Audrey Column: How to Survive Meeting the Scary In-Laws

When it comes to “for better or for worse,” it doesn’t get much worse than nosy, critical, undermining parents-in-law. Columnist Paul Nakayama may have gotten lucky with his, but he’s heard his share of horror stories. If you’ve got (potential) in-law issues, follow his plan of attack for turning one that’s meddling into manageable.

 

I’ve been in relationships that I felt would have survived had we been stuck on a deserted island together. I often (and mistakenly) credited forces outside of our relationship with causing these ridiculous arguments, which would then highlight other issues and spiral into a big breakup countdown. I realize now that those relationships were doomed to end regardless. But you can imagine my fear on the night before I met my in-laws, a potentially big external threat to a happy marriage. If I had to describe my fear in one word: incontinence. Thankfully the gods acknowledged the chickens and goats I ritually sacrificed and my in-laws ended up being incredibly nice people. And my wife gets along with my family, so that’s great. But in an alternate timeline, there were some potential in-laws that could’ve been a desperate and dark hell for me, the kind of hell I hear often about from my friends and co-workers.

My fears are not unfounded, by the way. It’s in recognition of a long-standing practice of fathers protecting their daughters, something I’m sure I would do and even escalate should I ever have girls. I remember a time when I called a girlfriend’s house to confirm her address before heading over with some cake for her family. Her father answered the phone and told me that she’s moving to Europe and to not bother coming over. Seeing him a couple hours later was how I learned how to smile while being completely uncomfortable. Another girlfriend’s father often remarked how nice I would be for his daughter if I were taller — while I was actually dating her. I can’t fault these fathers though — they have to at least try to take me down. It’s a coping mechanism.

Being Asian American compounds the in-law issues with unique cultural dynamics, and by dynamics, I mean sh-t we have to deal with. For example, dating someone that isn’t prestigious enough (e.g., doctor, lawyer, Internet millionaire) for your parents means they’re going to dive in and introduce the concept of arranged marriages to stir things up. Or if you have a baby, your in-laws will use that opportunity to establish your home as their brand new timeshare and engage in their favorite pastimes, like laughing at your naïve view on child-rearing, undermining your authority or judging your life choices. And since America is a multicultural shabu shabu, that means you’re probably dealing with this in a language you don’t understand.

With that in mind, here are some tips on how to survive and manage a relationship with the ’rents-in-law.

 

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1. You and your spouse are the Home Team.
Everyone else, even the people who raised you, are now the Away Team. While respecting the relationships with our parents, it’s all about making a home and a family that you and your spouse envision. So make sure you defend each other against the in-laws. Nullify any smack talk and hazing your parents might try on your spouse. This includes setting agreed-upon boundaries. And anyway, as you and your parents get older, roles do reverse, and you have to take care of them, so it’s time to lay down the law. (Oh, it’ll feel so good.)

2. Find some common ground, or divide and conquer.
It doesn’t have to be an antagonistic relationship, even if they’re hazing you. You can make them feel more welcome by making an extra effort to learn some words in their native language or preparing a gift with a personal touch. If broad kindness doesn’t work, then you gotta choose which in-law you have the best chance of winning over and go all Game of Thrones on them. Make them your ally, and have them fight your battles for you. If you need a reference, check out how the Lannisters got the Boltons and Freys to do all their hard work.

3. Never complain about your spouse to your parents.
Your parents will almost always be on your side, so any lodged complaints will stay with them, and eventually they’ll think your spouse is a douche or a bitch, even if you’re long over it. Your parents will give you the “I told you so” talk, and it’ll be annoying all around. By the way, this includes openly complaining on Facebook or Twitter, which usually serves to make you look crazy and your spouse a subject of pity.

4. Be the bigger person.
Sometimes it’s not about being right; it’s about being strategic in the long haul. Lose the battle to win the war. His mom is driving you crazy by insisting that her [insert cultural dish] is much better than yours, and you should follow her recipe. Fine, do it. Who cares? Another week and you can take the MSG out of your stew recipe.

I’ll stress again that I have great in-laws (never know if they might one day decide to start reading American publications), but even with cool people, there are going to be moments I’m not happy with or that test my patience. I accept that, because I’m in this for the long game. I’m in this for her, and I don’t need to give her any (additional) reasons to leave me behind and move to Europe.

 

This story was originally published in our Winter 2014-15 issue. Get your copy here.

 

Audrey Column: Do’s & Don’ts of Wooing a Girl in This Day and Age

 

Gen X’s guide to wooing a girl may not apply in today’s dating world, where boys don’t bother to get out of their cars to pick you up on a date, let alone stand outside your window with his heart on his sleeve. So what should Millennial women expect in this day and age? Columnist Paul Nakayama tells it like it is.


 

I’m a product of the ’80s and ’90s, and John Cusack was the actor that captured the spirit of my ideas on romantic love. I mean, when Lloyd Dobbler raised that boom box up over his head in the 1989 film Say Anything, forget about it — I, too, wanted to win the heart of a girl with some grand gesture. And thusly inspired, I might’ve captured a few hearts, but I sure as hell screwed up the long game with them all on my own. Now I see my nephew, a young man influenced by the love stories of today, like (500) Days of Summer and Her, where love seems elusive, and then I see him trying to meet girls on Tinder and Instagram, where love is literally elusive. In the digital age, the world seems smaller than ever, but if these movies and dating apps are any indication, it’s still just as hard to make a connection with someone and just as easy to screw it up once you do. So I asked the younger female staffers and interns at Audrey Magazine to give me their list of Do’s and Don’ts of dating. For some, I’ll pass on to my nephew. For others, the women are going to have to modify their expectations. Let’s start with the Don’ts:

 

 

“DON’T play with your phone during a date. If your phone is more interesting than your date, you shouldn’t be on a date.”
Totally agree, but we should broadcast this to men and women alike. Nothing makes a meal lonelier than starting to eat by yourself while your dinner companion struggles to think of a clever hashtag for her food porn photo. Then again, I have a policy where I get to eat your food if you’ve taken a photo of it, and a minute passes and you still haven’t tasted it, despite having already half-written a Yelp review. Also, they say your cell phone has more germs than a toilet seat — why you bringing a toilet seat to a date, bro?

DON’T try to get to know me through text messages as opposed to in person. Or worse, try to have a serious conversation or an argument — you’re asking for miscommunication.”
Actually, I’m not sure if I agree. By getting to know someone via texts, it’s like the modern-day equivalent of knights and ladies sending each other poetically drafted love letters full of better intentions, but instead of squires making the delivery, you’ve got rapid-fire thumbs. And even back then, I’m sure the greatest of romances wouldn’t have survived if the heroic knight kept mistaking “your” for “you’re.” Also, nothing defuses a fight like a well-timed, innuendo-laced autocorrect.

“DON’T send me a text about a beautiful sunset or cute puppy and how it made you think of me, and then send the same text to your mom and a bunch of other people. I want to know you’re just into me.”
I completely agree. Two things about this one: One, never text anything to your mom that you’d text to your girlfriend. That’s just your therapy trying to undermine itself. And two, do you guys know how to eavesdrop on text messages? ‘Cause I could have fun with that.

“DON’T play more than two hours a day if you’re a gamer, and that’s the max! I’d prefer only an hour if I had it my way.”
No. We’ve seen our friends who are married, and we know that’s the fate lying ahead, so we’re going to play our thumbs off while we can.

 

And now for the Do’s:

 

“DO use technology to your benefit. If a guy knows how to pay attention, he can find out a girl’s interests and plan a date around that. Read her blog entries, then talk to her about something you find interesting in her writing. Her status says she’s been craving ice cream? Go and surprise her with some.”
What I like about this staffer’s suggestion is that it’s condoning stalking as long as it’s used for the greater good, e.g., ice cream. It also indirectly suggests that girls stalk, too, so I say use that to your advantage. You can blog or update your online status with stuff that might pique a girl’s interests, maybe something about how you want to study for your MCATs, but you can’t think over the sound of your abs rocking hard.

“DO come to the front door when you pick us up for a date. Don’t just sit in your car and text us that you’re here.”
Absolutely do this. But likewise, let’s all be ready on time. I remember waiting for my date too many times to count, trying to kill time on the couch or at the front door or even outside. At least in my car I’d have the AC and music to keep me company — rather than pretending to have a conversation with her toy poodle, which honestly would prefer sh-tting in my shoes.

“DO pick up the phone and ask her out on real dates. While technology is great for an initial contact with the person you’re interested in, relationships can’t live via text/emails/online messaging!”
I’m assuming this is directed towards the guys you actually like, instead of the suitors you’re not that into. Because, believe me, those of us who aren’t lucky in dating try every angle to get a date — phone calls, texts, emails, tweets, pokes, status comments, Likes (even when we don’t like what you’re posting), “random” run-ins (you said it was OK to stalk), even courier pigeons (but just one because we don’t want to seem overbearing.)

“DO call me before 10 p.m. to ‘hang out.’ I’m not waiting around for your call — I’ve got plans, too!”
Waitasecond. These guys that the Audrey staffers are talking about — it sounds like whatever they’re doing is working. They’re calling at 10 p.m. and the girls still agree to hang out? I would plan a date a week in advance and get cancelled on at the last minute. I think it’s time to stop watching sappy movies. In fact, staffers, can you check the status updates of these guys and tell me what movies they’re watching?

 

 

–STORY BY PAUL NAKAYAMA
This story was originally published in our Fall 2014 issue. Get your copy here

 

Audrey’s Millennial Column: How to Avoid Bad Text Flirting

 

Back in the ’90s, the indie comedy Swingers popularized the “three day rule,” which said you had to wait three days to call someone once she’d given you her number. Supposedly, it was the perfect amount of time to let her know you were interested but not desperate. Because, you know, calling a girl any earlier obviously makes her think you want her babies. We wouldn’t want that now, would we? (Can you feel my eye roll?)

Flash forward to 2014, where this rule is basically nonexistent. Because let’s be honest here — who starts off with a call these days? Instead, our go-to method of breaking the ice is texting, and with this new avenue of flirting comes a whole new set of rules.

Now fellas, if you’re under the impression that you can’t ruin your chances with improper text flirting (and it is clear that many of you are under that impression), then this will be a rude awakening. You would think that texting generally results in fewer faux pas since people have time to think about what to say, but as it turns out, many still need a lesson or two on proper text flirting. Trust me, it’s pretty easy to come off as a creeper in a world where we all overanalyze smiley faces and ellipses …

But have no fear! We’re here to help you navigate through this complicated world of text flirting. If you’re doing any of the following, then I urge you to immediately stop. You’re not flirting; you just may be creeping someone out.


 

ONE WORD RESPONSES
If you were in a bar flirting with someone, you probably wouldn’t stick to one-word responses, right? So why on earth would you think that one-word responses would work out for you via text? No, these short responses sound just as uninteresting in text as they do in person. And if “sup” is actually the most charming and intriguing conversation starter you can think of, then even I don’t have the skills to help you.

 

BOREDOM
You: Hi :)
Me: Hi you, what’s up?
You: Nothing, just bored.
Me: ……………….

Please tell me why some people actually think this is flirting? Last I checked, this doesn’t make me feel like you legitimately want to talk to me. Honestly, it just feels like you couldn’t decide between texting or playing a game of solitaire. Go ahead and text your friends out of boredom, but don’t use this move in the text flirting world. You’re basically trying hard to seem uninterested when in fact you’re interested. See how that’s counterproductive?

 

PERSONALITY SWITCH
If I ever enter the online dating world, my biggest fear would be that I’d finally meet up with someone only to discover that they’re nothing like their profile description and chats. With my luck, the 6-foot, 25-year-old would turn out to actually be a 40-year-old with a bad habit of staring at cleavage. Am I maybe scaring myself by thinking the worst? Probably, but I digress.

The point is, you don’t want to have someone believe you’re one way via text, only to discover you’re a completely different person in real life. Texting can already feel rather impersonal. Don’t take it one step further by faking it.

 

ABRUPT AND INAPPROPRIATE
I will never understand this, but some guys like to abruptly stop your nice, innocent text conversation with inappropriate comments. I’m not talking about guys who try to make you laugh with a joke. I’m talking about boys who legitimately think a random outburst of lewd sexual requests will work. (Excuse me while I go throw up real quick.) If you don’t believe me on this one, go and check out straightwhiteboystexting.tumblr.com. Go on, I’ll wait.

Don’t be gross. It’s that simple. If I hardly know you and you decide to take the conversation there, you’re not being flirtatious. You’re just turning me off.

 

DRUNK TEXTING
Flirting is a rather tricky business in itself, and if you really like someone, I seriously doubt you’d want to ruin it with drunk texting. You could get emotional or inappropriate or end up regretting the words your intoxicated little fingers spelled out — legible or not. Worst of all, don’t send your ex flirtatious drunk texts. You’re basically asking for regret with that one. Friends don’t let friends drink and text. Remember that.

 

TEXT ON TEXT ON TEXT
Maybe you’ve just started to date someone and you can’t stop thinking about them. Ah, the honeymoon stage. As romantic as that is, I’m going to go ahead and guess that you both still have lives to live outside of each other. So try to make sure you give them some room to breathe. If they haven’t responded to your text from five minutes ago, it’s probably not the best idea to send them three more texts until they respond.

 

STAYING IN TEXTING PHASE
Yes, we certainly live in a world where texting is the initial platform for flirting, but don’t forget to move forward. You cannot get to know someone fully through text alone, so make sure you transition to phone calls, video chats and best of all, in-person dates. I know texting feels safe, but it’s never quite as good as in-person flirting.


 

I know it sounds like there’s a lot that can go wrong with text flirting, but as long as you stay away from these improper moves, you may just successfully avoid being a creeper after all. If you get nervous, remember that this is the easy part — there will be much more ways for you to mess up in person.

Just kidding. Kinda.

 

This story was originally published in our Fall 2014 issue. Get your copy here
Photo courtesy of www.alleywatch.com

 

 

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