Lessons from Khloe and Lamar: 10 Signs of Interracial In-Law Issues
"Everybody makes mistakes and has regrets. Do I think people can change? A hundred percent." -Khloe Kardashian Odom
Since I write about interracial relationships, I felt just a tad obligated to watch the first episode of Khloe and Lamar. Now I am a Celtics fan, and NBA playoffs started last weekend, so for me, this was huge. I'm still scarred from my last visit to California during the 2010 NBA Finals Series between the Celtics and the Lakers. My husband and I were visiting family, and my die-hard, Laker fan cousin talked smack from the moment I stepped through the door until the time I got back to Boston. When we tagged along for a graduation party where I sported my "BEAT LA" t-shirt, all of these "laid back" Californians began harassing me! And they were all Nigerian, so it was like REALLY LOUD harassment. It's okay, I can take it. I'm just glad it was Game 5 and not Game 7.
Considering how little I expected from the show, I was pleasantly surprised at how the show presented some of the "unique" challenges of related to estranged in-laws. So here are ten nuggets of wisdom I gleaned from the show, ten signs that you may have more in-law issues than you initially bargained for.
1. You Get Married In Thirty Days
Khloe: "Marrying someone so quickly you don't realize 'Oh! We are totally from two different worlds.'"
Khloe and Lamar got married in 30 days which apparently did not include a "Meet the Parents" scene with Lamar's dad. Personally, I endorse the Jack-Byrne-retired-CIA-operative approach to vetting potential in-laws. I'm very protective over the people I love. Because let's face it, that initial meeting of family members is ONE BIG FAT LIE. A complete farce. Anyone can convince you that they aren't a psychopath if you've only spent an evening or a weekend together. My kids will know that anyone they bring home better come with flowers, a bottle of wine, and copy of their criminal background check. Who cares if they know which fork to use for which dinner course? I want to see their "Breaking Point." Anyone can act "civil" when they've been coached and prepped, but if it's really love, you'll stick around in spite of the smart-mouthed sister-in-law diva, the kleptomaniac cousin, and the passive-aggressive uncle that everyone makes fun of. All families are dysfunctional--some are just more dysfunctional than others--and I wonder if 30 days is enough time to figure that out.
2. Your Spouse Groans Whenever Family Members Call
Khloe: "It's your dad calling."
Lamar: "ARGHHHH!!!! MMMMMM!!! NO!"
When Lamar's phone rings and Khloe identifies Lamar's dad as the caller, Lamar starts sounding like a wounded banchee. Not a good sign. I think it's safe to say that the most accurate predictor of your in-law relationships is your spouse's relationship with their family. Maybe you're an only child and you've spent your whole engagement fantasizing about marrying into a big family and "having the siblings you never had." But if your spouse never talks to them, chances are you won't be talking to them either.
3. Your Spouse Calls Their Parents By Their First Names
Lamar: "When it comes to Joe, just do what I say. PLEASE."
Even Khloe notices that something's a little "off" by the sheer fact Lamar calls his father "Joe." Call me old school. Call me traditional. Call me "Southern." But the thought of calling certain people in my life by their first names makes me cringe. Calling my parents by their first name would be like cursing out a three-year-old, just totally inappropriate. And I wouldn't even try to do it as a joke. My mom might be 4'11" but SHE DOES NOT PLAY. It still feels strange calling some in-laws by their first names. And off the top of my head, I can only think of one other celebrity family that refers to their father as "Joe" and I don't think it's meant as a term of endearment.
4. A Security Guard Introduces You To Your In-Laws
Security: "Ma'am there is a Joe Odum here, would you like us to bring him in?
How an estranged relative would know about his daughter-in-law's public appearance while taping a reality show? I do not know. Now, there could very well be some legitimate reasons that a security guard or police officer is involved in your in-law introductions. Maybe they are royalty, or celebrities, or politicians. Or maybe you're hard at work running a company, or a country and they just happen to be in the neighborhood and wanted to stop by and say "hi." Absent those circumstances, I might be a bit concerned. Especially if the setting is a jail.
5. Your In-Laws Didn't Come To Your Wedding, But They Roll Up On You At Work
Khloe: "I've never met Lamar's dad. Lamar and his dad have a strained relationship. I mean Joe wasn't even at our wedding."
Poppa Joe and his new wife make an "unexpected" appearance at Khloe's book signing, complete with Joe's wife hugging Khloe's sister Khourtney saying, "You my family too." Uh...is "family" being used as a term of art?
6. You Use The Same Words To Describe Your First In-Law Meeting & Your First Colonoscopy
Khloe: "My heart and head are thinking so many things that I don't think I'm acting properly. I'm incredibly nervous. I am taken so off guard. It's awkward. I don't think I'm acting properly. I'm just so uncomfortable. I don't know how to react."
A little nervousness is to be expected but if you feel like breaking out into a sprint...then something is very wrong.
7. Your In-Laws Barely Know You And Ask For A Hookup
Joe: "I feel bad asking...it's not like we have to go to every game. Just one or two games. I would appreciate it."
After getting to know his new daughter-in-law, Lamar's dad moves on to more serious subjects: getting free Laker tickets. Feeling comfortable enough to ask for "the family discount" should be a byproduct of genuine, relational intimacy, not merely because you have a branch on the family tree.
8. Your In-Laws Say "I Love You" Before They've Even Met You
Joe: "People ask me: 'How do you like your daughter-in-law?' I say I love her!" "We're family right? I brag on you all the time."
Maybe they love the idea of you or they love the fact that their relative is no longer single, but does marriage always = a lovable presumption?
9. You've Mistaken Your Marriage For An Episode Of "Intervention"
Khloe: "After meeting Joe, I'm excited! I mean I really think I know what I'm doing, I think I can reconnect them..."
Unless you're in an incestuous marriage, chances are your respective sets of parents are different people. So Khloe's attempt to foster a relationship between Lamar and his dad that's more like her relationship she had with her late father is futile. Projecting our own relational expectations on the relationships of others isn't always productive. Every person enters a relationship with norms shaped by their upbringing. Sometimes those norms are diametrically opposed, but that doesn't mean one person is right and one person is wrong, but just different.
10. You've Confused Your Spouse's Family With Your Family
Khloe: "I just want you to know, like, I was trying to come from a good place, you know? Like my dad's not here, and I would love for you to have your dad around. But, like, I get it."
The difference? Members of your family have known you their entire lives; you have a history together. But your in-laws--though technically "family"-- can sometimes feel more like strangers. But you and your spouse also have the joy of creating a new family together.