Lots of people have contentious relationships with their in-laws, but thankfully few can say their spouse's parents are actively trying to kill them. However, that doesn't seem to be the case for a woman who wrote into the "Ask Polly" advice column this week. She has a deadly food allergy that her husband's family seems intent on ignoring, to her peril.
"Disrespected Daughter-in-Law" wrote to The Cut's weekly advice column for help healing a rift between her and her husband's family over... mushrooms. DDIL says she has a "very severe allergy" to mushrooms, which requires her to keep an EpiPen on her at all times and has led to multiple hospitalizations after accidental exposure. This is not the sort of thing she can mess around with. "One time, I began convulsing in the ambulance on the way to the hospital," she says.
Given the fact that mushrooms can literally kill her, DDIL's husband was sure to tell his parents of her dietary restrictions when they were dating so that she could be accommodated at family meals. That should be the end of the story, and in 99.99 percent of cases it would be. Mushrooms are by no means an exotic food, but as far as allergens go, they seem easy to omit. They're certainly easier to avoid than other common allergens like dairy, wheat, or nuts.
But not for DDIL's in-laws.
She says "most meals we have shared at my in-laws' house have had very limited options for me," and they seem to find their way into nearly every dish. During one dinner, the mother-in-law passed a plate of mushrooms around the table and said pointedly, "I would've liked to add mushrooms directly to the salad, but somebody has problems with it!" DDIL said she literally had to hold her breath as that plate went around.
And at a holiday dinner, her mother-in-law even added mushroom powder to the mashed potatoes, proclaiming is "a new recipe she'd found" and decided a dinner where her severely allergic daughter-in-law would be present was the ideal time to try it out.
I was today years old when I learned mushroom powder is a thing, and that this poor letter writer's in-laws seem to be actively trying to murder her with fungi.
When she got pregnant with their first child, DDIL made it clear to her husband that unless her family could promise to keep all the food free of mushrooms, they wouldn't be attending family dinners, and the response to this very reasonable request was insane. "His dad said, 'We can’t promise that. Everyone except your wife likes mushrooms, and we’re not changing what we eat for one person.'"
OK but who likes mushrooms this much? Other than this stock photography lady?
Look, I love mushrooms. I mean love. My no. 1 pizza topping choice is mushroom and onion. But even if someone I only barely tolerated said they couldn't eat them, I would yield because, I dunno, my desire for my very favorite pizza combo is not as strong as my desire to not murder people.
You would think with how unreasonable DDIL's in-laws have been about mushrooms that the family has a love for them bordering on pathological. But her husband says they weren't really a common dish for them before they started dating. Thankfully, her husband is extremely supportive of his wife, you know, not dying over a shiitake, but save for one brother, the entire family seems united in putting mushrooms before his wife's health, even once yelling at them that they were overreacting and that mushrooms "are not a poison."
Gaslighting is to this family's behavior what tourism is to driving your rocket straight into the sun.— Heather Havrilesky (@hhavrilesky) August 7, 2019
If you're going insane in the membrane contemplating DDIL's predicament, you're not alone. It basically broke Ask Polly's brain. The advice columnist (whose real name is Heather Havrilsky) shared the letter — and her advice to this poor woman — on Twitter touting it as "the most unhinged Ask Polly letter I've ever received, hands down."
A lot of people throw around the word "gaslighting" too freely, but Heather is 100 percent right in using it to describe the pathological, homicidal behavior going on with DDIL's in-laws. While this poor Disrespected Daughter-in-Law expressed feeling guilt for the rift her allergy has caused between her husband and his family, Heather assured her she should assume zero responsibility for this estrangement.
Unfortunately, as "Polly" points out, it can be extremely hard to accept it when people behave as irrationally as DDIL's in-laws have. Because their actions defy all logic, understanding, and common decency, it's understandable that she thinks she must have done something to incite it and if she just would do or say the right thing, everything could be OK. But it won't. She encourages DDIL and her husband to see a therapist who can help them grieve this relationship, because there's very little hope of coming back from it.
The internet had pretty much the same journey with this story as Polly, whose tweet has been shared by 5.5K people and liked by 17K. And the outpouring of support overwhelmed and comforted DDIL and her husband, who wrote back to express their gratitude for the backup.
And, like Polly, folks agreed that a premium cable dark comedy about a family like this would be amazing to watch, but it's quite another thing for such people to exist in real life.