Home stories The Dress Isn’t the Damn Problem

The Dress Isn’t the Damn Problem

written by M.E. Evans July 28, 2017

Francesco and I were in Cassino, Italy, for two weeks for our niece’s communion. For those of you that didn’t grow up Catholic (like I didn’t), it’s a Catholic rite of passage and-let me google it.

Wikipedia says, “In the simplest terms, First Holy Communion is a religious ceremony performed in church by Catholics when a child reaches the age of around 7-8 years and celebrates the first time that they accept the bread and wine (also known as the Eucharist). The bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of Christ.” I actually didn’t know that.

Anyway, we showed up late because I take forever to do everything. I threw on the Reformation dress that I’d ordered and had tailored to account for the ten pounds my ass has grown in the past year. I didn’t bother with my hair, threw on some mascara, my sandals, and flew out the door. We ran in the church like crazy people and felt pretty good that the ceremony was just starting. I was making faces at my niece (because she’s eight and my job as her aunt is to be immature and ridiculous with her) when my father-in-law came over to me and said, “Hey! You’re dress! Pin it together! It’s too low for church!” And I was like, “Oh, shit. But my shoulders are covered!” And apparently, that didn’t matter which was confusing because I thought that my loose flowy dress with long sleeves was fine. It did have a deep V neck but I am, uhm, without large boobs, so it wasn’t very revealing.  My father-in-law said, “Misty, PIN IT,” again so I desperately searched my bag for something and all I could find was a planned parenthood pin. So, my father-in-law helped me pin my dress closed with it. All was fine in the world. Then he said, “this is crap,” and headed out of the church. F and I were like, “Whoa, wait for us!” and we followed him to a cafe nearby to drink coffee and chat. My FIL never sticks around for religious stuff, which is weird because he’s often pushing religious events that he later bails on.  Towards the end of my niece’s ceremony, we wandered back to the church where my MIL gave us the stink eye because I took a picture of my niece, which is a big “no” I guess because only the church photographer is allowed to take pictures of the ritual and then the parents can buy the pictures from him. “It’s a sneaky business,” my FIL whispered.

After the church, we went to a hotel for the reception and I was like, “Oh, this a little wedding!” Because that’s basically what the event resembled from an outsider perspective, but I guess in this case she’d be marrying Jesus. My niece wore a white gown, like a tiny wedding dress in the church followed by a 6-hour lunch reception in a hotel. My niece was into it and I haven’t seen her that happy, like ever, because this is a kid that’s been talking about marriage since she was three.

In between each course, there was a thirty-minute break where the kids would run out and play and the adults would knock back extra glasses of wine or nap (Francesco). I used it as an opportunity to get as much kid time in as possible because we only see our nieces once per year. They were playing in the grass, my sandals were heeled, so I took them off to play tag with the girls.

“ZIA! NO!!!!” my older niece gasped, “you can’t do that!”

My youngest niece giggled uncontrollably and twirled in her dress.

“I can and I will. I come from wild places, honey. Remember Yellowstone?” In the US, especially the west, we spend a lot of time in the mountains, in nature, shoes on or off, like little mountain goblins. As a kid, I only ran barefoot on grass, hair tangled, as I scuttled up trees and searched for tadpoles in the creek near my house. When we took my nieces to Yellowstone last year, I took their shoes and socks off and put their feet in the river so we could eat our sandwiches on the bank, with the cool water on our toes. It was the first time they’d ever put their feet in a river. “Si,” she nodded, “Yellowstone,” and she relaxed. What can I say? I’m a bad influence. After playing tag with the kids for a while we were called back to lunch. On my way, I removed the pin on my dress because it was damaging the fabric.

What can I say? I’m a bad influence. After playing tag with the kids for a while we were called back to lunch. On my way back inside, I removed the pin on my dress because it was damaging the fabric. I ate some ravioli, drank a little wine, and went back outside with Francesco to rest by the pool. I was standing at the edge of the pool, hoping that someone would push me in for some relief from the heat, when my MIL came sprinting towards me like a train that had run off track.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” She screamed, loud enough to get the attention of the other guests outside who all turned to watch.


She lunged forward and grabbed the neckline of my dress and began pulling it together. I politely pushed her hands away but she grabbed my dress again and shook me, “MY SON DOESN’T LIKE IT! THIS IS NOT GOOD FOR MY SON. OH DIO! FIX IT!”

And something in me snapped. I stepped towards her, threw my head back, like a posturing gorilla, “Does it look like I care what you think, or,” I pointed dramatically at everyone outside, “what these people think? I don’t give a shit.” Although, I directly translated this from English but said it in an Italian way so it actually sounded more like, “I don’t take a shit,” which is like, way less forceful and just sounds like a have a public bowel issue. Then I calmly adjusted my dress, “Your son helped me choose this. If he thought it was appropriate, it’s fine.” Then my sister-in-law jumped up next to me and said, “leave her alone, mom.” And my MIL stormed inside the hotel.

I sat down next to Francesco who looked like he was in shock.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” I asked.

“Well, I didn’t know what to say. I was completely caught off guard. And, you definitely looked like you had it under control.”

“That wasn’t okay, what she just did.”

“I know,” he agreed.

Then my MIL came outside again and sat down next to F.

“Mom, you cannot act like that,” he shook his head.

“I’m sorry,” she leaned forward to look at me, “I’m sorry. I thought your dress had ripped and you were just leaving it open.”

“Mom, her dress is long sleeved and to the floor. It’s not that low, there’s nothing wrong with it. You cannot do stuff like this. Just leave her alone.”

“I know,” she said.

We all sat quietly for a while, trying to figure out how to exist within a family.


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orna2013 July 28, 2017 at 10:49 am

Welcome back…..or have I not been receiving your blogs for a while? Hilarious and perceptive as always. 😀

Lacey July 28, 2017 at 11:07 am

Ah your stories are the best!! Zia no!! Us Americans could give Italians heart-attacks for days!!

Steve Snell July 28, 2017 at 11:43 am

Great story and we’ll told.

Lisa July 28, 2017 at 12:01 pm

My MIL is from Calabria, Italy and is SATAN!!! Although my children are her only grandchildren and I was a great mom, she never found it in her heart to be nice to me. My husband never defended me from her evil tongue and boy she said some very hurtful things to me, about me and about my family. Everyone is afraid of her and my husband has never stuck up for me, never, not once in 34 years of marriage. I finally decided 20 years ago that enough was enough and stopped going to ther home. I no longer see them, FIL included, unless it’s a family function. I was young and always thought it was my fault. Now at 62 I’m a different person and were she to say something mean to me I would know how to stick up for myself. But then I didn’t and was told to be “respectful”. Eventually it was either my marriage or my MIL. Sooooo much better off without her in my life. I could tell you stories that would make you say, “she has to be making that up”. Nope! She’s that bad. Be grateful your MIL knows when she’s out of line and that your husband realizes in his own way when she is. I really enjoy your blog! Keep writing.

Marie Therese July 29, 2017 at 1:35 am

My italian boyfriend never ever speaks up for me when his mom says stupid stupid things to me, about me and about all things-American right in front of me. I’m not “glad” to hear that this might be a common thing, but I feel better knowing that it may be some deeply ingrained honor system that sons will never go against…? maybe?

Lisa July 29, 2017 at 10:28 am

I married the “favorite” son, the doctor. My family is from northern Italy but, as she informed me by trying to give me a $5,000.00 check to go away, she had someone “picked” out for him that was 8 years younger than me and lived in Italy. She was “hand picked” by her MIL and wanted to do the same for her son. My husband and I are the same age. It has caused innumerable problems in our marriage and got much worse when I refused to go to their home any longer. I was blamed for not going with the flow and allowing her to misuse me. I had three small children and wanted to stay in the marriage. When my mother was dying of breast cancer at 56 my MIL told me she, “never liked my mother but felt badly” . No, I didn’t mishear that she said it three times and then repeated it in Italian when she thought I didn’t understand her English. Seriously, you need to discuss this with your boyfriend or learn to speak up! It only gets worse once you marry. If you can’t resolve this my recommendation is to RUN!!

Lisa July 29, 2017 at 1:07 pm

PS An addendum: I was told that the reason MIL said what she did about my mom’s prognosis was that MIL was JEALOUS that my terminally ill mother was receiving so much attention from her son! Like that should help me understand her cruelty….

John July 29, 2017 at 4:23 am

Good for you. We have a similar, but flipped, situation and disengaging is often the best way to go. My MIL, Piemontese, is generally respectful of me as she fears my temper (mostly my drill sergeant voice), but she can be really disrespectful of my wife and son. She doesn’t fight fair, and just cruelly grinds them down. So I finally told my wife to give her a calm warning that she can be angry, but she must be respectful. Then, if she continues on, my wife should just gather her stuff and leave. It seems to work and I was proud when my wife did so by catching a bus out of the Alps back to Turin one day.

Wynne July 28, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Good for you for pushing back! I’m a firm believer in that people will treat you the way you allow them to do so. It’s surprising to me that after all these years, your MIL (and FIL) treat you this way – have they met you? 😉 But then – Italian, so perhaps NOT so surprising?

Keep influencing the nieces – they’ll thank you later!

Love that you’re posting again…xo

Rosa July 28, 2017 at 11:21 pm

I don’t know Misty. I really can’t laugh at this anymore. Your MIL is a bully. Does she not know about your PTS situation? And Franceso WTF? Apologies if I’ve missed something ’cause it just seems like consistent targeted attacks on you.

Marie Therese July 29, 2017 at 1:33 am

Last summer I went to my (italian) boyfriend’s cousin’s first communion. It was, as you said, a wedding. Everyone dressed to the nines, but no one gave a crap about the actual religious event. I had to cover my shoulders, too, which was ridiculous, seeing how people were talking out loud and actively using their cellphones in the church. I feel like, in general, they can be very tightly bound to their traditions – just for the sake of it – (clothing customs, first communion, not going barefoot, etc.) and feel really threatened if you cross them, even though these traditions/customs are pretty much empty for them…and by the way, you were way more poised than I would have been with the MIL. She would have ended up in the pool!

giuliacalli August 1, 2017 at 3:29 am

You caught up the real sense of every religious ceremony involving kids in Italy. First Communion and Confirmation (la Cresima) era mostly seen as something that ALL Italians kids have to do because they can show up and receive gifts. I just had this conversation with my 13old cousin who clearly told me “I don’t give a thing about the confirmation, I’m going to do it because I want the gifts”. Same opinion by the parents: “We know it’s not coherent because they don’t believe in it, but all their friends will have their Confirmation party, impossible to renounce”.
So sad.

Viscouscous August 3, 2017 at 4:41 pm

First Communion is a ceremony of great spiritual significance, like Bar Mitzvah in Judaism. Would you go to a Bar Mitzvah and make an ethnocentric comment about the tallit and kippah? No? Maybe? Well, the white worn at First Communions symbolize purity, such as the white garment received at Baptism. First Communion and Baptism are Sacraments in Catholicism. The veil, AKA mantilla, is a traditional female head covering. Many Catholics wear the mantilla for mass. Italy is a predominately Catholic nation, and while “some” Catholic Italians are not so devout about these religious traditions, a great many are. If you want to see proof, attend a procession in Italy. It’s an eye-opener.

Leila July 31, 2017 at 1:54 am

I’ve yet to be publicly assaulted by my MIL, except for the time she screamed at me when I forgot to use gloves in the produce section of Coop. You handled that so well. My husband stays quiet too when there’s tension directed at me from the in-laws, my girlfriends in the states say their American hubbies do the same, it may be a son thing rather than an Italian thing.

Un po' di pepe August 17, 2017 at 12:03 am

Mannaggia! Well at least she did apologize and admit she was wrong. That sounds like progress….I think. Enjoyed the story ciao, Cristina

Questa Dolce Vita (@questadolcevita) October 19, 2017 at 8:05 am

Hey, loving these story posts! Bahaha, I was laughing out loud!


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