So The Teen has a boyfriend. From the North. She brought him down to London and I invited my entire family to inspect him over dinner.
This visit is negotiated, after many fights and accusations of being a ‘Victorian mum’ for I won’t let him sleep in The Teen’s bedroom. I’m making the boyfriend sleep in the shed. (That’s not as bad as it sounds, I have a nice shed, with a bed and a wood fire.) I feel he has to earn the right, to show me he’s respectful, long-term, towards my daughter, for me to have them, officially, in the same bed. I explained this to my friend Fat Les who has a teenage daughter too. He was surprised: ‘You are like a Chinese Tiger mum, that’s how they think. I didn’t realise Western mums do that too’.
Maybe they don’t. This is my first time, welcoming a sort of ‘in-law’ and I don’t know how to behave. The teen wants me to be ‘normal’. I’m going to try very hard to be normal but my basic bohemian-ness, of which I’m scarcely aware, keeps leaking out. This used to happen at parent-teacher meetings too.
This morning I baked him tea cakes for breakfast from scratch. I made him Yorkshire tea, leaving the bag in for ages until it resembled a thick caramel. I frequently have to ask him to repeat sentences as he’s from Bradford and they don’t make the ‘th’ sound there.
‘Did you sleep well?’ I asked.
‘No. There was a white spectre above me in the morning’ he said, unsmiling.
‘Wow, really? There’s a ghost in the shed?’
‘I was joking’
He’s a science student who thinks he made an obvious joke because no one believes in ghosts. But I not only believe in ghosts, I’m scared of them. This is a problem. I can’t tell when he’s being funny.
I found myself, this morning, whilst buttering the tea cakes, asking if he was circumcised. It was the natural lead-on from where we were at, conversationally. I immediately realised, fractionally too late, I failed on the ‘normal’ mother test at that point. Then The Teen, being raised by me, mentioned Louis CK’s routine about cleaning out tiny vaginas. None of this is normal. We can’t do normal. We just can’t.
The evening meal: my sister, who is louder than me, funnier than me and has much bigger breasts (believe it or not, I’m the quiet one in my family) threatened to arrive in a bikini. My mum said she’d be coming wearing elbow-length white gloves and a sprigged crinoline. My whole family are really enjoying this. The best revenge for parents is becoming a grandparent.
This is what I cooked:
The Teen is only 19 and they aren’t getting married. But it is a precurser, no doubt, to some kind of eventual marriage with some eventual person, with all the difficulties of joining up with a stranger from another family with different habits and a different upbringing.
For instance, whatever their faults, my family are talkers. We talk about everything, nothing is off-limits. Much of that is probably down to me, the relentlessly over-sharing oldest daughter. I cringe as I remember that I used to tell my mum about every single sexual encounter. I don’t want my daughter to talk to me about sex. I don’t want to know. So now I feel very sorry for my mum. What an ordeal! No wonder she used to flinch when I approached her for a chat.
And this Northern boys’ family use coasters and place mats. I actually think coasters and table mats are dangerous. They make things tip over. For god’s sake, buy a table where scorches and stains don’t matter! I made a decision when I started my own teeny fractured post-modern family that we were not going to use coasters and table mats. Now here we have the intrusion of the progeny of a coaster/table mat family. All my efforts were for nothing.
His family probably aren’t talkers in the same way. They’ll talk about cereal and the weather and what they are going to do today.
For him this family visit was like Meet the Fockers with me as the Barbra Streisand sexologist, over-intimate, domineering and a bit freaky.
This whole episode has tipped me into a whirlpool of single-parent tinged fear of old age and death. I know I’m going to end up like my nan, living in Rayleigh at the end of a series of roundabouts, with no public transport and me, desperate for the odd visit from my daughter who comes dutifully and reluctantly.
I know I’m going to die alone. Just like my nan. Papery skinned, yellowing like old parchment, hollowed out and toothless in a Southend nursing home.
This is so good. Like really exciting pesto. Very good on grilled vegetables.
a handful of fresh basil leaves, use as much as you’ve got
One half preserved lemon
Zest of 1 fresh lemon
1 thick slice of stale sourdough or brown bread
handful of pine nuts
1 small clove of garlic
50-100ml of good olive oil
Whizz all of this in a blender. Scoop it onto vegetables or fish or salad or whatever.
Do you let your teenage daughter sleep with her boyfriend in your home? How did you cope with the first serious boyfriend/girlfriend? What did you cook? Are you nice and normal? Are you a Victorian mum or a Tiger mum? Do you use coasters? Please comment below….
What a post. I laughed, I cried… I don't have kids, but i know that for me to have a boy sleep over in my room was So Out Of The Question!! The first person with whom I openly shared a room under my parents' roof was my future husband, and I was 30!! Can I please come to your next family dinner? 😉
Yes you can. Consider yourself invited. We welcome anybody.
Aged hippie here. When our son brought home his first hump-e-hump girlfriend to stay over night, and I protested, he fixed me with his withering look, and said, "Mom, it's only sex." And I thought…well…ok… she's smart, she's not going to get pregnant, and what the hell, it IS only sex. Lot worse stuff could be going on and better under my roof. Besides, the back seat of a car wasn't available, and they frown on sex in the subway.
Maybe it's because I'm a single parent…it's sort of weirder then…
You really made me laugh, I feel for that boy! There was me thinking you would be all progressive …
Nope I'm a strange mix of extreme conservatism and total anarchy
Thank you to Jeanne for signposting me here so that I could read this wonderful post.I have had 5 children, 2 of them daughters. I have let them sleep with their boyfriends under my roof. Because I remember furtive uncomfortable dangerous sex in the back of cars and I didn't want this to be their first experience. But it is tricky and I wouldn't want to hear sex noises from my children! As for food – other people's children refused to come round for tea because of the weird food we ate. Nowadays you can buy some of it in supermarkets. But that was 25 years ago. Parenting hey? Btw I could never be friends with anyone who uses coasters. And I too want to come to dinner – sounds like the stuff of dreams.
haha….glad you agree on the coasters Noelle
Two Suitcases and a Tin Pot
I snorted tea up my nose when I read the bit about "Louis CK's routine about cleaning out tiny vaginas". And now I feel sorry for myself that I can't sit here all night reading your blog. Love it!
I LOVE Louis CK, I'm working my way through all of his work. Thank you!
I was allowed from the age of 18 to have my boyfriend stay over. Though I can totally see the weirdness aspect for you. I grew up with my father and brother and I think you become bonded in a different way in a single parent family. You want to welcome new relationships but it can seem like an intrusion at first. I don't think there's any perfect solution you just do what's most comfortable. It is a bit of an eye opener when you first leave home and meet people whose attitude to food is so different to the one at home. I was such a food nazi cooking everthing from scratch in my first year of uni my flat mate used to eat chicken nuggets in secret because she was so afraid of my disapproval. If any of my friends parents had served up that menu I think I would have thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
Yes it feels extra weird when you are on your own. Bleurgh. Wouldn't want to listen to sex noises in the next room.
Just found that the boyfriend wasn't sure how to use a salad drier either, another task I gave him.
People think I'm bad. Apparently my brother, when my neice brought home her first boyfriend, opened a bottle of champagne and said 'here's to my daughter finally pulling!' I think that's worse. It's gotta be.
this post make me laugh over my granola, you poor thing! I didn't (still won't) let my 19 yr old son have his younger girlfriend sleep in the same bed and heard myself say.. 'you'll just have to do it behind the bike shed like everyone else..'. ! You're not 'Normal', you're YOU. And you're perfect. When it's your house, its your rules. Good luck!
Yes. Furtive sex is always better. Why is she even arguing? I had to lose my virginity in my mum's fortuitously unlocked Honda in the garage.
I remember when a cousin and his fiancée came to stay when I was 7, he was 27, I was to be a bridesmaid at the upcoming wedding. My mum would not let them share a room, because of my tender age. My 17 year old sister was outraged.
When I took my boyfriend home for a weekend last year I was fully expecting to be in my childhood bedroom (single bed) with him the guest room, but we were both in the guest room. I refused to have sex under my parents' roof, which boyfriend was less than happy about.
ha ha ha. Well it is a bit of a dampener….
The Little Dinner Lady
Firstly life is too short for coasters! Secondly, although I don't have kids, I can relate to this whole sex thing. I had to wait one and a half years before my boyfriend was allowed to sleep over in my room. My Dad knew he couldn't stop me going to his but was admantly against it in his house. my Mum was more sympathetic but it didn't help my cause. I remember being furious with him and the boyfriend didn't even want to stay as he was scared of my Dad! We've been together for 14 years now and he's part of the family so it can't have done too much harm. I'm the eldest of three girls and the others could do whatever they wanted! Made me so cross. I do however want to puke when baby sister (25) mentioned anything about having sex herself. Freaks me out, so I dread becoming a mother and dealing with that! This boyfriend of your daughter is very lucky to have you!
I had the same problem as the eldest. We have to fight all the battles! With my younger brother, I think they were just relieved that he pulled a girl. By the time it got to my sister, they were too tired to argue anymore.
Why call this gremolata?
Gremolata does not taste like this, does not look or feel like this, and is not used like this.
One might as well make mash with olive oil and call it guacamole.
Because I feel like it. It tasted amazing.
You clearly have no courage otherwise you wouldn't be anonymous. Why comment anonymously on a blog post? A decent person does not do this, act like this, use others to feel superior like this.
What a brilliant post and I’m humbled to boot!
I once took my prospective wife (now ex) to meet my Nan and Mum for the first time, it transpired that the former had decided to invite another young lady to disrupt the whole evening because she believed in arranged marriages! We did eventually leave promptly without causing much ado and headed straight to Macs where we had the most romantic evening over a couple of burgers and shakes. What you have to remember in those days, McDonald’s in Singapore during the 80s was generally considered a perfect venue for young lovebirds.
I had that! When I first went to visit my daughter's father's family in France, his mum had invited over his ex-girlfriend, from the same tiny village. At the time I didn't speak French very well, so I was sat there, like an idiot, while the ex held court with the family. She then turned up at every event, every outing for the next week until I lost my temper and put my foot down.
Nine years later when we split, I found out that the ex girlfriend was still under the impression that they were together and that I was a passing fad. Everybody knew but me. No wonder we broke up, he was such a liar.
Years later, I remember resting in his mother's HLM (council) flat, I was pregnant, everybody else was out. His mother and one of the six sisters came in, muttering about 'L'anglaise' and having to cook vegetarian food for her. I didn't have a name, after 8 years, I was just 'L'anglaise'.
I spat out my tea reading this! It makes me cringe because I too shared way too many details about my sexual exploits with my poor dear mother, now dead. Crikey. Coasters and table mats are a bad idea too. My daughter (not quite two) has just spent the last four days lobbing ceramic coasters at my aunt. I wish my parents had never let my boyfriends sleep in my bed at home. One of them is still there. You are doing the right thing.
One of them is still there….that made me laugh!
Sorry about your mum. My mum is really annoyed with me about this post, so we aren't on speakers now.
Of all your posts, this really touched me.
I don't have kids, although a wonderful, gay relationship.
Still – as much as I love your food – I'm plagued with the same outcome. So the plan is we're going to renovate the house for an aged friends, foodie lovers home.
You are more than welcome.
Oh Mac, that is so lovely! There needs to be some great old people's homes: like communes but with nurses or something. Why are old people's homes reputedly so grim? It could be a laugh: punk nights!
The Curious Cat
Great post! I think our family are like your family – big talkers and yes, we talk about EVERYTHING too – no subject really is taboo – drugs/sex the lot. (incidentally saw your posted article about magic mushrooms – very interesting)
I think the guy I settle down with is going to have to be something quite special to handle my family appropriately.
Anyway…as for the teen /boy issue. My family let my boyfriend at 16 stay over so…I'm inclined to say let them be together…I kind of found it archaic and weird when I went to a boyfriend's house when I was at uni (I was 21 mind) and I was expected to sleep in a separate room – we were just going to sneak out anyway…and what did they think we got up to in Uni halls? Still, I understand the need for respect and scrutiny first…
Guess it is your house, your call though!
The Curious Cat
Oh man! I wrote you a really good comment this time and I think it just got lots when I signed in to my account….maybe it needs to be approved but…blast! 🙁
Oh Lord–I had to laugh when I read this!! I grew up in a conservative Lutheran German family who only mentioned things in an oblique manner. I never got to hear the good family gossip (like about Great-grandfather and the redheaded, and plain, housekeeper who got great-grandmother's jewelry as a bribe) because they would stop talking whenever one of the kids came around. Now there's no one left to tell me what it was all about! There were some teenage encounters when my kids were younger that occurred and I just turned a blind eye to, but after 18 I didn't really care what they did (as long as it was quiet). Their friends generally knew better than to misbehave at our house, I can throw a spectacular temper tantrum and it would scare them off, never mind what the hubby would do! My youngest son is an oversharer and I have to tell him to shut up at times, but the girls are getting better about telling me stuff. One of them has two kids and she has to call and ask advice occasionally, which makes me laugh! I actually know something now!
Mamafrog: aw…I do think ultimately it's better to overshare than undershare…
It will all work itself out – personally, I'd be inclined to tell your daughter to go and sleep with him in the shed. They can do what they are going to do anyway, and you don't have to hear it! One point I'd like to make though – the fact he doesn't know what a spring onion is, comes from a family that uses coasters and doesn't know how to use a salad spinner doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the fact he's from the North. Of course we Northeners have spring onions. And salad spinners (although I always use a colander and a tea towel spun round and round at arm's length, because it's more fun and carries a not insignificant element of risk!) My dear stepson (24) was born and raised in the South and certainly wouldn't recognise a salad spinner if it leapt off the shelf and bit him on the bum. This is mainly because the only thing that goes into a salad that he can confidently identify is a tomato, and the only vegetable matter he would actually eat from choice is a potato …
NO SHED SEX! Sally….
Sorry about the Northern coaster accusation. I'm sure there are lots of Northerners who don't use coasters.