Thanksgiving drama on steroids: Adding a family business to the mix

, , ,

I think its safe to say that for the majority of people, Thanksgiving is not about goodness and gratitude, but rather, family drama.

Until now, I have been pretty much on the outside of this American tradition: The tradition of building up Thanksgiving to be a great family moment and then the family not living up to it. But everyone still does Thanksgiving basically because they love their parents. I'm not gonna say here that I don't love my parents. But it's a special kind of love that does not involve being with them for holidays.

But this year is a big switch for me, because I'm doing Thanksgiving family drama—with the farmer. There is family drama because the farmer has three sisters who think I have a morality problem. Like I don't have morals.

In fact, the whole family thinks this, and those with Internet connections print out blog posts about sex acts and send them, via US mail, to less connected family members. The outcry crosses state boundaries from Wisconsin to Illinois, and sometimes, I think they are googling terms like Penelope Trunk and sex. I mean, it's not easy to find the stuff they are finding.

Wait. You are wondering, right? What they're finding? Here. Here's a list of some links. And, now no one has to do any morally-compromising searches. It's all right here:

The often-sought, ill-advised, business-trip tryst

When women get power at work, do they use it like men?

Six Sex Scenes (my 1994 master’s thesis, graduate program for english, Boston Univ.)

Honestly, I like the sisters. Their ideas about how to live life seem fine. I think I'm living the same morally responsible lives they are, even though they'll never think that. Also, the farmer's parents are always very kind to me and my sons. So, it seems like Thanksgiving should be okay.

But Thanksgiving in a family where there's a family business is different.

I've always meant to write a post about the farmer's business acumen. He reminds me of the most resilient, innovative startup guys I know. The only difference is that he's not doing Web 2.0—he's doing cows. There are pieces of the family business I'm dying to tell you about. Like, the sweetness of the farmer and his parents working side by side for twenty years to pay off the farm, and the cleverness of the farmer figuring out how to be part of the local food movement without organic certification.

When I first met the farmer and his parents I saw rolling fields, warm milk and grass-finished meat. Now I see them just like the other family businesses: Family conflict.

Cut to the farmer's kitchen. I am cooking the farmer's beef and the farmer's squash, and if you think this is insignificant, consider that when the farmer told his parents that we're getting married, the dad's first question was, “Can she cook?”

The farmer takes out his phone and plays a message for me from one of his sisters. They are leaving messages pleading with him to dump me. Sometimes they cry. For him, of course. For his future — like I'll take his money and run.

Also, sidenote: I think the sisters think the farmer has enough money and shouldn't get any more, so they are outraged that he wants to negotiate with his parents, and they blame this on me. (Don't get excited: The farmer has a lot for a guy who has done a good job farming and spent almost no money in fifteen years. But I could be with an investment banker if I'm marrying for money. Believe me, a farmer is not a smart move for marrying for money.)

After the voicemails and the ensuing doldrums, I remind him that our marriage counselor (no, we're not married, but we're early birds catching the worm) said that his family would be a big problem for him.

He tells me that we need to call the lawyer.

This is how we operate. I always want to call the marriage counselor to make sure the farmer still loves me. And he always wants to call the lawyer, to make sure he's going to be able to keep farming with his parents.

Is there anyone else who needed to sign a prenuptial agreement before Thanksgiving? I did. I had to sign to make sure the parents feel certain that I'll never get my hands on that farm while they are alive. I signed. After all, my board would go ballistic if I did not have a prenup that protected my company. So I figured, okay, now everyone is happy in business-land.

But the problem with a family business is that if everything is not done up tight, by lawyers, then everyone has different ideas about who owns what. The farmer's family business is, I think, a mess.

So the farmer's family is negotiating. The farmer is telling his parents that if they can't come to an agreement then he's selling his portion of the land and leaving.

To live at my house. Let me just say that when we tried that out—where he lives at my house and doesn't farm—it really sucked. He missed the farm and I kept telling him he could buy another farm and he kept saying that he misses farming with his parents. But his lawyer tells him he doesn't have a choice except to be prepared to leave (and live as a grouch at my house). Because how else can he negotiate?

I think negotiations like these are the only way for family businesses to survive.

I used to work at my grandma's bookstore. I worked with a cousin—Laurie. She told me I should move to LA even though no one wanted me to. Everyone thought it was a crazy idea. But Laurie explained that the job of families is to keep you in line with the rest of the family, in a predestined path that is good for the family. And your job is to create your own path.

It seems to me that often, families are complicated, hurtful and constraining. But a family that is in business together must somehow rise above that, and encourage each member to express themselves, and find what moves them, and act on that. It's a more generous model of a family that what most families are.

So this Thanksgiving, for me, is like watching a play. I don't have a huge stake — I just want to be with the farmer, wherever he goes. So I watch, from afar, hoping everyone can agree on how the business should be, and hoping no one mentions how much they hate what I write.

Meanwhile, I think the sisters are hoping to wait out the storm. The farmer has dumped so many women that his family can't believe I'd have staying power. And, of course, he has dumped me 15 times, so the family does have a point.

I ask him what I should talk about. “What if they bring up my miscarriage?”

“They won't,” he says, “They'll bring up the weather.”

And he laughs. Because of course, I'm more conversant on reproductive rights than the weather. And no one talks weather better than a farm family.

We get into bed and talk about how we will only spend a couple of hours at Thanksgiving with his family and then we will go back to my house where we will have Thanksgiving with my Ex. (Need I say more about this situation than that the dinner with the Farmer and the Ex will be the more relaxing of the two?)

We talk about how the farmer needs to do chores in the morning with his dad. And we need to bring two pies for his mom. And we go to bed all cuddly because the farmer loves talking logistics. Farming seems like it's about land and animals and being close to the earth, but it's really about the logistics of land and animals as you try to control the earth.

I look at the farmer and say, “Oh. You're so happy now because we talked logistics.” Then I kiss him and turn out the light.

The next morning, at the breakfast table, we eat hamburger because he doesn't feel like it's a meal if you don't have meat, and I won't eat pork because even though I'm with a pig farmer, that doesn't mean I'm not Jewish.

I want to ask him about what he told his sisters about me and my kids coming to Thanksgiving.

I say, “I need five minutes to talk.”

I have to tell him the duration because he doesn't like conflict without a set endpoint. I once explained that the endpoint for personal conflict is death. But he needs something sooner.

105 replies
Newer Comments »
  1. Kerry
    Kerry says:

    The first thing I thought when I saw you were getting married was, “Wait–so she’s going to have a bunch of Wisconsin in-laws?”

    Because I came here, and I married a cheesehead, and I got Wisconsin in-laws. So I know. The way these people handle conflict is…indescribable. It really is.

    All I can say is:
    1. Good luck
    2. Watching it like a play is a very good strategy

    • sL
      sL says:

      So very funny! Such a funny post and Kerry, what a great comment. I love it.

      I too married into a Wisconsin farm family. Yes, there are quirks. And sisters.

      Advise? As you said, Penelope. Sit back and watch the play. Keep breathing deep and smiling. Don’t fight it. Just smile. It will drive them crazy.

      I’m looking forward to the fun topics on the sisters. Ah, the sisters. They’ve been mothering this boy for how long? It’s a difficult thing to stop.

      To the farmer: As long as Penelope knows you’re there for her, that you’ll defend her always, she’ll be able to handle whatever family drama comes along. Do that. Because don’t forget, you have to deal with her family as well:-)

    • Ariella
      Ariella says:

      Agreed, Kerry. Agreed.

      I came here from the east coast, married a cheesehead, and my conflict with the in-laws almost ended my marriage. I guess I shouldn’t talk about that in the past-tense because we’re still in full-time marriage counseling about it, and I haven’t spoken with his parents in over a year.

  2. Cujo
    Cujo says:

    I know your honesty is part of your charm and all, but I can’t imagine that posting this is going to help your relationship with his family.

    And as long as I’m being judgmental, does it not seem like a red flag that you’re seeing a marriage counselor before you’re even married?

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer says:

      Why do you need to have problems to see a marriage counselor? I got the impression they are going proactively before they have problems. IMO – people who deal with things before they become problems have a better chance at a succesful marriage.

  3. grace
    grace says:

    I loved this post! As a woman who had to sign a cohabitation agreement (as requested by pseudo-father-in-law) in order to live on a dairy farm with my boyfriend, I can certainly relate. Everyone you talk to has stories about (decades-long) feuds related to division of farm assets, wills, etc. etc. My farmer has two sisters, so there’s perpetually an undercurrent of whether the agreements/life insurance/inheritances have been sorted out.

    Also, talking about the weather is a skill that can (and, if you live in a rural area, should) be mastered. I agree, no one does it better than farmers, but I have learned to be able to hold a 5-10 minute long conversation comparing this years rainfall to previous years, changing snow levels, dry summers, and much more. And it also helps to have a “weather event” story to fall back on (ice storms, tornadoes). Sadly, I’m actually starting to find all this weather talk legitimately interesting. Who knew.

  4. Magnus von Koeller
    Magnus von Koeller says:

    Your relationship story is getting entertaining to the point of becoming unbelievable. I am starting to think that all this is just an elaborately crafted publicity stunt for your company. And why not? My guess is these posts don’t exactly hurt your popularity and, you know, any news is good news as long as it draws attention.

    If so, not bad. Color me impressed. Because your writing is just amazing. Excuse me for not taking this seriously but I was just laughing out loud throughout this entire post. Did you ever think about writing a novel? Go ahead and stuff it chock-full of references to your company if that’s what you’ve got to do these days. I am confident it will be a hugely enjoyable read regardless and I promise, here and now, to buy and read it. And that’s before I even read your Master thesis.

    • thatgirlinnewyork
      thatgirlinnewyork says:

      that’s pretty cynical. if you’ve followed PT to any extent, you know she puts the truth out about her life in spite of what someone like you might think. the point of a blog is not just self-expression, or even promotion, but creating dialogue–for good or otherwise. must everything she writes be criticized as a tool for self-promotion? of course not. Ninety-eight percent of humanity would understand the conflict she’s visiting here. perhaps you’re simply the other two percent.

    • Ros
      Ros says:

      I had exactly the same thought. I luv that comment! And being the participant in a virtually dramaless Thanksgiving, I truly enjoyed the post.

  5. Angela Connor
    Angela Connor says:

    Amazingly, Penelope I always get something out of your posts that I am not even sure was your intention. This is why your blog is a must-read for me. This statement resonated with me so much that I had to post it as my Facebook status: “the job of families is to keep you in line with the rest of the family, in a predestined path that is good for the family. And your job is to create your own path.”
    Good luck with the farmer’s fam!

    • Ros
      Ros says:

      oops, this comments for Angela, sorry Bee.

      I had exactly the same thought. I luv that comment! And being the participant in a virtually dramaless Thanksgiving, I truly enjoyed the post.

  6. John
    John says:

    For all the people that “can’t believe what you’re going through”…really? That a family would have an abiding interest in how their estate’s assets are handled and divided? Ah, take a stroll through literature people – King Lear, A Thousand Acres, Faulkner, Sometimes a Great Notion, and about a million others. Just because it’s a family farm doesn’t mean the family in question doesn’t consider this an epic issue. Families throughout history have stabbed, poisoned, beheaded and exiled each other just to get a larger share of an estate and its holdings. A pre-nup seems like a very civilized way to handle it.

    As for crying on the phone to dissuade a midwestern farmer not to marry Penelope..? A self-confessional, boundary-breaking, big-city east coast blogger with social turretts? I love your column, Pen, but I can see that… :)

  7. econobiker
    econobiker says:

    This is evidence about the real reason that family farms (and other family involved businesses) fall apart. Not the bull crap reason of estate taxes (which the uber wealthy have lobbiests foist on the unknowning masses in a bid to reduce the costs of wealth transfer), but the lack of business structure and succession planning.

    I am in a fairly similar situation in which my 2nd spouse owns via inheritance 1/5 (I think) of a family farm and land. I do not want any liability for inheritance to keep this from being attached or used as evidence of wealth somehow by my ex- wife. My 2nd spouse will never be a farmer or use the land for farming. I am trying to get something written out that says I do not inherit a share if the 2nd spouse dies and in the process have figured out that the succession and inheritance issues are likely as messy as Trunk illustrates in her example. I have been trying to get these folks to understand that a corporation or llc where they own shares is a good method to avoid issues but no one “ever has time” to sit down and get it drawn up.

    And along with the farm land they also own land that formerly was considered “undesirable and not farmable” until the regional population expanded and a golf course community was built next to that land. Can you say “high value”?


    • Margaret
      Margaret says:

      You can set up an LLC via for about $1000 or less. My sisters and I did it with the family home we inherited when my mother died. The price varies, depending on the fees charged in the state where the corporation is registered. None of us currently live in our home town, so we made our youngest brother the executive of the LLC. We’ve rented out the house, and the LLC protects us from any lawsuits by the occupants or visitors. A suit can only obtain the property of the LLC.

  8. Henry
    Henry says:

    Penelope, I just want to say I’m 22 graduated and job hunting and everything you mentioned just feels miles away… but it’s amazing and such a vivid insight into your world. Love it.


  9. Angela
    Angela says:

    I would love to tell the world (or thousands of readers) about how ridiculous my ex in-laws! The best part of your post is that your in-laws are going to read it, but they can’t respond or interrupt. It’s totally worth the icy looks you’re going to get on Thanksgiving! You’re making we want to become a blogger!

  10. cindy
    cindy says:

    You are getting married? Wow. I’m out of the loop. I just moved and haven’t had an internet connection in a few weeks, so I’m behind on a lot of things.

    Your description of your situation reminds me of a four year relationship I had that just ended for the 25th time, at least…..He too had three sisters and they thought I didn’t have morals either. I was faithfully married for 25 years. They all have had babies out of wedlock, several babies with all different men, abortions, instability, huge numbers of failed relationships among all of them, incestuous undertones…..and I am the one without morals? Huh? Oh yeah, it’s because they are “Christian” and I was born Catholic. Go figure……The weirdness never stopped…..I got tired of being treated like “less than”, though I clearly was not.

    I know you are a strong woman and can hold your own. I wish you well. The farmer sounds like a wonderful man. I’m happy for you.

  11. Heather
    Heather says:

    Just grin and bear it Penelope. It will soon be over and you’ll be relaxing at home. Re the sisters in law-you wont have to see them that much, you wont have to live with them, you don’t even have to like them. They sound too dramatic for words. If they are reading this then I have 2 words for them Thanks Giving! Not hate spreading.

  12. Lee
    Lee says:

    How do you expect your future in-laws to respect and trust you when you get such a perverse kick out of exploiting your promiscuity?

    I think The Farmer’s sisters should be concerned considering your track record.

    Better yet, I think The Farmer should be concerned…..

    You’re a pathetic joke.

    • J (the regular poster one)
      J (the regular poster one) says:

      Her ex-husband, the farmer, and 3 other guys if i’m not mistaken. Promiscuous? Really?

  13. Wisconsin girl
    Wisconsin girl says:

    Seriously….Don’t you think a post like this, the day before thanksgiving, is just dumping gas on the already blazing fire?????

  14. Isao
    Isao says:

    Cannot wait to hear what happened(s) next…we are all praying for the update.
    I still think it is a wonderful custom to gather once a year regardless of conflicts. I have two siblings but we haven’t kept in touch with each other except through our parents or weddings. It has been like this for a decade and although I do not particularly want to meet my families frequently, I wonder if I am seriously missing out on something.

  15. Ash
    Ash says:

    Since I love your blog so much, I would like to reiterate what one commenter has already said: you will only spend a few hours with his family, but you’ll spend the rest of your life with him. Congratulations again, and good luck :)

  16. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    The weather.
    I find it easy to talk about since it does influence many different activities.
    A deer hunter wants to know the weather so he can dress appropriately, know whether he’ll be walking through the woods on wet, dry, or snow-covered ground, and have an idea whether the deer will be bedding down or moving around.
    A snowmobile rider wants to know the weather so he also can dress appropriately and know how much snow will be available and its conditions.
    Hiking, camping, fishing, etc., etc. experiences are all influenced by the weather.
    This is all obvious.
    A farmer’s livelihood, however, depends on the weather and while he has no control over it, he makes due with what has been dealt to him. Why wouldn’t a farmer talk about the weather?
    You say – “Farming seems like it's about land and animals and being close to the earth, but it's really about the logistics of land and animals as you try to control the earth.” I don’t think “control” is the right word to use here because when it comes to farming you actually have very little control. At least that’s my feeling even though I’m not a farmer. I think it’s more about managing the resources available to you.

  17. Carole Dixon
    Carole Dixon says:

    Ahh, love your posts about the farmer, but I have to say; I am gravely concerned about him and the farm. I’d hate for him to lose the enduring love of his life. That would make your life together very difficult. So here is to his negotiations with his family going well. Hope the family’s weather is lovely for Thanksgiving.

  18. Viviana Sutton
    Viviana Sutton says:

    My lawyer once remarked, “Nothing divides a family as quickly and effectively as a farm.”

    Best of luck dealing with people who talk about the weather instead of what’s really on their minds…

  19. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    American Thanksgiving makes me laugh — almost as much as American ideas about morality. You torture each other. It’s like a national sport. What a hilarious thing to do with a few days off work!

    Family gatherings work only if you go with no expectations and no agenda. Just arms open to hug people and eat good food.

    Talking about the weather sounds like a really fine idea.

    • J (the regular poster one)
      J (the regular poster one) says:

      Glad we could provide some amusement for you.
      Hate to disappoint, but I’m one of the (many) Americans with minimal family drama. You won’t hear much about us though- drama is more entertaining about than boring ‘regularness’.

  20. chickpea
    chickpea says:

    ‘The Archers’ is one of the longest running soaps in the world (over 60 years I think). It airs on BBC Radio 4 in the UK (and online) and is set among ‘farming folk’ in a fictional English village. Farms and inheritance issues come up every so often in the plot lines. A week or so back, the actor who plays the patriach – Phil Archer – who has been with the series since it started, died and his death will now have to be written into the script. Prepare for lots of wrangling about the estate and division and so on. Perhaps whatever solution the Archers clan come to will provide the key to solving all the dilemmas of your Farmer and his family!

    • thatgirlinnewyork
      thatgirlinnewyork says:

      oh wow–phil died?? i’ve been away from the archers too long (and regret it!). but you’re so right–that series is so spot-on when it comes to illustrating the drama of farming families and their communities. my ex-mother-in-law, however, always labeled it “propaganda”, and left the room the minute those strings marked the program start (she feels the need to remind everyone of the show’s origins). just don’t tell me joe grundy died–what would the show be without him??

  21. Terry
    Terry says:

    You are in for a fun day! It will be tense at times and everyone will seem on edge but when it is all over nothing will have changed. Just enjoy the fact that they all care in their on way.

  22. Anita
    Anita says:

    I have three sisters and the amount of drama during the holidays is always very entertaining and not always in a good way. Enjoy the show Penelope !

  23. Vinaigrette Girl
    Vinaigrette Girl says:

    Farmers aren’t greedy, they only want the land on the other side of the fence. And that goes twice for the sistern who presumably had to marry land to get it…

    I went to Relate with the man now my husband on the advice of his parents, who hoped it would show ust he error of our ways. Just helped us get more erroneous but have a lot more fun at it ;->. They still don’t like me that much but everything they ever did to stop things only put us closer, so they shut up eventually, mostlyu.

    You mightthe subject of Thanksgiving: they’re ladies old enough to give you and me advice and they have a good take on family rules for Thanksgiving.

    and have a good weekend.

  24. Olivier
    Olivier says:

    Oh, Penelope, wow! I’m one of your earliest readers and this is possibly your most interesting and (I hope this does not sound condescending) mature post ever. It was gripping! I think if you go ahead and marry the man you call The Farmer, being at the junction of two such different kinds of small businesses will make for so many other gripping posts I can’t wait for the ceremony! Best of luck with that.

  25. Olivier
    Olivier says:

    PS: I can’t help speculating whether The Farmer marrying Penelope is not his way of “finding his own path” (to quote from the posting), his stab at being rebellious. And, speaking of which, I don’t think we were ever told how old he is or if so I forgot, for which I apologize. As you read this, that’s the first question that comes to your mind: are we talking about a young guy in his late twenties or early thirties, a man of Penelope’s age, someone even older? That really makes a huge difference to the picture.

    As for the commenters who are scolding Penelope, get a grip, will you? The Farmer at this point knows exactly what he is getting into. Either he is comfortable with it or his is not and either way that’s no skin off your back.

    • thatgirlinnewyork
      thatgirlinnewyork says:

      that’s an interesting point, the theory that marriage to P represents some level of rebellion on the farmer’s part. if it is, it’s not such a bad move in itself. everyone needs to, at some point in their lives, demonstrate independence from the parents/family unit. whether this affects his stake in the family farm is his alone to consider. i do think, however, that they should consider a competent mediator who is not an attorney–good ones can be brilliant at sorting out the conflicts and values held dear by all concerned. after that’s aired, it can be easier to prioritize the legal machinations. trying to do this with an attorney alone often makes for sharper edges–and loads of billable hours for an attorney who often can’t help with the emotional aspect of such negotiation.

      penelope is right on about the drama around holidays and family. they’re not unlike weddings and other emotional events in a family’s life, and when there are unreasonable expectations over how picture-perfect it should be (or unfinished edges around the relationships involved), the tensions run high.

      i love my family, but because they live a great distance away, i ask them to understand that holidays are not an ideal time for me to pack myself on a plane to be with them. for one thing, the airlines usually don’t make it affordable, for another, airports are harrowing places during holidays and bad weather. the potential pleasure one might get from a holiday visit with one’s family can be destroyed by weather delays and the strife of tripping over the mini-vanloads of items so many need to travel with these days. i often say that i’d rather share time with my family on a random april week than the holidays, because it really does make for calmer enjoyment all around.

      lovely for those who say their families experience no drama during holidays and family events, but for those of us whose dynamics allow for open dialogue (or those that discourage them), it’s a much more potentially “colorful” experience–and often not a good one.

      thanks for reminding some of us that giving oneself to the drama that is presented by these events (holidays, family business conflicts) is not always the healthiest option. as a recovering midwesterner, i agree with those who suggest you find a way to quietly smile through the machinations with the farmer’s sisters. many of these rifts pre-date you, and would exist no matter who he marries. and hats off for the proactive work with a marriage counselor. none of us is hardwired to know how to broker the communications styles that merge in marriage. sorting that out ahead of the relationship is a great investment! hope you had a wonderful time in spite of it all, P!

  26. Tom Deans
    Tom Deans says:

    Wow — I’m sending you a copy of my book, Every Family’s Business. You have an amazing intuition about how these types of firms really work. You are also a gifted writer – I could smell the bread baking in the oven. Fun to read.

  27. J (the regular poster one)
    J (the regular poster one) says:

    Best of luck to you this Thanksgiving P!
    If all else feels and everyone is arguing and what not; just concentrate on the food :-)

  28. Jacob Revold
    Jacob Revold says:

    You write good! And it’s fun reading. I hope your Thanksgiving was entertaining:) But to look at it from the more “serious” side: It also once more proves to me, what you might want to have in mind, is that every family has its set of weird and crazy family members. I’m grateful myself that I have been reminded several times that it’s not only my family with obscurities and weird people. Every family have them: in-laws, sisters with nothing to do but worry about everyone else, parents, grandparents, weed-smoking crazy aunts or cousins, tragic cases of depression, alcoholism and a whole lot of medical terms. So you can be sure that you are not alone. A toast to us all. Cheers!

  29. Shelly
    Shelly says:

    Thank you, I so needed a laugh after my own day spent with too drama and too much food. I’m heading off to school in January and the first day of classes will be my 40th birthday. Can I get a “Campus Cougar” shirt now? I remember the first family gathering when I told everyone what my plans for the future were and that I would likely be in school for the next 6 years. Shiatstorm comes pretty close and at first I was surprised and then I remembered, I’m not following the plan my family had for me. My last career I’ve blamed on my father and I’m not going there again. And going to school for a career is not the norm in my family. You find a good job, work hard, stick it out and one day you can retire and either play golf or garden until they find you dead in the dirt. And it’s been months since I brought up the topic and I’m still getting flack. My dad thinks I should go back to my former career, my brother thinks he has to move in with me because I won’t be able to take care of myself and my mom sits in the middle of the mess asking who wants more pie? And the funniest part is my sister who is doing another six months in jail is hoping that when I get out of school I can treat her for free. What the hey, it’s the crazy parts of my family that have influenced me to go back to school. And while I love them all dearly I’m going to keep on following my own plan. What else is there?

    • thatgirlinnewyork
      thatgirlinnewyork says:

      bravo! follow your instincts to do what you must to move into a better direction career-and life-wise. it’s never too late to do that. i honestly think that those who would make you wrong for doing so are simply jealous that they cannot or would not dare the same thing–it messes with their sense of self/security. as a fortysomething that is considering the same thing (all-around. my family is similar, save for having anyone serving time.), i’d love to see penelope weigh in on the value of this kind of investment. is there ever a time when it’s not worth it?

      as stated in my long-form response above, this is the stuff that makes quotidien family drama so much more explosive. everyone brings their customary level of ire to bear in judging your choices. doesn’t digest well with pie.

      good luck!!

  30. Mike
    Mike says:

    I get a perverse pleasure out of ribbing girlfriends’ families, too. Particularly the more conservative one.

    I dated one girl a long time ago, and her parents still think I did a few rounds as a male prostitute to pay for college.

  31. Marsha Keeffer
    Marsha Keeffer says:

    Morality worries? You follow through, you employ people, you’re responsible. I’d call that moral. And if you weren’t an honest, stand-up person I doubt you’d have passed muster with investors. Also, if the sisters really thought about it, your very open style of blogging protects them and the family (yes,along with the prenup). Issues and quirks aside (which we all have), you’re not going to risk your reputation to conduct a ‘farm grab.’ That would be so not you.

    • Ros
      Ros says:

      This is a hilarious comment. Morality & honesty have never been a prerequisite for investors…and,as for investors doing due diligence, need I reference Bernie Madoff????

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        I actually think morality and honesty are really important for investors. Professional investors, that is. Madoff had individuals investing their own money, for the most part. VCs know a lot more about investing and one of the things investors care the most about is integrity.

        After all, you never know if a business idea is really good, but you can usually tell if someone’s track record is one of integrity. And you need to make sure the entrepreneur is going to be straight with you about what’s happening at the company.


  32. John
    John says:

    Hey, Pee, here’s someone who’s even better than you at the bullshit thing. And she’s having more success too.

    You have some serious catching up to do: surviving the World Trade Center collapse and having a sexually-abused past and a wussy husband are nothing compared to rubbing elbows with the President and First Lady and getting pictures for your Facebook account. (Do you have ONE picture of all the companies you’ve, um, “started”?)

  33. Triin
    Triin says:

    I'm glad I don't know what is Thanksgiving! Sounds awful! Why do you do things you don't want to do? Not only you!
    But it was a great reading! Very brave!

  34. Heather
    Heather says:

    I love this post because it’s the most passive of passive-aggressive ways to set the sisters/parents straight. (Knowing that they’ll read this). I like the point that Olivier makes in his PS. Maybe the Farmer thought he was more fulfilled then he actually was if he never allowed himself to consider anything beyond the farm.

    One more thing: I wish you would interact more with the comments. Once in a blue moon you respond. I know you love the community that your posts and comments have generated.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I wish I would interact with the comments more, too. I am never sure how to do it. For example, I would like to tell the guy above, who asked, that the farmer is 40. But I can’t decide. Is it weird to answer that sort of question here?

      I know, though, that when I read other blogs where the author comments in the comments section, I really like it. So I know I should do it more.

      Okay. So, I will do that more. Starting now. Thanks for the final push that I needed, Heather.


  35. Sheboygan
    Sheboygan says:

    Penelope, before you ruin all chance of semi-decent in-law relations, please take time to consider:

    1. Your fiance has already-established strong family ties, and it will be emotionally damaging for him to be forced to “choose” between you and his family. That’s not a fair bargain if you truly love the man. He is an adult, quirks and family too, and you need to acknowledge the package which assessing the long-term future of your relationship.

    2. The farm is a family business, and worth a great deal of money. Go on the First Weber web-site, check “farms”, and review listings to familiarize yourself with land values. Fiance’s family’s farm may be worth $2 million to $4 million. Sisters are definitely involved, emotionally and financially, with decisions concerning farm, and therefore concerning there (only?) brother. Family is absolutely entitled to view you with concern, particularly your earlier posts about “your farm” and “wanting farm”, etc. Don’t think that this is communual property, where you can marry a guy with a farm, and then divorce him in a couple of years and receive said farm as settlement. That’s why pre-nuptials and co-habitation agreements are necessary. Note that co-habitation does allow for some legal tenancy rights to property, unless those rights are waived.

    3. Midwesterners, and certainly midwestern farmer families, don’t live their lives “out there” in blog land for everyone to read, comment, and scrutinize. Family privacy is very valued, and your forthrightedness and eagerness to publize the most private moments (ie miscarriage et al) are likely to be biggest problem in this relationship.

    4. Kids. Where are your kids? Do your kids “love” this man enough for him to become a major fixture in their lives? Has farmer’s family met your children? Have they formed any cordial and possibly warming relationships?

    5. I like your posts for their honesty and bluntness, but I worry about the residual emotional fall-out for your children, your fiance fellow, your ex-husband, and even your possible future in-laws. If you truly want a long-term relationship with farmer, much less really marry him, then you need to remove him and his family from your post topics. There is way too much information here for his family to endure. Yes, endure.

  36. Kate
    Kate says:

    As a 23 year old recent college grad, I have yet to be married or even engaged. I do, however, understand the insane family drama that surrounds the holidays.

    Last year, I went to three different houses for Christmas because my feuding relatives didn’t want to see each other. Two Christmases ago, my family disowned me for a month over phone calls to my ex. And this year, I’m bringing my own southern boy home for the holidays.

    Yes, the season brings out the best and the worst in all of us. The key, as Penelope explained, is to ignore it. How other people feel is not your problem and usually can’t be changed, regardless of how hard you try please them.

    For years, I wasted myself into exhaustion making my parents happy. Then I realized the task to be impossible. Now, I simply don’t care, and life is much easier.

    We all love our families and want them to be happy. The cost, however, is not always worth it. So, this year, take a hint; enjoy the holidays for what they are and ignore the pointless chatter.

  37. Jessica
    Jessica says:


    I found a copy of your book in a thrift store. I read it and LOVED it and passed it on to a friend. She loved it too. Actually, I am using it as one of my psychology texts for Smith College School of Social Work.

    When I realized that “Penelope” and “Adrien” were both bulimics with professional volley ball careers and writing degrees I thought “apparently this character type is a lot more common than I had suspected”…however, the explanation that you are actually the same person is much simpler and WAY more delightful. I love your blog and your book. You are magnificent.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks, Jessica. I have spent nearly a decade trying to separate my career advice writing from that book. This blog post is, in the end, sort of the end of that separation, I guess. And, I’m really happy to hear you liked the book. Thank you.


  38. GenerationXpert
    GenerationXpert says:

    I’ve gotten a lot of good advice from you blog, so as someone with in-laws who are, let’s say “different,” this is what I’ve learned:

    1) You need to treat it like an anthropological study. For instance, I am a Catholic and grew up in a town called Dearborn. My father-in-law has these things about Catholics and Dearborn. If he brings up either, I stare blankly at him. I have discovered through my years of research that this is the only thing that gets him to shut the f*ck up.

    2) Accept it all. There is no changing people. My inlaws like my brother and sister in law better than me and my husband because they pay for my inlaws to have their grass mowed. This allows my inlaws to go on $10K trips to Europe (not really, but it is annoying that you can’t “afford” lawn service, but Europe is doable). I, on the other hand, cook just about all holiday meals while they bitch about driving two hours north to get her but never offer to host. I used to get upset about all the little things, now I just do not care. That apathy took all the wind out of their sails. Apathy is your friend.

    3) As long as your man is backing you up, you’re good to go. That and a glass of wine should get you through any family event.

    4) His family is not like your family. In my case, my inlaws were just meaner than my family. So I used to read things they did as if they had been done in my family. And in my family, doing mean things is considered mean. In my husband’s family, they’re not really acts of agression as much as they way they do things. So if your inlaws do something and your guy is not upset or mad, it probably means you shouldn’t be either.

    • MJ
      MJ says:

      So if your inlaws do something and your guy is not upset or mad, it probably means you shouldn’t be either.

      Unless guy has tuned out and has that “name, rank, serial number” look on his face. That’s what mine does, so he misses the mean stuff, crazy stuff, discussions of the weather, etc. Leaving me conscious and forced to listen. Must learn to tune out better. Rolling eyes up into head also seems to work.

  39. Jonny
    Jonny says:

    Wow. Mazal Tov Penelope. It couldn’t be more drama ridden if it was a completely Jewish or other ethnic family drama.

    What’s totally great is how much your love for each other shines thru in what you write.

    I wish you and the farmer every success together. Here’s hoping it all works out.

    p.s. to all the whiners, nay-sayers and others who can’t see beyond their negativity and own issues in their comments “may you be blessed with a sunnier outlook and something to be thankful for in the year to come”. When what I really want to tell them to close their pie-holes.

Newer Comments »

Comments are closed.