This one is priceless, believe me. Truly priceless. For a long time now I’ve been buying The Guardian for its unintentional hilarity. Not just the columnists, but even more so the letters pages. This is from their fatuous Saturday family section: yes, it is a minor miracle that such a reactionary receptacle still exists at The Guardian. This is an anonymous letter from a reader saying something they’ve always wanted to say – they have one every week. If you have the time read it all – because it tells you what these people are really like underneath. These tolerant, caring, liberals. If you can get to the part about the father in law going to his car boot without either laughing hysterically or looking just plain aghast, then I would be surprised. If you can get to the end without thinking it’s maybe a clever Craig Brown parody – which, for the sake of humankind, I sort of hope it is – then you yourself may be on the slippery slope to what is, I think, a profound and dangerous mental illness.
Anyway, read and enjoy…
“I’ve heard in-law relationships can be the most tense and fraught. I can well believe that, and not because of any envy or resentment I feel when you walk into my home and motion me out of the way to spend time with your grandchildren – I love that you love them as dearly as you do. My husband would not be the wonderful man he is were it not for your dedication and commitment to raising him to be kind, thoughtful and generous.
But I cannot abide your smoking.
I’ve battled with how to deal with this. I’ve asked you not to smoke in our home, or on the doorstep with the door open, or out of the window, or before you are going to climb into the car next to me. I’ve asked you not to smoke during our daughter’s waking hours, and if you must, to do so away from the house and to have the good grace and manners to wash your hands and change your overcoat to avoid the stench coming into my home. But it constantly falls on deaf ears and it now feels appallingly rude.
I have asked my husband to speak to you many times, which he has, but still you continue to behave as you wish in a home that is not yours with little to no consideration for its inhabitants. The inevitability is a falling-out between me and your son, my increasing dislike of you and awareness of your lack of respect for our choices in how we wish to live in our home, and what is best for our child. My husband is constantly disappointed by his father turning a blind eye to his polite but repeated requests and then frustrated when it becomes an argument with me. My mother-in-law stands by idly, accustomed to the way things are.
Your habit and ignorance of our smoke-free household holds the accolade of sparking the first argument in the days after our daughter’s birth. Giddy with love after her arrival and so thrilled you managed to hold off your smoking for the length of your visit, I felt renewed appreciation for your willpower, only for you, moments before your departure, to pretend to need something from the car, have a fag under the cover of the boot out of sight and then have the sheer lack of humility to stroll back into my home, bold as brass, leaving the smoky fug and haze of fags in your wake. You went into our newly decorated nursery and planted a nicotine-laden kiss upon your newborn grandchild. It took every inch and fibre of my body not to push you away. My husband bore the brunt of my anger and disappointment towards you.
I have tried a number of compromises. Even so far as preparing a “survival kit” with nicotine patches and lozenges, your favourite drinks, sweets, chocolate, hand sanitiser and wipes, and a perfectly good old jacket of my husband’s for you to slip on and off on your way out and in. All remain ignored and untouched.
My frustration boils to the surface and I resort to matching your thoughtlessness and rudeness. I bitterly regret the resulting awkwardness and my husband’s pleas to apologise to you, which I do, but my husband’s anger with me is tangible and awful. I feel utterly exhausted but concede defeat. Surely there must be a compromise to be reached? A bridge between your addiction to nicotine and my compulsion to protect all I hold dear. But, given the atmosphere, I think that compromise may well be my wishes and principles.