(I apologize ahead of time for any repetition that may be in the telling of this story)
NMIL has an identity problem. I've never known her to really know who the hell she is. She acts like she does. She professes she does. But, in all the years I've known her, she's only "borrowed" identity markers from others.
Much of her identity comes from her own parents. She has adapted so many of their ways of thinking, so many of their parenting (and grandparenting) styles. She believes as they do religiously. She doesn't question their beliefs, just accepts that what they think is fact. She has tried (and failed) to "recreate" the experiences her parents created. Her parents took everyone on big family vacations, so she tried to do that. Her parents had a big, central vacation spot, so she tried to do that. Her parents have everyone tied up in a family (side) business...well, you get the idea. Ironically, she has nothing good to say about most of her parents "ideals". In the little she has said about them over the years, most of it has been negative. She often says how she did the exact opposite with "her boys" that her parents did with her. And while I know this not to be true, I believe she feels that way. She, at 60-some, still heeds her parents directives. When I first met her, she lived in her parents former house (her childhood home). She had lived there for almost 20 years, but hadn't changed a thing. She added things, but the pictures were still on the wall. The appliances 50 years old. When I suggested any change, she clung to the "old" item and described how many memories she had of the thing. We talked one time about how she would probably move into her parents' "now" home when they pass. She said that she didn't like how her mother had it decorated and it was one of the reasons she didn't want to inherit the house. I thought how odd that was. If you don't like it, change it. It's not a frickin' shrine. And why would you live with a home that didn't represent you anyway?
She's always into some new "get rich quick" scheme. She always has these fantastical ideas for new ways to make money. She always has big plans. She jumps on any new pyramid scheme that is presented to her. She is the single most gullible person I know. She will believe almost anyone if they sell her that it is "the best" or the "the next big thing" or that it was touted in some magazine/newspaper/tv show. In the time I've known her, she's presented with several of these ideas. One was so half-baked that I shuddered. Not to mention that she wanted to start this business in my town (as opposed to hers). I'm sure her thoughts was to get rich AND be able to have an excuse to be at our home all the time. Win-win for her! DH says she's always been like this. Jumping from one idea to the next. Never completing anything. Always wanting to take the easy road to fame and fortune.
When I met her she dressed very conservatively. She had the same hair style she'd had for 20 years. When SIL and I came along, she started to experiment. She started trying out new things. My diluted SIL has taken her shopping on several occasions and decked her out in all the latest trends. Big statement (but cheap) jewelry, tight, low-rise, boot-cut jeans. Fur vests. I don't know what SIL was thinking. SIL doesn't have the greatest sense of style (not that I do either) but I wondered why she would dress NMIL like a 20 year old. Add to this NMIL's own greatest hits of fashion blunders and I often cringe when she walks in. Not in a judgemental way. Because, hey, if someone wants to rock a style 40 years too young for them, or that tacky piece of costume jewelry, more power to them. I could care less. But, with her, it's just so sad. It's just another costume she's put on trying to "fit in". Trying to be a part of the gang. It just feels so....forced.
And I've never known her to get an original idea. She loves to take "classes" that teach you the easy way to do something. You know, find your "season" and then buy all your makeup/clothes/jewelry to fit in that easy catagory. When we were having DS#1, she talked about some class she took on how to name things. Seriously. How to make things sound good when you name them. And she wanted to impart her knowledge. I thought, "can't I just say the name outloud and see if it sounds good?". She takes to copying or coveting ideas from anyone around her. If her sons do something, she does something. All her current hobbies/activities/interests come strictly from what her kids have suggested THEY like. Her vacations are set around where we all go. We try something, tell her our opinion, and then she does it. I do something (new decor, TV show, activity) and the next thing I know, she is trying it too. And again, we all get ideas from other people but she has never had one original idea that I know of. She doesn't decide if anything is good or if she likes it on her own. She waits to see what we all think and then parrots us. And if, for some reason she disagrees, she either lies and says she doesn't or she covertly "sidebars" people and convinces them why the opposing-opinion is not worthwhile.
It really is sad to me. How someone can be in their 60s and have absolutely no idea of who the hell they are. That they can not go shopping, or order off a menu, or enjoy a vacation without knowing that someone else likes it too. To require such validation, ALL OF THE TIME. It must be exhausting.