Category Archives: Menopause

Family Feud: The Indian Mother-in-law

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A post by writer Gwen Bellinger, an American woman living in India. The story is based on the experiences of friends she’s made there.  Gwen took the photos, but is not identifying the women in order to preserve their privacy, quite important in the Indian culture.

Raveena desperately did not want to get caught. Each evening, after her son returned home from playing cricket with the neighborhood children, the two of them would take a walk. They frequently stopped in the market to share a Coke, and then she’d indulge in not just one, but two plates of pani puri, a popular Indian street snack. Although the entire affair cost less than $1 USD, she warned her son not to mention their evening snack to his grandmother, lest she get upset at Raveena’s frivolous spending on herself and on the boy. The last thing Raveena needed was more criticism from her mother-in-law.

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After her arranged marriage, Raveena did as most new Indian brides do: she left her parents and moved into an apartment in Jaipur, fully furnished with husband and mother-in-law. The harassment began immediately. When relatives visited, Raveena acted as their servant while the mother-in-law blatantly ignored her. When Raveena’s husband said he wasn’t hungry, her mother-in-law criticized her for not insisting he eat anyway. Any problems Raveena’s children had in school? Her fault.

The ‘”Indian mother-in-law” is a phenomenon prevalent in soap operas, films, and talk shows. Stereotypically, she openly criticizes her daughter-in-law while coddling her own children. She’s typically seen as over-involved with enormously high expectations. The United States has its own equivalent of the mother-in-law phenomenon. Anyone who watched the television 1996 series Everybody Loves Raymond is familiar with Marie’s ruthless attacks of Deborah’s cooking. Articles like 8 Ways to Deal with Your In-Laws this Holiday Season decorate my Facebook.

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Traditionally after marriage, the bride becomes part of the groom’s family and moves into their house. It’s not uncommon for a bride to cry on her wedding day because her family physically leaves her with the groom and his relatives, symbolizing that she is a part of a new family. Before 1990, most middle class homes did not have a phone. Calling was expensive, so Raveena only spoke to her family a few times a year. One woman I know only spoke to her family once in five years, the day her son was born. While this kind of isolation is less common today, it was very real for Raveena’s generation.

While I’ve read horror stories from rural, conservative villages of in-laws treating their daughter-in-law as a servant, changing her first name, even beating her or killing her, the familial problems of the urban class appear to be mostly passive aggressive. The mother-in-law and daughter-in-law gossip and bad-mouth each other. The mother-in-law criticizes the daughter-in-law’s cooking. She is overbearing about how to raise the children. The daughter-in-law comes off as ungrateful. Some people credit this to a competition between the women over the man. One of my friends rationalized that it was the society her grandmother grew up in, and she didn’t want to change her ways.

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Of course, the cycle can be broken. Some young brides I know love their mother-in-law. Raveena? She gets along great with her daughter-in-law, and they’ve become fast friends. She and Priya quickly bonded over how much Raveena’s mother-in-law dislikes both of them. Priya doesn’t live in Jaipur with Raveena. She and her husband work together and have their own apartment in Delhi. The couple visits Priya’s family weekly.

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India is still a patriarchal society, yet the sub-continent appears to be changing overnight. The rise of feminism in India is apparent in major cities. Women are no longer the keepers of the house. They are in universities and becoming lawyers, doctors, and politicians. People are moving abroad. Cheap calls and internet mean families remain digitally connected. As women move out of the “domestic sphere” and begin to take on traditionally male roles, it will be curious to see how the relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-laws morph in the years to come. Clearly, as Priya found of Raveena, not all Indian mothers-in-law are to feared.

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Gwen Bellinger is a freelance writer and editor originally hailing from North Carolina. She moved to Chandigarh, India in August 2015 to work with the Haryana government on a one-year education implementation project. You can follow her travels and adventures abroad at www.gwengetsglobal.com or visit her official website at www.gwendolynbellinger.com.

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The Ladies Room Door Art Series: Part Thirty-one

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From Jan, Goombay’s Grille and Raw Bar in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Below, the ladies room door a miniature golf course on the Outer Banks. These doors make me crave the warm beach days of summer.

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And also from Jan, the Badlands Saloon and Grille in Wall, South Dakota.

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I found this door at Jason’s Deli in Durham, North Carolina

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Daughter Laura and husband Matt found these doors on their babymoon in Bermuda.

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From Karen, Ropewalk Restaurant in Ocean City, Maryland.

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From Ken, Thaiphoon Restaurant in Crystal City, Virginia.

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From Carol, Daddy Joe’s in Gaffney, South Carolina.

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From Ken, who dined at Paisano’s on 1604, an Italian restaurant in San Antonio.

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Another from Jan, Michael’s Seafood Restaurant in Carolina Beach.

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From Carol, the door at Tumbleweed Restaurant, a Tex Mex grill in Chillicothe, Ohio.

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And that wraps up another in our Ladies Room Door Art Series! Thank you, one and all.

My PeriCoach!

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PeriCoach, an innovative product created to help women master the art of the kegel. Kegels are pelvic floor exercises that can help with urinary incontinence as well as sexual response.

A few months ago, the folks at PeriCoach were kind enough to send me one to try out! The instruction manual is well done. The set-up directions are simple and easy to follow.

You download the app and charge up the PeriCoach device. Then you sync it to the phone and follow the start up wizard to calibrate to your ability. You’re ready to go! I started at beginner:

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As you squeeze, you can see your progress. It’s so cool. Watching how you’re doing on the screen, makes you want to work all the harder. A great way to challenge yourself. This is a screen shot of one of my early attempts. As you do the kegel, your goal is to get the dot up to 100 percent.

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Next you are given time to relax. You keep relaxing until prompted to squeeze again. You do this eight times. It’s so much fun it feels like a game.
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After your session, you can see your results. I wasn’t real impressed with my first set (below). That sparked my competitive spirit. I can promise you, my results are lots better now.

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There are three levels to the PeriCoach. I’m moving into Level Two, although in some ways Level One seems like plenty of strengthening. I definitely feel my pelvic floor is improving, and I look forward to continued progress!

To learn more about PeriCoach, check out their website here.  Don’t miss their blog, which has plenty of information for menopausal women on the pelvic floor, urinary issues, exercise, and other topics.

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Chocolate Lady and Valentine’s Body Love

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The title of this painting is “Chocolate.” Up close and personal, the paint that forms this wispy woman looks like dripped chocolate.

And that gets me thinking about bodies and Valentine’s Day. What a perfect day to celebrate your body. Stretch out. Marvel at your own being.

Thank the feet that take you up the stairs to kiss a child goodnight or down the steps that lead to the surf.

The arms that welcomes someone to your home or carry supper to a sick friend.

Thank the nerves that relish the hot bath or shower or the hot embrace…

The taste buds that say, “Yes! Chocolate.”

The mind that can list a thousand loves, from people to animals to songs to hobbies to heirlooms to causes to everything else you adore in this mighty world.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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The Painting: I found the painting in a gallery and took the photo with permission, but the photo I took of the artist’s name is blurred. Try as I might, I can’t read it. Lesson learned in not rushing my photos. The painting is acrylic on canvas and is four feet long.

Art Class: My friend Gail and I are taking a painting class. Ready to tackle nudes, Gail? (More to come about art class!)