Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Don’t make outlaws of the in-laws, Angelina

It seems her forthcoming nuptials have turned into a bit of a nightmare for Angelina Jolie. I’m sure many of us, imagining what it would be like to float down the aisle towards a beaming Brad Pitt, feel her pain.

I shouldn’t be facetious, despite the pleasures it often brings. Angelina’s problem is in-law related, which goes to show that even when you have a beaming Brad Pitt by your side to help you choose a pudding and make a mix-tape, you’re not immune to the same old issues many of us face when doing the seating plans.

We’ve all been there: you’re one of Hollywood’s most famous campaigners for gay rights and your fiance’s mum goes and writes a letter to her local paper decrying the President for supporting gay marriage. Jane Pitt’s letter, published in Missouri’s Springfield News Reader earlier this month, urged people to vote for Republican Mitt Romney and opined that “any Christian who does not vote is casting a vote for Romney’s opponent, Barack Hussein Obama ... a liberal who supports the killing of unborn babies and same sex marriage”.

I sympathise with Angelina’s alleged fury. This is inflammatory language — note the provocative use of Obama’s ‘controversial’ middle name — from a woman we’d been led to believe was a lovely cuddly type of mum whose only real passion was her adored son and grandchildren. But if the stories that Angelina has now banned Brad’s parents from their summer wedding are true, I think she’s making a huge mistake.

The issue of a loved-one’s family is fraught with complexities, especially if you regard political principles as central to the core of your being.

It’s a pompous phrase, sure, for an easily mocked stance, but it’s one I admire, having regarded my own political values as sacred since I was a teenager.

I rarely shirk from taking on a bigot, and have had many great nights arguing with everyone from greedy, delusional city boys to people who miss the News of the World. But I made up my mind years ago that the one set of people you have to shut up and tolerate are the close family of your other half.

Fortunately, unlike some of my close friends who live with permanently bruised tongues, I don’t face regular inner turmoil with my in-law family. Thank God, I genuinely like them.

But I’ve struggled in the past with the views and general behaviour of the parents and siblings of a couple of serious boyfriends.

I’ve sat at a dinner table trying not to go purple listening to a spew of ignorant bile about Catholics from the father of one of the kindest and most open-minded men I’d ever met.

I’ll never understand how he came from such boiling blood. I watched him blushing furiously and make a gentle joke about his dad’s enlightened state, trying to cajole him into silence.

I knew he was ashamed and embarrassed, and that he was either too experienced or too timid to confront him properly.

But I also knew he had warm childhood memories about his father which bonded them, and that to ask him to actively reject his parents, or choose between us, would be cruel. I accepted his father because I accepted him, and that was the end of it.

I understand how deeply Angelina values her principles, but |she often says her number one priority is family. Doesn’t that mean her husband’s mum and dad too?

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