Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My girlfriend, “Cleo,” is allergic to seafood. She does not carry an EpiPen because “it’s not that type of reaction,” but she always asks lots of questions about ingredients and preparation. My mom finds the questions insulting and believed Cleo was making up the allergy.
Recently at my family barbecue, Cleo did her usual questioning before eating. Maybe 30 minutes later she started complaining that her face itched. She took Benadryl but she turned red, and her eyes began swelling. We had to go to the emergency room for a cortisone shot. As we’re getting in the car, my mom confessed she fried the fish and chicken in the same oil and lied when Cleo asked. She admitted she planned to prove Cleo’s allergy was fake.
My mom apologized and is paying the emergency room bill. Even so, Cleo called my mom a monster and wants nothing to do with her. She also broke up with me, saying I shouldn’t have to choose between her and Mom. She won’t consider a compromise like eating before visits.
Is there any way to get past my anger at my mom and get Cleo back?
My Mom Poisoned My Girlfriend
Dear Poisoned: WOW.
Wow. No, there’s no “compromise” like “eating before visits.” Would you ever agree to that yourself, seriously? Food is social sustenance as well, and not something one sidelines because one’s boyfriend’s mom’s ego insisted she commit assault.
Or, put another way, would you ever consider yourself so awesome a catch that someone would make such a huge sacrifice just to be with you?
I’m not singling you out as unworthy of love by saying this. I think we all have a blind spot (the sizes of which vary) when it comes to the sacrifices we ask of those who choose to be with us. Whether it’s “deal with my morning snappiness” or “don’t judge me for my lack of ambition” or whatever else, we all have deficits that compromise whatever great qualities we offer.
Your mother’s jaw-dropping act of smugness and hostility made her one of your significant deficits — grounds for Cleo to seek companionship elsewhere. Your ridiculous suggestion that she eat solo in advance of group meals adds another.
Please accept Cleo’s decision as a sound one, as in, accept that her potential sacrifices are too great under the circumstances to warrant her staying with you.
As for how you get over your anger at your mom, I can only say, watch and wait: See if she actually gets it.
Re: Cleo: Cleo would be totally within her rights to press charges, since the poisoning was intentional. That’s a well-recognized point of no return for social relationships. Why did you somehow think that Cleo would continue to associate with your mom?
Dear Anonymous: Is it wrong this struck me as funny?
Poisoning: 1. administering a substance that usually kills or harms an organism; 2. a well-recognized point of no return for social relationships.
Full disclosure on the poisoning story: I’ve seen a few like it recently. I suspect it’s an offshoot of our foul cultural moment, where those different from us are openly (again) part of some contemptible Other who must be called out and shunned. Can’t wait till it passes.
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