My mother-in-law told me I am not part of her family because I do not have her last name. Never mind the fact that I am married to her son and we have been together almost nineteen years. Never mind the fact that we took her in after Alberto died and she resides in the guest bedroom downstairs that I spent months decorating. None of that matters to her. What matters is that my moniker is Juanita Mantz not Juanita Pelaez.
This is the world according to Orieta and only Orieta because despite my choice not to take my husband's last name, I do consider myself a Pelaez as does my husband.
The question is not whether she was serious when she told me this in her strong Argentine accent but why she said this. It is more complicated than it seems and while I am inclined to treat this as a joke, it isn't. She hurt my feelings and after a childhood like mine, I am sometimes surprised that my feelings can be hurt at all.
I am upstairs in my bedroom feeling rather bruised right now. I don't want to see her. I have worked hard at being pretty damn good at forgiveness, but forgiving Orieta's comment may take some time.
It all started with Vegas and her birthday. My best friend Tracy and her fiance J invited us to Vegas with them to see Lewis Black, the comedian. We quickly answered yes, but soon realized that the weekend at issue was both Easter and my mother-in-law Orieta's birthday. We felt compelled to invite Orieta and my mom along. They accepted.
Then came the decision of where to stay. Tracy and J were staying at the Luxor in a suite. I wanted to stay in the same hotel with them. Orieta wanted to stay anywhere but the Luxor. "I don't like the Luxor," she said in a firm voice as she waved her finger in the air. "It is too far from Cesar's Palace and the rooms are feo (ugly)."
I tried to reason with her. "Orieta, there are new rooms in the Luxor tower, don't you think we should stay in the same hotel?"
It wasn't working. "No Juanita, I don't like the rooms and it is too far."
I looked to my mom for support. "Mom, don't you want to stay at the same hotel as us? That way we can have breakfast together." My mom who is usually outspoken refused to take a stand, "I'll stay anywhere," she said.
Now that my mom was acting like fucking Switzerland, Orieta continued to argue her point, "I don't like the Luxor. Maybe I'll stay home for my birthday. Why do you care? You are going for Tracy and J, not for me, not for my birthday."
I looked at her and shook my head, "But we invited you Orieta. We wanted you to come with us."
"It doesn't matter," she said. "I have no one. Only my sons."
I looked at her. "I'm your family too Orieta."
Then came the zinger.
"You are not a Pelaez. You are Juanita Mantz, not Juanita Pelaez."
"But, we are married Orieta," I responded.
"Yes, but even Alberto said, she married him and did not take the Pelaez name. I remember he said that."
By this time Adrian was downstairs listening at the table while we argued. I was glad he was there to hear her so he couldn't accuse me of exaggeration. She was hitting below the belt.
I had enough. I got on the phone and made the reservations. It was the Luxor for us and Paris for Orieta and my mom.
My poor mom.
To be continued...