Monday, August 27, 2007

Meet the parents, volume 1.

So, I met Torsten's parents last night. They flew into Baltimore, so we borrowed my sister's car to drive out and pick them up. Their flight was delayed, so they didn't arrive until about 9 p.m. When they finally did arrive, they were right behind an American soldier who was coming home after time on the airbase near Torsten's parents' house, so we could barely see them through the screaming and sign-waving of the assembled crowd that had come to the airport to meet their soldier.

They were nice, though, and friendly. It was hard because we couldn't really talk--my German is more or less nonexistent, and although their English is a bit better, it's still pretty bad. When Torsten and his dad were off getting the suitcases, his mom and I managed to have a conversation in broken English that involved me holding my hand up above my head and saying something about how tall Torsten was (his parents are both much shorter than he is), and his mom saying that her Eltern (parents) are both short as well (I assume trying to say that she doesn't know where he got his height). Then we smiled awkwardly at each other a lot until Torsten and his dad got back.

In the car I listened to them talk to each other and managed to figure out more or less the general idea of what they were talking about. We took them to have dinner but they weren't hungry so they just had drinks while we ate dinner. It was frustrating for me because usually I'm so good with parents, but in this case I can't be good with them because I can't talk to them and everything we say to each other has to go through Torsten. But their English is good enough that Torsten and I have no way of communicating to each other without them understanding--in fact, it's almost worse than if they were native English speakers, because as it is, they hang on to our every word in an attempt to see how good their English is.

So really it's just frustrating because usually I'm good at reading people and in this case I have no context, no understanding, and no way of communicating. I was a little surprised because I'm their son's fiancée and they had never met me before, but they didn't ask me any questions or anything. We were obviously sort of tiptoeing around each other and trying to be polite, and of course they were exhausted from their flight and jet lag and all of that.

So I guess the rest of the week (they're here until next Monday) will be more revealing. Torsten is going to talk to them about wedding finances tonight before I get there, so that hopefully they will be honest about how they feel and whether or not they want to contribute. My feeling is that the prognosis is not good--Torsten mentioned a couple of wedding costs last night to try to feel out their reaction, and when they heard how much the photographer cost, they actually laughed out loud.

But! I will not be a pessimist! It's just a lot of cultural expectations and misunderstandings that we have to navigate, and the important thing here is that we are getting married and spending our lives together, not who pays for the costs of the actual wedding. And really my concern with his parents is that we build some kind of decent relationship so that our kids can have a strong bond with their grandparents without any issues getting in the way. My mother always had issues with my paternal grandmother (who, admittedly, was a very difficult woman), and partly as a result of that, I was never that close with my grandmother. I'm hoping I can avoid putting my own children in a similar situation, though I don't at all blame my mother for my lack of a strong relationship with my grandmother.

And last night I definitely got the feeling that Torsten's parents and I will get along, at least to the extent that we can communicate, without a problem. So in the long run, I think this will all be fine. In the short run, we'll have to see how the rest of the week goes.


  1. Good luck! This is how I would be, all "but I'm so GOOD with parents normally!" Your full awesomeness isn't shining through because of the language barrier!

  2. That's EXACTLY right. They would LOVE me, if they could just UNDERSTAND me. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

  3. Sounds like it is going pretty well, eh? I hope the wedding finances talk goes ok...

    Hang in there!

  4. Thanks for all the support! You are great.