Although both of my marriages have ended in tears, I have been blessed to have two mothers-in-law who were kind, caring and supportive. And, while I know all of the mother-in-law jokes, I find them absolutely humorless to me. But, the jokes exist for a reason. Like stereotypes and cliches, there are some people who live down to their lowest potential. They just can’t help themselves. But, sometimes, it’s a matter of perception. What may seem like the actions of an overbearing biddy from hell to some, may seem like a reasonable request from an honored matriarch to others.
With that in mind, let’s take a peek at what happened recently in Britain. Martin Evans and Peter Hutchison of the Telegraph UK, tell us about the caring mother-in-law-to-be who chided her daughter-in-law-to-be via email.
So when Heidi Withers received a vitriolic email apparently from her fiancé’s step-mother, accusing her of a lack of manners, it was clear she had not got off on the right foot.
Unfortunately things got a great deal worse when she forwarded the stern email to some of friends – who astonished by its tone – decided to give it a wider audience.
In no time at all the email had gone viral, becoming an internet sensation, and reaching tens of thousands of readers.
Problems began when Miss Withers, 28, a PA, who lives with her fiancé Freddie Bourne in Fulham, west London, visited his parents at their home in Dawlish, Devon.
Following the visit, Freddie’s step-mother, Carolyn Bourne, 60, a celebrated flower breeder, apparently fired off an email to her future daughter-in-law accusing her of being uncouth, rude and graceless.
The email said: “It is high time someone explained to you about good manners. Yours are obvious by their absence and I feel sorry for you.”
It went on: “Your behaviour on your visit to Devon during April was staggering in its uncouthness and lack of grace.”
It added: “If you want to be accepted by the wider Bourne family I suggest you take some guidance from experts with utmost haste. There are plenty of finishing schools around. You would be an ideal candidate for the Ladette to Lady television series. Please, for your own good, for Freddie’s sake and for your future involvement with the Bourne family, do something as soon as possible.”
The email said Miss Withers’ behaviour had been so rude that it had left the family dog, Bomber, traumatized, depressed and anxious.
Listing a litany of alleged transgressions, the email accused Miss Withers of staying in bed too late; complaining about the food; cracking inappropriate jokes about the family and failing to send a card thanking them for their hospitality.
It also said: “You regularly draw attention to yourself. Perhaps you should ask yourself why…It is vulgar.”
In addition Mrs Bourne apparently criticised her future daughter-in-law’s plans for the wedding and said her aspirations were outstripping her finances.
The email said: “No one gets married in a castle unless they own it. It is brash, celebrity style behaviour.
“I understand your parents are unable to contribute very much towards the cost of your wedding. (There is nothing wrong with that…)
“If this is the case, it would be most ladylike and gracious to lower your sights and have a modest wedding as befits both your incomes.”
And in a stinging pay-off she apparently remarked: “One could be accused of thinking that Heidi Withers must be patting herself on the back for having caught a most eligible young man. I pity Freddie.”
Mr Bourne, 29, who runs an online bicycle shop, Capital Cycles, refused to comment on the email last night but conceded the matter had been discussed within the family.
He said: “Obviously this has been discussed within the family but we are not commenting other than that.”
Mr Bourne would not comment on whether the wedding was still going ahead.
Meanwhile Mrs Bourne, who runs Whetman Pinks Ltd nursery near Dawlish in Devon, also refused to be drawn on the content of the stinging email.
Yesterday she was attending a Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) plant show at Stonleigh Park, Coventry, with her husband Edward.
Mr Bourne said: “We are aware of what is being said. I know it is very boring, very repetitive and very dull but we will not be making any comment and neither will my wife.”
Miss Withers, who has a 23-year-old sister, September, was keeping a low profile last night and there was no sign of her at the flat she shares with her fiancé.
Her parents, Alan and Sylvia, who live in Ledbury, Herefordshire, were also not available for comment last night.
Miss Withers and Mr Bourne have been together for several years and enjoyed an extensive trip across the United States in 2009.
Emphasis was added by the crack staff here at the World News Center.
Now, let’s take a look at what she said.
While I will grant that her literary style may be construed as artless, and certainly everyone under 30 in the U.K. is filling blogs with venom directed at Mrs. Bourne, one needs to step back consider what she’s actually talking about.
It was the daughter-in-law-to-be’s first formal meeting with her husband-to-be’s family and she acted like a $10 hooker who finally found herself at a Best Western instead of the usual holes she resides in. Grabbing food, insulting the family, spending cash she doesn’t have and expecting someone else to cover her debts; all those sound like the behavior of a spoiled child, not an adult preparing to start a family.
Additionally, by sharing the email willy nilly she proved that she can’t be trusted with even the most mundane conversation. I find myself agreeing with Mrs. Bourne in that Freddie (who the hell still names their kid Freddie?) might be better served by finding a new companion for his trip to the alter.
Otherwise, in another fine British tradition, I seem him having his blushing bride added to the list of terrorists that is supplied to airlines and so on before their second anniversary.
You’ll have to click the link to read all about that.
Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Thursday morning around 9:10!