I am Jewish, which, in and of itself, isn’t all that horrible a thing — unless of course you yourself are Muslim and your daughter is married to me.
Welcome to my wife’s mother’s world.
Never mind that I do not actively practice Judaism; that is of no consolation. From a blood standpoint, I’m all Jew. It matters not that I can’t read Hebrew, can’t spell Channuukkahh, am not a doctor or a lawyer, and hate gefilte fish. I’m the enemy in the eyes of my mother-in-law based on what’s coursing through my veins.
And never mind the fact that my wife doesn’t actively practice Islam. That is certainly of no consolation to her mother, who insists that my wife is, in fact, a good Muslim girl who is simply going through a minor rebellious phase. A 20-year long minor rebellious phase.
I met my mother-in-law for the first time at her home in Bali just a few months before the wedding. (I won’t lie, I married my wife partly for the vacations.) The primary aim of the trip was to give her the opportunity to get most of the obligatory cold stares and mumbled epithets out of her system before the big day. Prior to the trip, I asked my soon-to-be wife for some advice on how I might win over her mother despite me being a Red Sea pedestrian. My paramour said not to worry about winning anyone over, as mine was a lost battle. She recommended that I focus instead on learning the currency conversion.
So, I went to Bali with no real strategy or stress. I figured I couldn’t win, so I might as well just relax and be myself. And that is just what I did.
While it is too late for me to recover, there is still hope for other Jews and Jew-like people who are in love with women who have Muslim mothers. I’ve since learned a lot about what I did wrong in dealing with my mother-in-law, and I’d like others to learn from my wisdom.
Here are six things I didn’t do that you should if you ever find yourself in my situation.
1) Convert to Islam. This is, far and away, the most critical step to winning over a Muslim mother-in-law. And all it requires is a quick reading of the Koran, a relatively simple ceremony, and the ability to conceal any and all evidence of your conversion from your Jewish relatives and their friends for the rest of your life.
Unfortunately, I am unable to convert, for I, like most fallen or reformed Jews, possess the inability to refrain from bacon. Furthermore, I get very cranky if I miss a meal or even a snack between meals, thus the requisite fasting during Ramadan would be dangerous for me and anyone in my immediate vicinity.
2) Kiss your Muslim mother-in-law’s daughter’s ass, but only figuratively. Muslim mothers — and most other mothers, for that matter — want to be reminded that they have created a beautiful creature and want to see that creature adored by her man. Be loving and doting, but don’t overdo it, as egregious public displays of affection are considered highly offensive in Muslim culture. Putting your arm around your partner’s shoulder, kissing her on the cheek and saying, “You look stunning, my dear,” is acceptable. Tonguing her ear and saying “You are so frickin hot” is not.
3) When in doubt, take your shoes off. Failure to remove your shoes before entering an abode and certain other establishments is a sign of disrespect, ignorance and a lack of refinement among most Muslims. Granted, your Muslim mother-in-law will already think that you are disrespectful, ignorant and unrefined even if you do take off your shoes, but at least if you are barefoot or in socks you might stand a fighting chance.
In the event that you forget to remove your shoes in a situation when you are supposed to, and want to recover from your indiscretion, try dropping to your knees and kissing your mother-in-law’s feet while begging for forgiveness. Or simply set yourself on fire as a sign of repentance.
4) Don’t go into her bathroom — ever. If you ever were to catch even the slightest glimpse of your Muslim mother-in-law’s underwear, bra or other unmentionables, it would entirely be within her Islamic rights to kill you. Stay out of the mother’s bathroom — even if she slips and falls in the shower and is screaming for help. Get somebody else in the house to come to her rescue, or, if you are alone, call 911 and let the paramedic contend with the dire penalty that comes with seeing her unclothed.
5) Do not drink alcohol, or at least mask the container. As tempting as it may be to use vodka, whisky or wine to help you endure the cold stare and piercing silence of your Muslim mother-in-law, you must refrain from doing so. Alcohol is as offensive as public displays of affection, shoed feet, and Jewy blood.
If you absolutely must have an alcoholic drink, disguise it as a regular soft drink, juice or water — especially if what you are drinking is imported from Israel or has the name “Manischewitz” on the label.
6) Shut the hell up. Except for when complimenting her daughter or reciting passages from the Koran during your conversion ceremony, shut up around your Muslim mother-in-law. There is nothing you, as a Jew, can say that will change her opinion of you, expand her view or make her laugh out loud. Besides, by keeping your mouth closed, you eliminate any chance of inadvertently blurting out that you had bacon for breakfast, got drunk the previous night, or finished your Hanukkah shopping.