Arrgh. Annoyed at my mother-in-law tonight. I went over to get the fruit she had kept for us to use for ice cream, since we want to do that tomorrow. The visit--I hadn't intended it as such but knew it probably would be--started off fine, talking about the garden and such. Then she commented on a work e-mail I had sent, and then moved into her favorite topic, "black people can call me whatever name they want but if I call them a name I'll get fired." She said it was because of a news item that Congress passed the bill to apologize to African-Americans for slavery and that since I don't watch the TV or get the newspaper I probably don't know what's going on in the world or that my e-mail could get me fired. (It was about some client/coworker interactions I had had, no identifiers included, certainly nothing about race. It could certainly get me fired because theoretically anything could, or nothing, but I'm not sure how she managed the link because she didn't explain it.)
I listened a while and then told her I thought she was being inflammatory, and disagreed with her on a couple of points, and she talked some of her favorite talking points over again while I kept the "inscrutable" face that I retrospectively realize she hates on my face and wound up with, "I wasn't trying to be inflammatory. I was trying to engage you in a conversation. But that seems to be pointless so I guess I'll give up." I said, "I guess that's my cue to go; good night," and left.
It wasn't her choice of topic specifically that annoyed me so. It's that this seems to be her favorite topic, one she's brought up multiple times in multiple settings, and I don't like her point of view or the way she expresses it but I can put up with that quietly; it's the repetition that gets me. She says the same things every time. I (and the people she often says it to, Eric and his/our friends) give the same non-response every time. I don't think she does it expressly to annoy me but I don't know why she does do it. Is she trying to provoke either a knock-down argument or a positive, supportive response? Does she think that I'll eventually agree? Does she simply enjoy saying it over and over? Is this a grievance she can't get out of her head? Is this topic the only gateway topic to other conversations and we just never get through it because (except for tonight) I can't bring myself to really respond?
And of course it doesn't help that I have not forgotten her previous blow-up at my husband. I still try to be polite, and I pretend I have forgotten it because both he and she have and evidently assume that I have too (and Eric expressly said that he wanted me to), but I have not forgotten and I do not forgive her.
Though due to that previous experience I'm not concerned about her petulant "I might as well give up" at the end of the conversation tonight. She came to the doorway to see me out and said, "Take care, kiddo," in her normal tone. Presumably she's already forgotten. Maybe that's why she keeps repeating the topic, because she doesn't remember that she's already talked it through?