So who wins? You’ve been introduced to your partner’s mum for the first time, but things don’t go according to plan. She plain old doesn’t like you. Claire Clottey ponders this fictional situation and realises that no one wins.
It is said that the way a ‘man treats his mother is a good indication of how he is going to treat his wife’! So you’re relieved that your new partner, respects their parents, spends quality time with them, does their grandparents weekly grocery shopping, attends wider family functions and even invites you along. You are beaming on the inside. God, Allah, the Universe or whoever you reach out to in times of desperation and celebration; “Thank you for putting me on to a #Winner”.
The time has come for you to meet ‘Mama’, a tad nervous, you psych yourself up, remembering all the amazing stories your partner has told you about their mum. You reassure yourself that ‘Mama’ has to be an amazing woman because your partner, their child, is a beautiful soul with exceptionally good taste having chosen to be with you and you can’t wait to build a future with them.
Your adrenaline is pumping with a mixture of nerves and excitement as you make your way through soon to be ‘Uncle Lenny’s’ cluttered house, which is now spilling over with people who’ve come for the annual end of summer family barbeque. You and your boo have been dating for six months now so despite the intensity of being introduced to every man, woman and child you squeeze past as you make your way from the front door to the garden with boo leading the way, you’re chuffed that you’ve made it this far and your new and hopeful in-laws are just moments ahead. You can see them, with a couple of other family members, serving up food and making sure that everyone’s needs are being catered, quick mental note #RememberToSayYesToThePlateOfFood it won’t go down well if you don’t! Breathe, you’ve got this!
“Mum meet Claire” #SideGlance from ‘Mama’. #ShortMomentOfAwkwardSilence Claire extends her hand, preparing to be pulled in for a small embrace, “Good afternoon, it’s lovely to meet you”. That’s right Claire, let your confidence shine. Mama responds: “Oh hello”, no hand extension from Mama, no embrace but it’s fine, she has got food in her hands anyway. Mama turns to her child, there’s a 10 second eye convo taking place and you just about catch it. Phew, an overly friendly Aunt Susie who you met in the corridor moments earlier, comes over to drag you to the drinks table. Yup, you need one of those because that short exchange with Mama seemed as off as the coleslaw that you’re convinced has been sitting out in the sun all day (#SideNote don’t touch the coleslaw at barbeques unless you see it come straight from the fridge). Your beautiful partner comes over smiling. Phew his/her smile means all is well. The day goes quickly and you can’t wait to get home for dessert. Mama packed you a take away, how considerate of her, she’s feeding you, that’s a good sign, all is well.
A week goes by, then two and life seems good yet you’re wondering why your partner hasn’t volunteered any further info about Mama’s first impression of you. You ask, nonchalantly. The response is equally nonchalant, ‘Mama thinks you’re great’. Don’t sweat it, remember, all is well, you think.
Yet several months later, a few more family functions have passed and no invite is forthcoming. Hmmmmm, well you are definitely going to the family dinner to celebrate your partners older brother’s birthday. You both get on really well and he has been actively socialising with you two lovebirds. The family dinner is at Mama’s house aka #TheBase, things are bound to be more relaxed, less people, more time to get to know Mama, perhaps you’ll even help out in the kitchen, and so as not to step on Mama’s toes you’ll just do the washing up and leave the culinary skills to her.
To cut a very long story short, in fact it’s just a short story, last night you read Mama’s vibe. She doesn’t like you! You don’t know how you know but you know! Maybe it’s because you’re from the wrong African tribe, perhaps it’s cause boo hasn’t been as consistent with the monthly theatre dates that he used to take Mama on. It’s even conceivable that Mama is wary of the slowly reducing pocket money she receives as your partner and you are saving towards your first holiday together. Whatever it is, you know Mama doesn’t like you.
What to do next? A) Ignore it. B) Remind yourself that Mama had built a solid six-year relationship with your partner’s former girlfriend so the transition phase may take a while. C) Look at the positives, you don’t want to have to braid Mama’s hair every four weeks. D) Sit your partner down and form an action plan to win Mama over. Or E) Catch a plane outta there!
This is an unfathomable situation. All of your friends and former partners parent’s love you. And you’ve loved them back. In fact, whenever there has been conflict in past relationships, these lovely parents step in to share wisdom and offer support over a family meal. What would life be like without this support?
You turn to your own mum who says “Mother in-laws who don’t like you but have a great relationship with their child will make your relationship a living hell.”
You turn to your bestie “Girl, she’ll come round, you are the most loveable person I know.”
You turn to your colleague at work who says “F••• Mama, she’s old and she’ll be dead soon enough just like those who voted to #Brexit.”
You turn to social media, the varying and deeply opinionated responses from FB Friends leave you with even more anxiety.
You turn to God, Allah, The Universe and they all seem to be inconveniently silent at the moment. KMT!
You again turn to your partner whose simple response is “It’s not a big deal, I love you and that is all that matters right?”
Right?! But why does this situation feel so wrong?
Perhaps it’s time to accept that we no longer live in a time where a couple’s union symbolises a family union, a community union, a union of the African Diaspora. Where have we gone wrong?
Maybe you and your boo’s resilience and commitment to each other will conquer all, inspire other couples, bring additional love and light to the world.
Either way, we all know that relationships can be hard work and Mama’s dislike of you is going to make things easy.