The first time I met my French-Tunisian mother in law, she had me drink down a shot of pure olive oil!

I know!

I was in Paris for a school vacation, doing job interviews, meeting people and I had a bit of a cough. My mother in law has an olive grove in Tunisia and they produce all of their own olive oil, so she was sure that if I drank a shot of her oil, I'd be fine? The gentleman gleefully told me she was probably right, and my brother in law laughed and rolled his eyes. She held the espresso glass out to me, full of expectation and kindness, and I drank it in one go.

I spent the rest of the evening suppressing my coughs.

The second time I met her, I had moved to France for good. My French was terrible, but I was determined to try. I told her a story about the cats I had re homed in Shanghai before moving to Paris, but I got the masculine and the feminine mixed up.

Those of you who speak French probably already see where this is going. You're already groaning. For those of you who don't, the masculine version of 'my cat', absent a specific male cat you are referencing, is, shall we say, a euphemism. In English, we have a similar euphemism with a different version of 'cat'.

It's not a euphemism usually used with mothers in law. Especially not new ones.

My French was, at the time, still so terrible, that a story about rehoming cats in Shanghai took ten minutes. Ten minutes of looking for correct words, clarifying mistakes, describing things that a single missing adjective would have taken care of.

Ten minutes during which time I kept accidentally talking about my genitals instead of the sweet, ah, pussy cats, I had left in China. She was incredibly polite. She did not correct me. The gentleman, even more gleeful than before, sat behind me, barely containing his mirth. He got a good couple of smacks upside the head later, from me and from his mother. Much later, but not until after I spent an evening feeling pretty proud of myself.

Ten minutes during which time I told her that Mon Chat had really loved her son. That her son had been exceptionally kind to Mon Chat. That unfortunately, her son had been allergic to Mon Chat.

Imagine telling your new mother in law that her son was allergic to your, ah, nether regions.

That was 2 and a half years ago, and I'm still here.

Rebecca Anne x

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