Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
My husband’s parents are very critical people. I’ve survived assaults
on my cooking, housekeeping, even the design of our chicken coop.
We just redid our kitchen, doing all the tiling and painting ourselves.
But my husband has become OCD about the cut lines of the paint near
the ceiling. He’s on ladders doing and redoing, trying to make it
perfect (which by me is impossible, and who cares anyhow). Frankly I
think his parents (who’re coming for the holidays next month) aren’t
even going to look up, wouldn’t be able to see anyhow (they’re wear
glasses except to sleep), or even if the lines were perfect would still
criticize. Do I try and save him from crankiness and/or a bad fall or let
him fester with it for a month. Also how can I survive a bad visit
neither of us is looking forward to?
Watching and Waiting
Anyone doing a house project generally swings from exultation to
despair. Exultation because of how well things are going and how
much better they look. Despair because they fixate on the one weird
corner or funny angle that virtually no one else can see, or that even
they won’t notice once life goes back to normal. My solution: Bet him
that he too will soon forget where the unevenness is. Each of you put
$20 in a jar. Then wait three weeks (though don’t tell him how long
the bet is for) and at some random moment defy him to point to the
right place(s) within five seconds.
No matter who wins the bet, hold that money in reserve. When his
folks show up put it discretely in your bedroom, along with a jar, a pad
of paper, and some pens. Every night before retiring, write down any
classic criticisms, left-handed compliments, and other such petty
remarks from your visiting in-laws. If you want, you can also record
the “what I would have said but I am smart enough to have held my
tongue” comebacks. Once they leave, toss the remarks into the
recycling and go out to eat (or drink) with your betting money. Don’t
forget in about six months from now, to ask your husband to show you
the bad lines. I’m betting he’ll too have forgotten them.