There’s a thing on the internet this week that’s making its way around via the usual channels – I found it on twitter – about a Mother-In-Law-to-be who wrote an email to her Daughter-In-Law-to-be, suggesting that she might like to consider modifying her behaviour in anticipation of joining the family. The DILtb was so offended that she sent it to a few of her friends, who thoughtfully sent it to everyone they knew. The MILtb hasn’t been heard from since although I’d be willing to bet she’s saying plenty off-line, on Wednesday nights at Bridge.
If you would like to read the email you can find it over here. It’s pretty sensational. As in, causing a sensation.
So, now that you’ve read it, who do you think is the most wrong?
If you strip back all the unpleasantness and humiliation – that this private conversation has now been shared with the entire world – it becomes a story about a massive clash of generations. Ms Bourne, the MIL, comes from a time when good manners were still considered a valuable asset. Miss Withers, the bride-to-be, comes from a generation (Gen-Y) that not only takes a fairly laissez-faire approach to manners, but also embraces a tool that allows you to share your inner thoughts, your embarassing photographs, your mobile phone number and your relationship status with anyone with access to a computer. They could not be more different, these two women.
Ms Bourne has obviously been raised (and raised her own children) in one way, and all of a sudden she’s faced with the reality of The Rest Of The World.
It’s like that scene in Pride and Prejudice when Mr Darcy, Mr Bingley and Miss Bingley show up at the country dance and see how incredibly uncouth the Rest Of The World has become whilst they were busy counting their fine carriages and learning the piano forte.
I read the email from Ms Bourne and could immediately sympathise. I absolutely think she took the wrong approach, by putting it in writing, but she is clearly a woman who has no understanding of the incredible power of the internet and its ability to disseminate information so quickly and widely. It would never have occurred to her that a) Ms Withers could be THAT hideous as to share a private letter with another person and b) that the other person might have an internet connection and see the potential for global humiliation and exploit it with glee.
But I could absolutely sympathise – empathise, even – with Ms Bourne’s dismay at her future daughter in law’s manners. Good manners are a dying art, and that is a tragedy. I think she is well within her rights to expect a certain level of respectful behaviour from somebody who not only spends a lot of time in her presence but is about to become a member of the family. I hope that the partners my two girls eventually settle down with will – at the very least- be polite and respectful to me and PJ. They can hate us all they want in the privacy of their own homes but when they come to my house I would be upset if they did some of the things that Miss Withers is accused of; the behaviours that Ms Bourne describes are pretty horrible, really. (And I would expect my girls to be respectful of their in-laws, too).
In return for their good manners I promise never to write how horrid they are in 140-character bursts.
Actually, that’ll be part of my strategy. I’ll threaten them with “ohmygod this is going to make SUCH a good blog post!!”
THAT part isn’t going to go down well with the in-laws-to-be, and it REALLY bothers me. Commenting on anyone else’s personal financial situation is absolutely f*cking unacceptable. Bad form, Ms Bourne. In that paragraph you revealed yourself to be a complete Snob and it undermines what you were trying to say from the start. Shame on you.
I’m assuming Miss Withers doesn’t have to live with Ms Bourne. My advice to Freddie & Heidi, the groom and his bride, is to move as far away as is practical, and then carefully stage-manage annual visits where Heidi can minimise the risk of pissing her MIL off, and Freddie can limit the opportunity for his mother to berate him for marrying That Woman in the first place. And, yes, I think Heidi could brush up on her social norms. It can’t hurt.