The Vine: October 30, 2013
My boyfriend's younger sister is 22. She has lived her whole life in her parents' house in a rural town.
After struggling to find a career she's interested in, she's now working as a nurse at the same retirement home as her mother (also a nurse). They even studied nursing together last year; they're very close. Sister has never traveled outside the country. She's had a few brief relationships but nothing serious. All of which is to say she's quite sheltered.
Recently she started dating a guy she met at her church (unlike the rest of the family, she's very religious), whom we'll call R. He's older than she is by a few years. Since they met, BF and I have picked up on some weird behavior by R. (Full disclosure: we live interstate, so most of our info is through Facebook updates and secondhand from his other family members, so I acknowledge that we probably don't get the full story.) Since they started dating, he's gotten really close to her mother (he sent flowers and a card for Mother's Day which was only a couple of weeks after they started dating; he calls her "Mama"; he friended her on Facebook and posts comments on things all the time). In photos he just looks like a creeper.
He's also fast-tracking the relationship. They've been dating only a few months and he's already talking marriage and how many babies they'll have together and how soon. And it's soon; the other day BF's older brother emailed him that she's talking intently about having the wedding in April next year, which is also when she graduates. Older bro also told us on a recent visit to our city that he also thinks R is weird. Maybe I'm just judgmental and have read The Gift of Fear too many times, but R's behavior is triggering all kinds of red flags for me. Aside from that, I'm worried for her to be making such a big decision when she's still so young and hasn't known this guy long.
I don't know how to express these concerns. We've only met a handful of times, even though I've been dating her brother for over two, years because flights are expensive and the family rarely leave their region, let alone the state. Neither of us have met R. She and BF have never gotten along that well (she's a few years younger and has always been spoiled by her parents as "the baby girl" so she can be a serious brat) and while she's always been friendly towards me, we're not exactly close. When I raised my concerns to BF, he confided in me that he also finds the situation disturbing because there was a previous incident when she was in high school where a male teacher took her out on what was touted as a school-related outing but turned out to be a dinner date. (She left when he tried to hold her hand.)
BF's also worried but his proposed solution is to send her self-help books anonymously. If we talk to her directly, she'll never forgive or forget. I think we should try to raise it with the parents, just in a "big brother worried about his sister marrying someone he hasn't met" kind of way. They were married when they were 19 so they probably don't see it the same way we do.
My real worry, aside from R possibly being abusive (which is a huge stretch, I admit), is that she's going to make these huge life decisions before she's even graduated and wind up married with a couple of kids by the time she's 25 and never do anything else. I don't think marriage and babies is the end of the world but it would tie her to that small town forever before she's really seen anything outside it.
Sars, what do I do? Should I hold my tongue, mind my own business and recognize that she's an adult and can make her own life choices? Or should we try to stop this thing before it gets too far gone?
Wondering if I've just seen too many Lifetime movies
Hold your tongue, mind your own business, and recognize that she's an adult and can make her own life choices. It's sweet of you and BF to worry about her, but R is not evidently abusive — you admit yourself that that's a stretch — and I assume that if you'd found incontrovertible nosy-Google evidence that he's flim-flamming Sister somehow, you'd have mentioned it. He's neither; he's just kinda hinky, and it's not that you should ignore your instincts about slightly too intense and/or controlling dudes like him. It's that it's not your instincts that count here, and I think you tend to discount Sister's because she hasn't lived much yet, or lived in a city, or gone much of anywhere. At Sister's age, I'd lived in New York, I'd gone to Italy, I had a university degree, and I was still a fucking moron about almost everything except Edith Wharton and gelato. Ain't much changed, either. I've picked up some light plumbing and I know the difference between "true friend" and "just needs my car," but living in a city for two decades hasn't equipped me better than anyone for anything except living in that city. And nobody's got more provincial assholes than Brooklyn, believe it.
I get what you're saying, and I know you don't mean to be condescending, but emotional sophistication isn't entirely dependent on experience or environment, is one thing. Another thing is that, yeah, if she's wanting to see the wider world or live in a faster-paced place, Sister's small and selective life and way of doing things is going to leave her somewhat unprepared for certain things — but not everyone "needs" that. It isn't required. In theory, she "should" learn to live in the world more separate from Mom, but on the other hand…why, again? They're close; why not? Seeing and interacting with other cultures and places is great; so is blooming where you're planted.
The last thing is that there's no telling anybody anything anyway. BF should definitely download from his parents what they think of R over a bottle of wine or some tea, but as far as trying to split them up or slow things down? No. Don't send any self-help books; don't start any conversations about how doesn't she think maybe it's too soon/she's too young/she needs to see more of the world. Maybe it is/she is/she does. Maybe it's fine and R just comes off poorly at first. Maybe it's not fine, but remember, when Professor Skeezo tried to get on her, she was like, nope!, and split. Give her some credit.
You don't have to like R, or pretend you do; you're allowed to think Sister's making a mistake. But she's allowed to make mistakes, and what's a mistake for you might not be for her.
Tags: boys (and girls) the fam