by The 4-Way Panel
I think my boyfriend’s mom might be hitting on me. She’s single and modern, but not openly dating women. However, I notice that every time I’m in her company, she goes out of her way to give me a back rub, or say something cute about my breasts. I think it would horrify my boyfriend if I suggested such a preposterous idea, but it’s really getting to the point where I dread time that I have to be in her presence. I don’t want to assume wrongly, but I’m not sure how to be graceful about the situation, either.—SV
The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown
If there’d ever been an indie, San Francisco version of Meet the Parents, I think this would’ve been it. Be glad she’s only commenting on your breasts; she could’ve tried to milk them, Greg Focker-style.
Kidding aside, SV, these are treacherous waters you’re treading. Not only do you have to deal with the creepy flirty mom issue, you’ve also got to delicately navigate through the mother/son relationship, which I know from personal experience can be a complete nightmare.
It took many years and a lot therapy for me to understand that when couples deal with family, they need to operate as a single unit with a united front. (This is assuming that you’re in a serious relationship with your boyfriend, and I’m assuming you are since you’re meeting his mom.) This means that you need to bring the issue up with your boyfriend first.
Rather than potentially alienating your boyfriend by telling him what his mother is doing, I suggest asking him if his mother has displayed the same behavior with previous girlfriends. This will allow you to gauge his awareness and/or defensiveness of her behavior. Whichever it is, you need to be clear on two things with him: 1) it makes you uncomfortable and you want it to stop and 2) you want his support—whether he agrees that she’s being inappropriate or not—when the questionable behavior happens again. You may have to invent a sign or something that lets him know when you feel uncomfortable. (Because maybe breast rubs were the norm in his house growing up—who knows?)
Fending off her advances needs to be a team effort. You can be gracefully vocal with her about her comments and actions, but the primary responsibility for keeping his mother under control falls on your boyfriend. Give him the agreed upon sign when you feel uncomfortable so that he can try and intervene first. If that fails, politely tell her that backrubs aren’t your thing, or talking about your breasts makes you feel weird. If she keeps it up, you and your boyfriend need to make a contingency plan for how to deal with her and how much time to spend with her.
Oh, and if your boyfriend doesn’t believe you, or is unwilling to support you in fending off his mom, he’s not your guy. Shut him out of the circle of trust.
Check in tomorrow to read the gay woman's perspective by Jody Fischer.
The 4-Way is published monthly. If you have a question for our 4-Way panel, please send it to them in care of the editor at email@example.com. To read more of The 4-Way columns or to listen to our podcasts, visit The 4-Way now.
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