You might think that worse than sister-in-law can only be mother-in-law. That’s why we have the whole spectrum of jokes about them, isn’t that right? I agree to some point, but mother-in-law is still mother, so most of the things can be explained by her over-flowing love to their children (maybe a bit of sarcasm there). But here is the thing. Older sister of your husband, who helped bringing him up like she was his mother… is the worst. Because now she would still feel responsible to judge and protect but maybe with less of “motherly love” there.
See, the thing is my mother-in-law is an awesome person. Truth to be told, maybe that’s only in my head, as we barely communicate, but I like her a lot. I now do understand some things she is saying in Cantonese, but out of convenience I pretend not to, for wellbeing of our relations now and in the future. She feeds me and never expects me to follow any rules of Hong Kong society, and she apparently is happy that I am prettier than my husband’s ex-girlfriend. That would be only thanks to my white face, obviously, but this time I will just continue using my white card.
The problem with P.’s family comes from the fact that he’s the youngest and only son to three older sisters. Three sisters-in-law acting like mothers-in-law. So in fact, I could boast to have four mothers-in-law.
Out of all four of them, the biggest sister is the closest to mother-in-law, as she’s the oldest and have the most motherly relations with her brother. While with the actual mother-in-law, I just exchange niceties and food impressions, big sister-in-law speaks fluent English so I am in much more complicated situation.
I am not a native English speaker, but I do care about “between the lines” and maybe I read too much into it, but I am being judged no matter what I do. My first strategy was to act a bit sillier, so I do not have to discuss stuff in detail. That is, if I wanted to disagree with something, I would just make a silly face and say “Oh, I see” and leave it at that. It would be working fine, if the big sister-in-law did not conclude that I am simply stupid and not strong or smart enough to do anything. New Year’s Eve party made me realise that with full clarity and I realised it has to be changed (but I have no new strategy in mind yet).
The big sister-in-law is a very strong minded person and even when she talks bullshit, she is so confident and talk about it with such a strength, I am just too lazy to say anything. She would be able to convince you that Hello Kitty is a real animal, if she wanted to. On the other hand, she does love Hello Kitty and cutesy little stuff and decorations too. Although married and now pregnant, she does act like an old single lady with cats (she has a puddle instead – she carries it in a bag and don’t let it touch the floor).
Second sister-in-law (from top) is the most down to earth one and I do like her a lot, but lately I came to disagree with her a few times in my mind. And why in my mind? Well, she is my almost mother-in-law after all. Another thing is that the things I disagree on concern her children and this is always a sensitive topic and following my colleague’s advice, I do not say anything. I do not know how that works anywhere else, but here in Hong Kong, as a wife of the youngest child in the family, I have no say whatsoever when it comes to private issues or relations between people. Just standby and vent when you’re at home.
The youngest sister-in-law is just few years older than me and she’s the most easy going person in the family, but somehow gets called annoying very often by the rest of the sisters. She travels a lot and enjoys her life while the other sisters keep on giving her the “good advice”. She takes none of it and that’s why I like her a lot. She did come to my help a few times too when the Big Sister was being weird.
Let’s make it clear though. P.’s family helps us a lot and it’s fun being with them most of the time. I do not mind to go for dinner or yam cha together and celebrate Christmas together. Not understanding Cantonese truly protects me from disagreements and although I want nothing more but to be able to communicate easily in Cantonese, in front of my family-in-law I know nothing and I keep it in for the sake of all of us.