Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers in my families and yours!
I want to deal today with that most complex of subjects–the mother-in-law. Simply put, they don’t get no respect. Even Rodney Dangerfield dissed them (“I wanted to do something nice, so I bought my mother-in-law a chair. Now they won’t let me plug it in . . . .”). That one-hit wonder, Ernie K-Doe, scored a Billboard No. 1 hit in May 1961 with his song “Mother-in-law” that proclaimed his mother-in-law “the worst person I know. . . .Her name ought to be Satan.” The song was still popular when Huey Lewis and the News covered it decades later. The greeting card industry’s “Mother-in-Law’s Day” didn’t start until 2002 and is relegated to the spooky fourth Sunday in October (although this source says it was first celebrated on March 5, 1934 in Amarillo, Texas). By the way, check out this Mother-in-law’s Day Gift Guide.
The New York Times on December 10, 1923, on page 19 ran this headline: HOMEWRECKING ACE IS MOTHER-IN-LAW. The story’s lede was:
The mother-in-law, joke or no joke, is still the most potent force in breaking up marriages in America. Officials of the Legal Aid Society pronounced this judgment yesterday, with forty-seven years of providing law help to the poor as the background of experience for their statement.
You can read the rest of the story (for $3.95 from Times Select) here.
But consider that every Satan of a mother-in-law is someone else’s saint of a mother. Mothers-in-law are mothers. They deserve to be honored today not only by their children-in-fact, but by their children-in-law as well. After all, for better or worse, who would your sweetie be if not for his/her mother? So, for today, set aside the jokes and grievances (real or imagined) and give your mother-in-law (or someone else’s, if you haven’t one) a hug.
May 11, 2008 Sunday at 6:21 pm