It seemed innocent enough. Wrapped in glossy paper covered with images of fluffy kittens, it was soft and squishy to the touch. It had a pink ribbon around it and a pretty card filled with kind, sincere words.
Yet inside this so-called innocent package was an object so explosive it had the potential to threaten my marriage. So in my very best Cluedo voice I ask, “Was it really innocent, or did she know exactly what she was doing?”
Dear readers, I’ll let you be the judge.
My mother-in-law gave me a nightie for my birthday. Not just any nightie, but a black sexy nightie with a low-cut front, lace panels in the back and designed to hug the body tight.
Initially, I was happy with this gift. It’s tough for a mother-in-law to shop for the holders of the bosoms their precious sons have left their bosoms for. Often a difficult relationship to negotiate, many a mother in-law (MIL) has got it wrong.
Generally, books are a safe option, but one Christmas, a friend of mine received Home Comforts: The Art & Science Of Keeping House, by Cheryl Mendelson, from her MIL, which cast a certain shadow over family gatherings thereafter.
Eventually, when I’m a MIL, I may find it difficult not to give books titled Why His Mother Will Always Love Him More Than You, If You Hurt My Son In Any Way, I’ll Hurt You, and, of course, the old best-seller How To Dress Appropriately And Not Like A Hooker.
So, all things considered, a black sexy nightie was a good choice and I figured our MIL/DIL relationship was healthy.
Yet it wasn’t until it was nestled in my drawer surrounded by my usual nightwear that it hit me. This was more than just a gift – this was a sign.
Somebody was unhappy with what goes on me when the lights go off, uh huh, somebody doesn't like my flannelette nighties, but who? Had my husband confessed to his mother about turning off when the flanny’s on? Anyway, isn't it weird telling your mother about your sex life? Perhaps he’s always been weird and I’ve just ignored it and she just accepts him for what he is, blah blah blah, like only a mummy can, blah blah blah.
What else has he told her about the way I behave in bed? If he’s told her about the rubber, he’s gone too far, I don’t want everybody to know I can’t sleep without a hot water bottle winter or summer. That’s private.
Yet perhaps it was her decision alone. She’d seen my nightie collection while putting my washing away and decided that her son was too good for flannelette, that he deserved something more sophisticated.
Hey, don’t tut tut me about getting my MIL to put my clothes away, I’ve repeatedly told her not to, but she wants to do it. She says it makes her feel needed. So I get her to do the dishes and washing, ironing, folding and vacuuming, too. It’s a sacrifice I know, but it makes me happy making her feel happy.
Yet I wore the black sexy nightie to bed nonetheless. It was here that I realised that perhaps I had it and her all wrong. Perhaps, she’s actually on my side. Because, after 18 years of marriage and four children, my MIL knows the last thing I need in bed is more activity. She knows I need a good lie down free from, uh hum, distractions.
So when I’ve got my black sexy nightie on and I’m lying in bed trying to get to sleep, and my husband taps me on the shoulder, as all husbands do... I just turn to him and say, “Darling, you know your mum bought me this nightie, don’t you? She’s got one exactly the same. I bet she’s wearing it right now.”
Who knew a black sexy nightie could become so unsexy so quickly...
Sweet dreams, ladies.