hundred million others. I don’t know. Does it matter?’ he asked. Then his phone beeped with a text from his mother. It said –
‘She’s fantastic. I just hope I didn’t make an ass of myself. Do you think we can invite her partner and kids round for tea tomorrow?’
It’s rare that I turn down a challenge if it pushes my reality. But this was surreality.
“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” Salvador Dali
So the next day we all knocked at the door and were received graciously in my ‘other’ mother-in-law’s stylishly turned out apartment. We drank coffee, ate pastries and I praised the beautiful Art Nouveau stained glass like it was the most normal thing in the world. Eventually we cracked open the wine. Well it was 4 o’clock in the alternate universe.
A little later I said. ‘We’d better go; the kids need to get home in time for tea.’
My partner – who was out for the night and planning on meeting a hot woman – said ‘Okay darling. What if I hang out here for a little while with your other mother-in-law before I go out? You guys go.’
I felt my reality dissolve like soft melting pocket watches and a voice that wasn’t mine said ‘Sure’. I mean. Why the hell not?
Later on that night my boyfriend messaged me. He said –
‘They had a great conversation, my Mum even quoted him. She thinks you guys make a beautiful couple. She also thinks you and I make a beautiful couple. Yeah. She’s pretty amazing.’
‘Yes, she is.’ I replied.
Because living the dream is full of wonder, love and growth; but it is also sometimes mindblowingly surreal.