Marie Barone, from Everybody Loves Raymond
I was on a plane from Chicago to Philly when the girl next to me asked if Philadelphia is close to New Jersey. She was on her way to get married, she told me in broken English.
She was from Southeast Asia. She was marrying a man she met online.
I immediately wondered what would happen to this girl. She was very nice — overly-friendly according to American standards. I wasn’t used to having to talk to my seatmate or listen to her sing in full voice, which she did constantly.
I wondered if she would be one of the many women who find love this way. Or if she would at least find security. I wondered about whether or not the man she was meeting was a sleazeball, or abusive, or drunk. And I wondered if he would take her papers and treat her badly, because that happens.
Fortunately in this country, there is some protection for women who enter dangerous or fraudulent relationships with men they never met before arriving here. There are laws and social workers and police forces. But I looked and looked, and no such laws or agencies offer the same heightened protection against in-laws.
She’s an old joke, the mother-in-law. She’s wicked, demeaning, conniving. She’s Marie, from Everybody Loves Raymond.
But in finding or sending for a foreign bride for the hidden purpose of enslavement or domestic servitude, the mother-in-law is often very involved.
Domestic servitude and other forms of slavery often require more than one perpetrator. Common examples are a husband and wife team, or a son and mother. The mother is able to check on the woman while her son is busy at work. She can keep the bride fed and make sure she doesn’t go anywhere. This happens even in the United States.
In many other cultures, it takes a complicit mother-in-law to allow a domestic servitude arrangement to occur. As the eldest matriarch, she has control over the home and how the other women are treated, especially during the day.
After our plane landed, I watched the young girl next to me get up. She struggled to get out of the crowded plane in high heels, but she made it. She was really beautiful. I hoped that she would find love here, and learn not to sing so loudly on the plane.
And now that I’m thinking about her again, I’m hoping that if this groom she is meeting has any family, they will be kind to her even if they don’t understand her choices.
If you have a nice mother-in-law, send her a note today. There are a lot of actual wicked witches in the world…it’s a shame we don’t honor enough the many women who treat us with love.