Fidelity & Fortune Cookies

Suegra has gone to visit her other hijo. She left on a flight to Arizona on Saturday morning and will be gone for a few weeks. The night before she left, we went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Everyone was getting along for the most part. I think we were all trying extra hard to be nice, knowing that in less than 24 hours, we could all relax and enjoy some time apart. (Suegra included, since I guess living with me is stressful to her, though one would ask why she subjected herself to it when she has the option to go elsewhere.)

We ate our meal, enjoying conversation between bites, and then came the bill and a handful of fortune cookies, as is the custom. (The American custom, that is, since most people in China have never even heard of fortune cookies.)

I broke my cookie into pieces and munched on some while unfolding the slip of paper and reading it.

“I don’t think you’re going to like the fortune I got,” I said to my husband across the table.
“What does it say?”
“Passionate new romance appears in your life when you least expect it.”
My husband frowned.
“¿Qué dice?” Suegra asked.
My husband translated and Suegra made a face as if she were sucking on a lemon before taking a sharp breath.
“Ooo,” she said, shaking her head and furrowing her eyebrows at me.
“¿Tal vez tengo la galleta suya?” (Maybe I have your cookie), I offered, knowing how chaste she considers herself.
She frowned at me. “No,” she said shortly.
“No sabes,” I said shrugging, “Hay un montón de mexicanos guapos allá en Arizona.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my husband frown again, even though he knows I’ve never even been to Arizona so my proclamation that there are “tons of handsome Mexican guys there” is really only a guess on my part.

Suegra sniffed indifferently, “Los mexicanos no me llamen la atención.”

Ah, but I knew this wasn’t true. “¿Y Vicente Fernandez?” I asked, remembering how she looked like a school girl in love whenever the commercial for his CD box set came on TV.

“…Bueno, Vicente Fernandez es otra cosa, pero los mexicanos son muy infieles.” (Well, Vicente Fernandez is another thing, but Mexicans are very unfaithful.)

“¿Crees?” I said.
“Sí,” she responded firmly.
“Bueno, pero yo leí un estudio que dijo que, en todo el mundo, los salvadoreños son unos de los peores.”
“¿Peores de qué?”
“…eh, por… saliendo con otros,” I said, treading carefully.
“Los más putosos?” she asked loudly, in a restaurant that frequently attracts other familias Latinas with small children.
“Bien,” I said quietly, looking around to see if anyone was staring at us.
“Pero tu esposo no es así,” she said, shaking a finger at me.
“Qué suerte,” I said.
“No es suerte! Es gracias a mi! Yo enseñaba cuando era chiquito que tiene que respetar a las mujeres!”
My husband and I exchanged glances, “Look what you did,” he mumbled in English. “Now you got her started.”

“Esta bien,” I said, “Pero él tiene suerte también.”
“¿Porqué?” she said, looking genuinely confused.
“Porque yo soy una mujer fiel, pues?”

Suegra considered for a moment, the possibility that her son was actually lucky to be married to the gringa she disliked so much. She shrugged.
“Sí,” she mumbled in reluctant agreement.

We sat for a minute in silence, waiting for the niños to finish eating. I smiled, feeling victorious that I had finally gotten through to Suegra. Now she realized that yes, her son was a tesoro, por cierto, but I am one, too.

That contentment only lasted a moment. Suegra suddenly perked up.

“Tenemos un dicho en El Salvador,” she said, “Los hijos de mi hija, mis nietos son. Los hijos de mi hijo, a ver de quién son.”

Suegra then began to laugh, and laugh and laugh.

Note: Apologies to English speaking readers. I tried to include a translation of all that was said in Spanish but it was interrupting the flow of the story. If you are truly curious to understand this one, try viewing a translation of the page from Google Translate. It isn’t perfect, but you’ll get the idea.


  1. Ah, that suegra. Uncanny. She may not like Mexican men (except for Vicente), but she sure fits the stereotype of the evil suegra from Mexican soap operas.

    I’m sorry Señora López. I applaud you for delivering a poignant but subtle jab to the suegra that shut her up for at least one minute, but I have to hand it to her on the mental agility that takes to dig into the idiomatic treasure chest to pull something that nasty (and well timed). Maybe it’s the kind of stuff you brush up on once you become a (mean) suegra.

    But, we can only hope she LOVES Arizona and decides to extend her “visit” there… indefinitely? Does her other hijo have a wife too? Oh boy!

    At any rate, enjoy your break!


    • @ Rubén – Yes, you half expect the sinister music used for villains in the telenovelas when she walks into the room ;)

      Absolutely, kudos to Suegra for that line. That was a real knock out, huh? I was down for the count. I think all I could muster was, “That’s not a very nice dicho”, and we got up to pay the bill, while she continued to laugh. LOL.

      Anyway, fingers crossed that she loves Arizona. The other hijo does have a wife. Despite Suegra thinking we don’t get along simply because I’m a gringa, I know that isn’t true. The other hijo’s wife is a boricua, and she doesn’t exactly love the Suegra either :)

  2. By the way, related to your comment about fortune cookies not being an authentic Chinese tradition, my own fortune cookie story:

    I had just finished a lovely meal at this little, family-owned Chinese joint by my house and as the waitress (who was Asian, likely Chinese?) approach our table with the bill, I started to read out loud the poetic and promising prediction that was in my fortune cookie. When I finished reading it, the waitress bursts out laughing: “Yeah, right!”

    At that moment, I stopped believing.

    • @ Rubén – LOL! Love that. Very funny… I don’t really believe the fortunes, but when I get a nice one, I keep it in my wallet for awhile.

  3. Ouch! How she reminds me of someone I know (tu sabes quien..) Isn’t it so sad, though, that this is her life? I mean, 10 or 20 years from now she will have no one. No friends, and a family that barely tolerates her. (Maybe that time is already here!) ¿Y por qué? What horrible things happened in her young life to make her so bitter, angry and poisonous?
    So often I want to just sit down and ask. Without getting angry at the inevitable melodrama that would follow.
    I just think it is so sad for her (and you all) that instead of the snuggly abuelita that she could be, she is the exact opposite, hurting everyone within arm’s reach. The lesson I learned from mine was to be completely different for my children. I hope I will be.
    Un abrazo – and enjoy the break!!

    • @ Monica – I feel the same way. I really wish she would go to therapy so she could realize why she behaves the way that she does. I know that she had a lot of suffering in her life, but I’m of the mind that this is never an excuse for behavior. It can be a reason, and one to learn from, but not an excuse. There are people who have had even more difficult lives than her and they allowed those experiences to refine their character and make them BETTER rather than bitter… It really is sad to see how miserable she is a lot of the time. I wish for her sake, (and for mine, my husband’s and the kids), that she was a “snuggly abuelita”, but I’ve realized that I have very little control of that. Ojala, she will soften with age.

  4. When I read your fortune, I thought maybe it meant that renewed passionate romance was coming between you and your husband now that she’ll be away for a while.

    Oh how funny it would be if she found some hot Mexican lover while in Arizona. LOL

    • @ Melanie – Ah, you’re right. There is new romance between my husband and I now that the house is more peaceful.

      Hopefully Suegra will find some romance too out in AZ ;)

  5. Thanks for posting the translation link!

    I’ve said it for years…I’d be spitting in that woman’s food. You’re a better daughter in law than I would be in your situation!

  6. Señora López, I’m not a kind of religious woman but for once I’ll try my best and pray hardly to whoever is up there and ask for the miracle your suegra finds a VERY macho man in Arizona and stay there forever. She surely needs someone who can keep her busy…or something.

    • @RADgirl – Well, I can’t run around nekkid. We do have kids, you know…. But, I am enjoying the fact that when I leave my kitchen and come back hours later, it’s exactly as I left it, (clean!) … And no one moves my laundry out of the dryer. I can leave it there all day. It’s mine, all mine! LOL.

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