Saturday, 30 June 2007

Oh, The Inanity!

Have you ever noticed how the people who talk the most are often the ones with the least to say? I’m talking specifically about those who faithfully relate the minutiae of their daily existence as if each inconsequential detail is a pebble on the path to Nirvana, and who subscribe to the notion that ‘everyone is entitled to my own opinion.’ Such are my husband’s family.

Ever since, at only our second meeting, my mother-in-law blithely spoke right over the top of me and my father-in-law blustered scandalously on about A-rabs, Nips, Chinks, and Abos, I gave up trying to converse with them in anything but the sparest fashion. Like squealing in fright at a trench-coated flasher, it only encourages the undesirable behaviour. Now every enforced visit sees me hunkered down in the ‘I must supervise my two small children!’ foxhole, trying to avoid the barrage of outrageously offensive remarks and slow-mo replays of the week’s non-events.

“How heavy d’you reckon this chair is?” my father-in-law might ask as he brings an ordinary wooden dining chair out of the spare room. “Much heavier than it looks!” he will answer himself triumphantly before Mr. Lonie and I can formulate some reply other than a quizzical “Umm…?”

“It’s had about seven coats of paint since we bought it!” f-i-l will then enthuse, undeterred by our glazed expressions, before listing each colour it’s been, from white, to cream, to bone, to beige, to every shade Richie Benaud has ever worn.

Or: “She is my oldest and dearest friend!” my mother-in-law might gush with what she probably believes is sincerity about the woman who just made her lucky escape from the House of Blather. “But hasn’t she gotten fat! She’s absolutely huge! She must have gained at least 140 pounds since I knew her as a girl. I wonder she travels so much, how does she possibly fit in the aeroplane seat? She must need to pay for two tickets and have the armrest up. If she lost a bit of weight she might finally find herself a husband…”

I’m not averse to a bit of histrionic hyperbole in the name of humour and fun, but sadly I’m not exaggerating here, although a lapse into shameless excess would be entirely understandable after a few captive hours in their company. Over the next retellings (of which there will be many), seven coats of paint will become fifteen, and 140 pounds will become 250. The chilly wind on the holiday they took five years ago is now a raging tempest which threatened to induce fatal hypothermia, and the hour at which a boy-Mr. Lonie woke them on Christmas morning is no longer six o’clock but three.

In my weaker moments, usually when I’ve managed to secure more than a few days without having to resort to sub-conscious defensive hunching and attempted selective deafness, I almost feel sorry for my in-laws. With a rare flash of perspicacity I know their small-minded gossip and prating comes from ignorance and – to put it as bluntly as the metaphorical tools-in-the-shed they are: stupidity. Their unabashed exaggerations are a placebo for their sense of inferiority instilled in them by parents which, from all I’ve heard, I can’t help but be glad I never had to meet. Deep down they think, I believe, that surely no-one will deign to bestow their notice, let alone listen to what they have to say, without the promise of thrilling tales and spontaneous-gasp-inducing statistics, and that’s why they practise this twisted form of self-aggrandisement.

The regrettable thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. I’d much prefer to hear about f-i-l’s varied employment as stockman, RAAF officer, and murderer-catching policeman, but instead I must grit my teeth through parroted recitations of every right-leaning article he’s read in the paper during the week, styled as his own thoughts and conclusions. M-i-l would find me a ready listener were she to recount her youthful days as a news-making daredevil skydiver, but she’d rather engage in pointless quibbling with f-i-l about whether an uninteresting drive to somewhere I’d never care to visit ended at 11:05 or ‘much later!’ at 11:15.

One day they’ll be gone, but it seems they’re content to leave as their monument to posterity not treasured memoirs, but a woeful collection of drivel. It’s not the Hindenburg, but a tragedy all the same.

13 comments:

Diesel said...

Wow, what a joy that must be. At least it makes for good blogging material.

Also, I must applaud your proper use of the word "averse." Thank you.

River said...

I am also an "ignorant, tool-in-the-shed" type person with not much to say. So I usually keep my mouth shut. I'm a listener, except I'm also partly deaf which means I miss a lot of what is being said around me, so I can't even pass on gossip........

littlesnoring said...

Sounds Painful

mutleythedog said...

You cannot expect to keep your regulars interested when you post so infrequently. Did you see what Electro-Kevin had to say about his In laws,makes your morons seem tolerable...

Lonie Polony said...

Hiya Diesel, thanks for the applause. It's nice that someone appreciates my turgid and pompous prose.

River - thanks for stopping by. Come again if you like complaining and infrequent posts.

Littlesnoring - indeed!

Mutley - and here's me thinking my 'regulars' (should that even be plural?) had lives, much as I do, which preclude caring how often I post. Tell you what, you support me financially so I don't have to work, give me a housekeeper and cook, and I'll post something everyday. Deal? ;p

mutleythedog said...

OOOH Touchy!!

River said...

I stop by fairly often, am currently reading my way through your archives, along with the archives of several others, my own life is fairly boring, so I live vicariously through the blogs of others. I enjoy all of you who are out there.

ashleigh said...

Turgid an pompous?

I think not.

I've got my own theory about this sort of endless waffling on of trivia.

I suspect it comes from loneliness and more specifically a lack of contact with people who are interesting and well spoken. If this starts early enough a life-long pattern is set.

A tell-tale is if you can sustain a discussion about a single subject. Some people can't - their conversation wanders off all over the place and you can never explore anything to any kind of conclusion. If you can't manage a logical and reasoned conversation, you're sunk.

Some of the loneliness, especially in those older folk, comes out because they don't have anybody much to talk to - sometimes for days at a time. When they get the chance, they unburden with every little piece of trivia and waffle, it's like a dam bursting.

Irrespective of the reasons, and the validity or otherwise of my bogus theory, it
s damn irritating to be on the receiving end!

Miss Smack said...

I have the same behaviours, and terminology from my parents and thats the very reason why I moved 3 states from them and barely call them.

I could say 'i've discovered the cure for cancer, Mum!" and she said say 'oh, that's nice dear. Did I tell you it rained and the dam is full now?'

Hang in there!

Jules said...

My mother is very similar.

"Did I tell you that Jenny is back?
You know Jenny, she is the sister of Bevan the butcher who used to work at Countdown before the new butcher Jim started. Remember, she was in hospital three years ago after she got a gallstone after the birth of her fourth child. Oh you do so, stop being so contrary!!"

I don't care what Jenny does, says, eats or who she is related to. She has no relevance to my life and why the hell would I want to waste 10 minutes of my extraordinary life listening to abstract facts about her mundane life??

Mama en Fuego said...

I think we might have married into the same family...

Lonie Polony said...

Ooh! new visitors. How nice to see all of you. Please come back anytime (but don't be surprised if new posts only appear every week or two at best)

Lonie :)

Lonie Polony said...

Ooh! new visitors. How nice to see all of you. Please come back anytime (but don't be surprised if new posts only appear every week or two at best)

Lonie :)