Mother-in-law wants apology for her son’s behavior

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My husband, “Eric,” and I accidentally offended my mother-in-law, “Gwen.”

Eric’s parents are very nice people but are pretty conservative. They had a party at their house a couple of weeks ago to celebrate my brother-in-law’s 21st birthday and I offered to go over early to help cook and set up. We arrived to a seemingly empty house, which didn’t surprise us — Gwen had texted to say we should let ourselves in since she and my father-in-law had some errands to run.

I immediately got busy in the kitchen and after a few minutes my husband came up behind me, started kissing my neck and saying some very graphic and sexual things. He does this often at home and as usual I was giggling about it.

Suddenly we heard Gwen loudly clear her throat. Eric jumped back, apologized and explained that we didn’t know she was home.

I hoped she hadn’t heard too much but then during the party she was much icier to me than usual. I assumed it would blow over since we hadn’t actually done anything, but she doesn’t seem to be getting over it. I saw her last weekend at my sister-in-law’s house and she barely spoke to me.

Eric talked to her about it and she wants ME to apologize for us “violating her kitchen” that way.

Apparently, Eric’s not at fault but I am, since women should know better while men can’t help themselves.

That sexist attitude really bothers me and I am not inclined to indulge it. However, if this grudge of hers continues, it is going to make things very awkward. What should I do?

— Anonymous

Oh hell no.

“Eric talked to her about it and she wants ME to apologize for us ‘violating her kitchen’ that way.”

At which point Eric said to her, “Are you kidding me? You want my wife to apologize to you for something I did? Mom, that’s not only unfair, but also shockingly sexist. I will not ask her to apologize and I suggest you don’t, either.”

Right? He said that to her? Because if he didn’t, then he is now the problem.

Not to mention, the only things I can think of that violate a kitchen are electric blue frosting roses. And marshmallows on sweet potatoes. And spray cheese.

Re: Gwen:

That is a heck of a story: “Gwen is in a snit because she caught Eric kissing my neck when we had come over to help with a party,” has the advantage of being entirely true — and makes you look entirely in the right if anyone asks why Gwen is ignoring you.

As long as it is ignoring, I say let her be upset. The concept that you and your husband have a physical relationship that you occasionally talk about should not be offensive to your mother-in-law. Where does she think grandchildren come from, anyway?

— Let Her

Re: Violations:

Marshmallows on sweet potatoes makes me think of my mother!

She wasn’t a great cook, obviously! But a wonderful person. So I can’t think of it as a violation. Now you’ve got me crying.

— Crying

Now look what I’ve done. I’m sorry.

Washington Post Writers Group

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