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Surviving Christmas With Italian In-Laws

written by M.E. Evans December 25, 2014

I want to start out by wishing all of you a happy holiday! Thank you so much for all the support, for keeping me sane, and for contributing to my life by sharing your stories with me. I wish you all the best this month, and for all the months! You’re all such epic badasses! Please excuse my posts this week. I’ve had to write them on my phone.


Awe, Christmas! That warm, happy, stressful time of year where you desperately want to feel warm and tingly but instead just on the brink of a heart attack. Buying gifts, coordinating family, dealing with in-laws!

And this brings us back to my three weeks of in-law mania. Today was more mild than the other days because it’s Christmas. People usually try to be a little bit nicer on Christmas. This isn’t to say that my in-laws are demons, they are just difficult, and often don’t realize that a whole world exists outside of themselves. This, obviously, is frustrating as hell. This holiday season we’re staying at my dad’s house (hail Persia!). My cousins from England flew in, I have three siblings living at home, plus my in-laws, Francesco, Oliver, my parent’s dog and myself. It’s a full house.

We woke up this morning to a foot of snow. The Christmas scenery was perfect. We drank coffee, then all 14 of us sat around the tree to open gifts. My dad gifted me a beautiful Persian recipe book with an inscription in Farsi. He couldn’t remember what he wrote, “something like, I hope you enjoy this season I love you.” My father isn’t much for gift-giving or sentiment, opting to leave these things to my step-mum so my sister and I were both very touched (he sent one to her as well). I did not get a capybara. Dwayne is obviously upset.

After gifts, my step-mum made breakfast, while my MIL observed, “pastries for breakfast are more healthy than eggs, I think.”

Around ten my MIL took over the kitchen to prepare dough for dinner. She wanted to make lasagna and tagliatelle for dinner. She makes everything from scratch, completely handmade, simple, and delicious. My MIL is hands down one of the best cooks I know. The ragu takes hours to simmer so we started that first.

“Misty, translate for me, please,” she waved me into the kitchen.

“What do you need?” My step-mom asked me to ask my MIL.

My MIL turned to me, “well, I need onions, carrots, tomatoes….and hlkutj.”

I asked her to repeat the last part because I couldn’t quit make it out.

She exhaled, gestured to my step-mum, “My God, even she speaks Italian better than you!” She doesn’t speak any Italian. That was my last draw with obnoxious comments on how much I suck at talking so I told her that if I sucked so bad she could fair just fine without me (with a big fat smile pasted to my exhausted face). I left to shower. Rule of thumb: Don’t be a jerk to your translator.

Last night while cooking dinner my step-mum tried to pay me a compliment, “We’re so proud of you! You speak Italian so well! Doesn’t she speak Italian well?” She asked my MIL. I, of course, had to translate this knowing full well that what was going to come. My MIL  glared at me, stirred the dough frying in the Olive oil in front of her, “No. She doesn’t speak well. She understand fine, I guess, but she should speak a lot better than she does.” She went back to her fried pizza.

My step-mum shot me a look that was a mix between confusion and disappointment, “oh…” she said.

I headed for the office with my glass of wine, wondering if I can really go fifty years like this. Marrying my husband always seems like the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, until we spend any significant time around his parents. It’s only then that I start wondering if just maybe we jumped into things. I feel like that’s how a lot of people feel during the holidays though.

While rolling out the pasta dough, the machine thingy broke. It was a gift from me and F to my parents last year. It breaking was a sign that we were epic failures and total assholes. My MIL totally lost her shit at F in the kitchen, while throwing a very visible fit, because “How dare you have bought a pasta roller thingy that broke?” We pretty much ruined Christmas with our bad purchasing choices. The fit was entertaining to all who are not used to it.

I went sledding with my brother, sister, father, and cousins. We flew down the hill near my baby sister’s school, three to a sled, giggling all the way. We crashed at the bottom. It was awesome. We came home covered in snow, freezing our asses off.

When I entered the kitchen my FIL gestured to the pasta dough drying in front of him, “Instead of going around doing things, why don’t you get in here and learn how to cook.” I shrugged, “I have no interest in learning how to make that.” Which is partially true but only because they think I “must” learn how to do it. I’m an obsessive learner; I love learning. I want to know everything that there is to know. I believe that knowledge is everything, it’s all we have, it’s all we can give to others that matters. However, there is something in my biology that rejects anything that is stuffed down my throat. My gag reflex is strong. Maybe it’s normal, maybe it’s not, but if someone tells me I “must learn Italian because you’re not allowed to speak English around me,” I’ll never fucking speak Italian around you ever again. Tell me I need to cook, and fuck you, it’s Spaghetti O’s from now on bitches and I won’t even microwave that shit first. It’s immature, I know. I’ve tried not to be that way with internal dialogues about how it doesn’t fix anything or solve any problems or prove anything. Doesn’t work. My brain is against me on this one.

My FIL keeps referring to everything as “goooood shits,” because my step-dad taught him that. He likes to use it to refer to people, too. “Bob is goooood shits!”

We ate dinner around 8:00. The salad, pasta, upside-down-pineapple cake, were amazing, as always. We applauded my MIL who spent all day on Christmas to prepare this meal. Six hours. I asked her if she was tired, “Have you seen the amount of work I do at home in Italy?” She had a point. I’ve never witnessed so much exhausting work in my life. I have no doubt that it slightly contributes to the crazy. “Can I clean the oven?” she asked, after. “What the hell? NO! Get out of the damn kitchen!” I said. She laughed, hugged me, then walked off. I drank twenty glasses of Prosecco. My family teased my FIL about how he needed to move to the US to learn how to assist in cleaning since in Italy he doesn’t help around the house at all. We laughed.

I’m in my little sister’s room right now. Listening to my massive family laugh downstairs. People are screaming in Persian, Italian, and two different dialects of English.


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tstaffaroni December 25, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Another great post…I am just home from my parent’s place and while not as many people, and no Persian or Italian being spoken, the rest sounds exactly the same. We have lasagna every year on Christmas Day, but it’s my Dad, sister and I who do all the cooking while my Mom complains about everything! Good stuff.

M.E. Evans December 25, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Haha! I love that.

M.E. Evans December 25, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Merry Christmas love!

Pippa Pirrip December 25, 2014 at 9:59 pm

All i can do is give sympathy. My ex & I spent 2 weeks living with his family before we got married & I have rarely been so miserable. I kept trying to price out whether or not I could afford to run away. I think the only way I managed to survive was that his older brother finally came in for their mom’s birthday & poured booze down my throat for the last week of our stay. So, yeah, i guess my advice is “Whiskey.”

helena December 25, 2014 at 11:49 pm

Wow…finally…something I can delate to even laughed at the end. I’m in Mexico trying to avoid the craziness of Xmas in the U.S. So, it hasn’t worked at all. The Mexicans are great but the expats (10,000 of them) are all nuts. In bad ways. I thought I might move here…NEVER. I hate flying but I’m so ready to get on that plane. Thanks and it will end. Good luck!!!!!

Kristie Prada December 26, 2014 at 1:42 am

We have just returned from doing a pre – Xmas gathering in Italy. Every year I don’t know how we survive it. My MIF is in a home poor lady so when I arrive I am expected to cook everything being the ‘woman’. This year they forgot to tell me the oven was broken! They still expected roast potatoes, a bird etc
My FIL invites over so many random people we don’t know just to pop in so he can parade my 2year old around around and they can all hug and squeeze him while he gets upset wondering why he’s become a circus animal.
And we don’t get to drink as we are still considered children despite being 36 and 40! So I feel your pain! We always say it’s the last time we’re going and then after a few months we do the right thing and go back for more 🙂

Jason P. Brennar December 26, 2014 at 5:10 am

I am intrigued by this thing you called “fried pizza” and might just endure some MIL abuse to learn more. Care to send her home via the Apps?

Jason P. Brennar December 26, 2014 at 5:11 am

Merry Christmas, btw, belated as it may be.

Nicole December 26, 2014 at 6:09 am

Your blogs are hilarious. Very entertaining even though sadly at your expense. I’m wondering if your in-laws secretly subscribe. That would be quite funny. How long now until they go home? Merry Christmas. I hope your hubby gave you a very nice present for all you have to put up with!

M.E. Evans December 26, 2014 at 9:29 am

Thank you Nicole! Haha, i hope not! That would be scary! They leave on the 6th. The 6TH!

Jill December 26, 2014 at 6:11 am

I loved this post because I can relate to it far more than I would like. Somehow over the years it has worked out that we spend Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with my husbands. Every year, at some point of the night, I find myself near tears missing my family and appreciate our brand of crazy as opposed to the in-laws. This was our first married Christmas and I stepped off a plane from my Honeymoon at 7pm EST on the 23rd. We had spent weeks in Italy so my jet lag is Level One Million, plus we were immediately plunged into Christmas. My in laws are Italian and sound an incredible amount like yours. My MIL has a lovely collection of Murano glass pieces so I picked her up what I thought was a lovely Vase while we were there. Her response “I have this already, I don’t display it because it is ugly” – this is my life. I extend my sympathy to you and just know that you are not alone in your suffering. I drank two bottles of wine and half a bottle of Limoncello (Which, by the way, we bought from the wrong place, we should have gone to my FIL’s friend, four shops over…) Merry Christmas 🙂

Wynne December 26, 2014 at 9:12 am

Very sad re: no Dwayne. Sigh.

abfranzen December 26, 2014 at 9:14 am

I’m a Seattle girl who just survived my second Christmas in small town sicily with my boyfriend’s family. Thank goodness they’re nothing like your inlaws but I turn to your blog frequently when the yelling in dialect and general commotion makes me want to pack up and run home. Thanks and Merry Christmas!

Pat Terry December 26, 2014 at 11:03 am

ARRRRGH, if another Italian family member tells me I should speak a lot better Italian than I do, or sniff my food before eating it (or pushing it away), or cock his/her head to one side and say, “eh?” when I talk, I’m gonna blow. After I cry. I’ve been studying Italian for years and there are gaps in my language skills, big ones.
And yet, ya gotta love ’em. There is a charm and honesty that isn’t cloaked in superficiality. And yet, is it so hard to figure out one’s feelings are hurt when one is berated for their deficiencies? And that’s from the family!
I feel your pain….

M.E. Evans December 26, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Oh honey! I’m not much of a cryer but since i’ve been with F i’ve cried about two-thousand times. Being criticized when you’re trying so hard is reallt shitty. I think the most difficult part is that they cannot handle their own criticism. If I were to tell my MIL that I didn’t like her food, or that her pronunciation of “good morning,” sucked she would have a complete meltdown. I love honesty. But i kind of feel like if you’re going to dish it out, you’d better be able to take it 😉 I don’t have any “nice,” or superficial friends. They’re all assholes (in the best way) so i guess i have a harder time appreciating the directness. But you’re right, fake people are equally as obnoxious in a different way.

Bellavia December 30, 2014 at 11:04 am

Nothing worse than being told “you need to learn Italian.” From my boyfriend’s friend who is speaking in fooking dialect. Thankfully his family accepts my attempts in Italian. This friend had mentioned it so much,,,like you, now I want no part of it! Telling me to do things isn’t the best way to push me towards something.

Joanne December 27, 2014 at 12:41 am

You are far, far more patient than I. On the first round of comments about how you speak Italian, I would have said, “you are absolutely right. Let’s speak in English.” The message most always gets through — hey, idiot, you don’t even speak a second language so shut up. It’s really difficult to speak a second language well and people who only speak one language always seem to think it’s so easy. Had I been in your shoes, I would have tossed her out of the house….. but that’s me.

Ed Parma December 27, 2014 at 8:19 am

Love your Christmas day story! when I was a kid the kitchen was my Dad’s domain- he made the lasagna, meatballs, sauce, antipasta, etc. For years I begged him to write down the “recipes” he always said-” you watch, help and then you learn” to this day, I now make Christmas dinner and my kids help! We thoroughly enjoy all your posts and cannot wait to return to Italy in October!

Ed Parma December 27, 2014 at 8:22 am

oh – sorry – a belated Buon natale! e felice anno nuovo!

jtaylor395 December 27, 2014 at 11:23 am

Haha “It’s spaghetti O’s from now on bitches” love it, your blog is brilliant! felice anno nuovo!

Lynda December 27, 2014 at 1:16 pm

So funny as always! 🙂 Merry Christmas!

annemilallos January 3, 2015 at 3:53 pm

I feel you. I’m a Filipino married to an Italian from Padova. Luckily, I don’t have mil and fil anymore! They’re all gone in heaven. But we spent Christmas with my sisters in law and they are very nice except that I can’t speak my mind because they follow ethics in everything. Common we are family. Sometimes I wanted to give a big smelly fart because they are so formal in the Christmas dinner. I wanted to shout that life is beautiful when you speak and express your mind lol. Violate the rules and dress whatever you like. Ahhh Italy.
We can do this.



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