IHOC: MILs#2 and 4 – Honeymooning with the In-Laws / How MIL#2 Nearly Killed Us All.
"Even during the years of the Cold War, the intense confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States, we always avoided any direct clash between our civilians and, most certainly, between our military." – Vladimir Putin
Background: I am Scottish, my husband and his father are Finnish. Neither of us have siblings and my parents died shortly after DH and I married. We have four now adult children and a grandbaby on the way.
My FIL sees himself as a white knight rescuing damsels in distress. Sadly he tends to attract, and in turn is attracted to, women with severe personality disorders.
Alone they run the gambit from pure evil to mildly annoying, but together they squabble and engage in the kind of Machiavellian maneuvering that would put iran-contra to shame. To date there have been 7 wives, from around the globe, giving rise to the name of my MILs: the International House of Cunts.
This post is about MILs#2 and 4:
MIL#2: the Russian Iron Lady
MIL#4: That. Swedish. Bitch.
[Warning: Long, History Lecture, Really Insulting to Americans]
There was a week between our wedding and the day we left for our honeymoon. Despite the shit show that was our wedding and the surprise return of MIL#1, we were quite happy on the day we left. FIL drove us to the airport outside of Helsinki and we set off on our first big adventure; seeing the USA one state at a time.
When discussing our honeymoon DH and I knew we wanted to go to the US but we just could not decide on which states to visit. Then GFIL got sick of us arguing over dinner one night, told DH he had 3 months of leave and we should just see every state. The benefit of working for family.
So we did. We rented a car and we road tripped it around the US, Canada, and bits of Mexico (but only by accident – DH sucks at reading maps.)
It was a great idea and I had planned ahead. I plan ahead for everything. It's what most of my career is built on. I am an Organiser. I'm the kind of person who has a Gantt chart dictating the progress and crucial time points of the Gantt chart of when the pizza in the oven is done.
If it's not colour coded and cross referenced then I don't want to know. Some may call this anal, but I say to them: you have to fill out a form 82b before you can insult me. I was born to be a bureaucrat. "And when push comes to shove you've got to do what you love, even if it's not a good idea" – Hermes Conrad, Futurama.
So it was 1984 and the only kind of mobile phones around were ones that required a briefcase to carry. We left an itinerary of where we were going to be months in advance.
The MILs thought that holidaying in the US was a great idea. So great that they decided to so the same thing. And they knew just where to find us…
So we started off in Florida [even the bloody mosquitos think it's too damn hot], Georgia [farms and white people as far as the eyes can see], South Carolina [where I'm fairly certain the denizens were still in the midst of the civil war] and North Carolina [where DH got lectured by a meter maid about how the only real BBQ food was in her state, and not to be seduced by the evils of Ohio.]
It was great! We were visiting museums and historical sites, laughing at American's lack of an ability to understand anything DH says – apparently his Finnish accent is indecipherable, and eating everything we could get our hands on. We didn't bother with the tourist spots, we aimed our car at every interesting looking diner we could find. Its entirely possible I ate someone's vomited up popcorn, though it was on the menu as "grits".
We went to Virginia [where DH broke a very old stalagmite] and West Virginia [didn't even know it was a state…], then on into Maryland [where I got grumpy at being called Hon all the time] and into Washington DC [Where we took a wrong turn – DH was navigating again – and ended up in a not great part of town, and DH made me get out and British some gang looking blokes into giving us directions. Turns out a British accent will get you a lot of cooperation, even from burly thug types].
We were planning two weeks in DC. One visiting tourist attractions and the latter was to be spent visiting museums. If DH and I were to move from our homeland the only place we would want to live would be Washington DC. Even though all you Americans make terrible political choices, have silly notions about healthcare and education, appear to be sexually attracted to your guns, and are basically a police state, we would endure it all just to be able to visit the Smithsonian at will.
Since we were going to be there for two weeks we had booked ourselves into a swanky hotel. So as we were walking through the lobby I was sure I saw someone who looked just like MIL#2 , but I shook it off because MIL#2 was 5,000 miles away.
DH and I checked in and bonked our way around every flat surface in the room. Hey man, it was our honeymoon. Even to this day DH and I still snigger whenever a city in the US is mentioned on the news and we stayed there. Newscaster:"Today there was rioting in Ferguson." Me and DH: "hurr hurr hurr. We did it there."
So we're sat at breakfast in the hotel restaurant the next morning and I stop with a piece of toast halfway to my mouth and DH started choking on his "coffee" as MIL#2 sat down, said "surprise!" and started chowing down on her cereal.
She loudly proclaimed, in her thick Russian accent, that she thought our honeymoon to "the enemy" country was a brilliant idea, and she had decided to join us to see what all the fuss was about, and started expounding on the inferiority of American milk. DH speaks Russian, but I don't, she could have chosen to speak in Swedish, but instead she loudly proclaimed this in perfectly intelligible English.
For those of you who did not live through the Cold War, let me set the scene for you. It was late June/early July 1984. The USSR was in the midst of a political upheaval due to the deaths of Brezhnev and Andropov, the latter of whom who had died not 4 months earlier – which many suspected was due to the US, and Chernenko wasn't long in post; not 7 months earlier the USSR had shot down a plane killing nearly 300 people, including a US Congressman; the US was in the midst of weaponising West Germany; a NATO exercise simulating a nuclear attack had caused high tensions, and is now what most historians acknowledge as the closest the world has ever come to all out nuclear war since the Cuban missile crisis; and the American 1984 Olympic Games were less than a month away – and the USSR was boycotting.
To say that anti-Soviet sentiment in the US was running high would be an understatement. I thought we were going to be lynched. An entire restaurant full of people were staring at us and MIL#2 just kept going on and on about the evils of America. If an Arab man wearing a puffy jacket walked into a KKK rally and started shouting "Allahu Akbar" it would have caused far less commotion.
And she didn't stop. Washington Monument? She loudly laughed whilst telling us that Americans know nothing about their own history. Capitol Hill? Mocking the American political system. Then a loud and public rant about Capitalism.
And then we announced it was time for us to go on a White House tour.
We had already arranged our tour months before we even got married, and back then the rules of who could visit were not as strict. I understand that these days you need to apply through a Congressperson, provide a lot of ID and sacrifice a few children to whatever god that will listen just to get through the vetting.
We were hoping that MIL#2 would go back to the hotel and we would be able to get through the day without being murdered. Unfortunately, MIL#2 decided to wait for us, no matter how much we tried to convince her it was a bad idea to be loitering around outside of the White House for two hours, and when we returned from our tour she was stood outside the gates of the building screaming at a security guard.
Apparently she'd been shouting and arguing with the security for quite some time, as, after 15 minutes of waiting, she had gotten bored and had tried to walk into the seat of political power in one of the most powerful countries on Earth, and couldn't understand why they wouldn't just let her in. Afterall, she's MIL#2, she has a right.
Of course, when she saw us walking down the path and pushed the security guard out of the way, she got pounced upon by two members of the Capitol Police who had been stood around enjoying the show. Being MIL#2, that wasn't the end of it, and she began hitting one of them with her handbag. My MILs love to hit people with their handbags.
Seriously. I think the others learned the behaviour from MIL#2, but its like, well, their go-to weapon. I think they select their accessories based on their potential weaponisation.
DH tried to intervene to get her to stop, and got arrested too, mostly because they thought he was Russian as well. His accent, again.
Naturally the Soviet Embassy was called and the situation devolved. MIL#2 claimed she had been arrested for being a Soviet citizen and nothing more. The Capitol Police claimed she had assaulted a police officer and attempted to trespass at the White House. The Secret Service showed up. Things started escalating.
The Finnish embassy got a call and sent a representative and eventually DH was released, but not until after he'd spent 15 hours in custody being questioned about his involvement with a suspected Soviet Spy.
Little bit of an melodramatic response on behalf of the police and Secret Service, if you ask me, but then again, if I were them I'd want MIL#2 out of the country as well. Her visa was revoked and she was asked to leave the country and never return. You have no idea how bad it could have been. It is a running joke in our family that MIL#2 very nearly caused World War 3 on our honeymoon. At that point in time tensions were very high and people on both sides of the ocean were looking for a reason to start a fight and MIL#2 was attempting to portray herself as an innocent citizen of the USSR arrested and detained for being a tourist.
This already got pretty long, so I'll briefly say that after our stay at the Capitol Police's pleasure we continued on across the US, enjoying ourselves immensely along the way, with many stories to accompany our trip.
We visited every state, parts of Canada [which DH calls Americanised Finland] and an occasional foray into Mexico where I mispronounced my way through every food item on the menu. First time I'd ever eaten "fadge-heat-ers" and "Queue-Say-Dill-ers".
A nice barmaid in Arizona warmed up a pint of Guinness in a microwave because, "Everybody knows Brits love warm beer!" In Wyoming DH got really upset when he found out that Jackalopes weren't real. We went camping in Oregon [only three people live there because there's nothing but trees] and an Opossum walked into our tent in the middle of the night. DH squealed like a little girl and was paranoid I had rabies for the rest of the trip. Kept flicking me with water to see if I'd "turned".
We visited Hawaii [DH wouldn't stop humming the Hawaii-5-O themetune the entire time. I bet that never gets old] with an unscheduled stop at a hospital when DH gave himself a concussion trying to surf for the first time.
In the last week of our trip MIL#4 and FIL turned up at our hotel, and FIL got quite angry when he realised DH and I had no idea they were going to join us on our honeymoon. Our hopes of visiting wineries and museums in California were usurped by MIL#4's desire to spend a week swanning around pretending she belonged in Hollywood.
On the plus side, FIL got propositioned by a very nice gay prostitute on the beach in San Francisco.
You can imagine how irritating it was having MIL#4 about on your honeymoon. She wouldn't stop following us, whilst at the same time she demanded to go on a star tour every 15 minutes. We went on 7 different star tours by the end of the trip. MIL#4 also had her own minor run in with the law when she tried to write her name in permanent marker on Elizabeth Taylor's Walk of Fame Star and ended up getting a caution and a fine.
And you can imagine how irritating and annoying the 17 hour flight home became with MIL#4 excitedly talking about her tan, her discovery of Sushi – she maintains to this day that she was the first European to eat Sushi, which she thinks is an American invention that was taken to Japan, and not the other way around – and which celebrities she had seen the entire time.
DH and I survived our honeymoon, barely, and I never left an itinerary for our vacations ever again.