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Hand Me Don'ts

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 1/1/2003

My mother-in-law is a really nice woman, but she's addicted to bargain hunting. She buys all her clothes at thrift shops, has furnished her home with stuff she gets at auctions, and her favorite conversational gambit is "You'll never guess what I paid for this." She could easily afford to buy new things, but considers retail shopping an abomination and a huge waste of money. She also claims to be helping the environment by "recycling" other people's discards. In fairness to her, she has tremendous style and always looks great, her home is pleasant and comfortable, and I don't have any real objection to her shopping preferences. The problem is that my husband and I are expecting our first child (her first grandchild) and my mother-in-law has gone all-out buying us second-hand baby furniture. It was a lovely gesture, I know, but I had my heart set on all-new things. My husband is willing to back me up if I say something to her, but won't tell her himself. I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I want so much to fix up the nursery my own way. What can I do?

New Mama Daughter-In-Law

Dear NMDIL:
I must admit, I wholeheartedly embrace your mother-in-law's philosophy: Not only is it environmentally sound to buy second-hand, it also is the best way for those of us without six-figure incomes or generous trust funds to indulge our Prada tastes on our Old Navy budgets. But just because she and I feel like that doesn't mean you have to, and the retailers of America are glad you don't.

Philosophical considerations aside, with what are probably the best intentions in the world, your mom-in-law has overstepped her bounds. It's your new baby and she should have asked you. But she didn't, and now you need to use all your tact to deal with this, and to keep it from becoming a precedent for other well-meaning but intrusive infractions. Tell her you appreciate it so much that she went to all that trouble, but that you've been dreaming of how you would fix up your baby's nursery since you were a little girl and that you already had the furniture you wanted picked out. (If this isn't true, pick some out before you talk to her.) Then suggest that if she kept what she bought at her house, that would make bringing the baby for visits really easy because you wouldn't have to lug a roomful of portable equipment every time you came to see her, and your baby would be so happy to have his very own things at his Grandma's house.

I have been involved in what could only be called a whirlwind romance. We are both in our 40s, neither of us has been married before, and we're both amazed and thrilled to have found each other. He proposed to me just three weeks after we started dating and gave me a ring that had been in his family. He told me not to wear it on my wedding ring finger, though, because he wanted to take me out to buy an engagement ring. Well, a couple of months went by, and no new ring. I did hint to him that I would rather be surprised than pick out my own, but he didn't seem get the message. I got angry with him about it a couple of weeks ago and accused him of not really wanting to marry me. He told me that of course he loves me, and wants us to be married within a year, but that he doesn't understand why the ring he already gave me isn't good enough. Am I wrong to expect an engagement ring after he promised me one? I know he can afford it. Is this an indication that he will continue to break promises after we get married?

Want A Ring

Dear WAR:
The deal with whirlwinds is that while they're hot, it's a great ride, but they can spin themselves out and throw you back to earth with a crash and whole lot of broken expectations. Your problem isn't the ring, it's that three weeks is way too soon to propose marriage in the first place, and way too soon to accept in the second. I'd ask what you were thinking, but obviously you weren't. Now that the initial heat between you has cooled somewhat, you're both getting a long, close look at what you're really like, and maybe the view is not as spectacular as either of you thought. That doesn't mean it can't work out, it just means that you have to learn to deal with reality.

If you really want to stay with this man, stop nagging about the ring and start focusing on getting to know each other. While you're all bent out of shape because you think he's reneging on a promise, he could be having cold feet because he thinks you're only interested in what he can give you. You need to work through all this to see if you've got what it takes to be together. Marriage isn't all romance and presents; it takes patience and work to make it succeed. Maybe a good place to start would be for you to buy him a gift. Don't empty your bank account, just a little something to reassure him you're not just digging for gold.

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