I am very happily married, I have several jobs that I love, I have two small children that I adore, and I don't have any credit card debt. Life doesn't get much better than this. The only problem is that my wife's entire family lives within a fifteen-mile radius -- not always the greatest scenario for a guy who appreciates peace and solitude as much as I do.
Here are just a few of the more uncomfortable conversations I've had with my mother-in-law over the years. Please keep in mind that she's a relatively conservative sixty-something with a deep dose of Catholic stern-ness and a side of naiveté that I find almost charmingly quaint. The first time I accidentally dropped the F-bomb in front of her, she calmly grabbed her jacket and walked out of my house without saying a word. When I started doing stand-up, she would come out to the shows and be supportive, but I knew she didn't appreciate my potty-mouthed humor. All of which makes the following conversations that much harder to understand, and even harder to take part in.
Blue Balls -- She came over the house one day and said that she'd been behind a pickup truck that had a novelty pair of Truck Nuts hanging from the trailer hitch. While I'm sure the driver of the truck found them hilarious, they only served to perplex my mother-in-law for however many miles she trailed behind the two swinging orbs. As she described them to me, she could tell right away from my boyish giggle that they were something dirty. I didn't want to tell her what they were, and more importantly what they represented, but she pressed on. I tried, in the most clinical way I could, to explain the condition that is "blue balls" to her. She looked at me like I was the town pervert. She thought I was making the whole thing up and that there had to be a more reasonable explanation to that truck's violet-hued appendage.
Third Base -- Several years ago my wife and I did one of those multi-day Breast Cancer Walks. We returned home with tales of how extraordinary the experience was, including the uplifting humor that permeated the entire event. We especially loved the t-shirts that folks had made up. "Save the Boobies!" read one. "Hakuna Ma Ta-Tas" said another. And "Save Second Base!" It was this last one that confused my mother-in-law. Somehow she had never heard the baseball analogy used to describe male-female relations. She had no idea what "getting to first base" or any of it meant. Once again, it was up to me to explain it to her. The first, less graphic explanation went right over her head. You'd think I was explaining the infield fly rule. I went into a little more detail on the next go-round and she did not look pleased. By the time I'd finished detailing rounding second and heading for third, her hands went up in surrender and I could tell by the look on her face that she'd heard enough. Again, since I was the one explaining this stuff to her, she assumed that I had created it all and had the mind of a psychotically dangerous pervert.
The Christmas Beaver -- The first holiday season I spent with my wife, I was introduced to a unique family tradition. Instead of a star or angel on top of their tree, they had a plush, stuffed animal... the Christmas Beaver. I thought nothing of it for the first few years until the one Christmas Eve when I inquired about the origin of this interesting choice of tree-toppers. "Why a beaver?" I asked innocently enough as I sucked down my fourth glass of boxed chardonnay. It seemed an odd choice. I was fairly familiar with the traditional Catholic nativity story and was quite sure that the North American beaver did not play even a minor role. "Oh, that was just a silly nickname we girls had when we hung out together in school," she explained. "The boys all called us The Beaver Club. One of my girlfriends got that for us when we got married and we've used it on our tree ever since."
Once again, my immature giggling gave me away. She couldn't understand what she'd possibly said dirty this time. She was simply telling us a lovely story about how the Christmas Beaver came to join the family. A group of young men had called her and her friends The Beaver Club for years, and she didn't really know why. She was actually quite proud. It turns out she was the leader of the The Beaver Club!
I tried to explain how what her and her young girlfriends thought was a cute, innocent nickname was actually just a slang word for... well, you know. She refused to believe me. At this point she thought that I might really be a seriously disturbed individual and that I was making up all these dirty tales I kept telling her. She couldn't believe those boys were thinking that coarsely. Eventually, the rest of the family backed me up and explained that the term was a universally known euphemism for certain lady parts. My wife and her sisters were in hysterics because none of them had known the origin of the decoration that had looked down on them for so many holidays... the sacred Christmas Beaver.