|I have the blessing and the curse of growing up in an old-fashioned Italian-American family. Don’t get me wrong, I am eternally grateful to know I have parents who always looked out for me. When I was 16-years-old and smashed the family car, they yelled. But they also made sure I was ok, paid for the damages I couldn’t afford, and handed me the keys to try again.
Selfishly, I put them through my adolescent wild stages – the under-age drinking, the sneaking out of the house to go out with my friends, the wild clothes I wore, the clubs I went to, the piercings and the tattoos. Still, they loved and supported me. They cried as I left to attend college in Arizona, 2000 miles away from my Pennsylvania home. And they welcomed me with open arms when I moved back home after college. They gave me the advice that I should get a job, save up my money, and move back in with them – rent free. How nice of them, I thought.
Until I got a serious boyfriend.
Suddenly, my father who was content with me doing whatever I wanted 2000 miles away, could not fall asleep until I was home from my Friday night date with Steve.
“I was up until 3 in the morning!” he exclaimed, with dark circles under his eyes. “What could you possibly be doing at 3 am? The bars close at 2.”
I was flabbergasted. Did he really want an explanation? I was 22-years-old, not 18. He was acting ridiculously, I thought. This continued for a few weeks.
Then the unthinkable happened.
My boyfriend Steve, who my parents had known for a while, and who always came to the door to get me before a date, came to pick me up one night as usual. But this time, he beeped the horn outside, as a signal for me to go and meet him.
This sent my normally mild-mannered father, who was eating dinner at the time, into a rage. “He has no respect for you, none at all!” he said. “When your mother and I dated, your grandfather used to make me come in the house and watch TV for an hour with him before I was allowed to take her out. If I had to do it, then Steve does too.”
Again, I was flabbergasted. My father wasn’t even watching TV. What was I supposed to do?
“Ok, dad,” I said. “I’m going to go now.” From that point on, Steve was the “bad guy” in my father’s eyes. And my mom – being my mom – took my father’s side.
As for me, I made the horrible mistake of telling Steve my family woes. At first it was nice to have someone to vent to, who understood. We would sit and laugh at how ridiculous it all was. It got to the point where I was constantly venting to Steve because my family was really driving me nuts. But little by little, I noticed Steve growing distant towards me.
Then the unthinkable happened. Again.
On the Fourth of July, as I sat at Steve’s house grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, my cell phone began to ring. It was my father telling me to bring Steve over to watch my brother’s firework display. Notice I used the word “telling” instead of “asking”.
“Steve and I are in the middle of grilling food,” I told him nicely.
Well, you can imagine what happened next. That’s right – my father told me that if he had to be at family events when he was dating my mom, then Steve had to do it too.
I told Steve my predicament, and being a polite gentleman, he cleaned up the food and went with me to my family’s house to watch the display. However, the only display that occurred is when we walked in. My father decided to set Steve straight, and tell him that it was disrespectful of us not to want to be at my house for a family function.
“That’s what you do when you’ve got a girlfriend,” he told Steve. “Get used to it.” Needless to say, Steve didn’t want a girlfriend much longer.
“I can’t imagine living my life having to please someone like that,” he said. “I’m sorry, I like you, but…” But I have an insane family, I felt like saying.
Thinking back on it now, I made several mistakes that I’d like to share with all of you.
Number One: Never, ever move back in with your family if you’re used to living on your own – no matter how much you love them. Once you move out, you can never move back.
Number Two: When you enter the world of dating, it’s nice to have your family’s general concern for your well being. However, try to keep your dating life and your family life separate until you know you’re with the right person. When a guy is ready to marry you, he’ll be prepared (hopefully) for your family, and vice versa.
And finally Number Three: Never, ever let your boyfriend know that your parents don’t like him. Don’t tell him the bad things your parents say about him. Would you want him to tell you how his mother thinks you dress like a prostitute? I didn’t think so. Vent to your friends, vent to your pet, but do not ever vent to your date.
As for me, I ended up moving out of my house and now have a healthy relationship with both my family and my boyfriend. I realize now that my family took what happened under their roof as something that was their responsibility. I learned from it. Now it is as nice to have people who care about me as it is to have the privacy to live my own life too.