Ms. Meniscus,

I've come to dread holidays like Thanksgiving, when I have to spend time with my in-laws. Even though they know I have RA, and I can't do as much to help as I would like, they still think it's funny to refer to me as "lazybones" or "Miss Take-it-Easy". This turns into a running joke for the whole day, and no amount of explaining seems to make a difference. My husband won't stand up to them and is no help. How can I make them understand that I'm not lazy. I want to help, but unless I move more slowly it hurts too much. Should I just go along with their jokes and laugh with them? I'm really tempted to not go to see them this year.

–Paula in NC

Dear Paula,

Oh my dear Paula honeychild. Nothing drives Ms. Meniscus crazier than when she hears of ignorant people (especially in-laws) who have a stupid “if-I-don’t-see- it-I-don’t-believe-it” attitude when it comes to a condition like Rheumatoid Arthritis. As we know, RA can


manifest itself as an invisible illness where you can look fine on the outside while inside you’re a twisted ball of flaming torture (a pain so horrid that a friend with RA once said that even the painting “The Scream” by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch doesn’t even come close to expressing how bad you can feel).

So a bunch of dolt in-laws make a running joke out of you by calling you “lazybones” or “Miss Take-it-Easy” when you visit for the holidays? Let me start by saying that this behavior would not be permissible even if you didn’t have RA—and the fact that you have RA catapults this “joking” out of the realm of rude and into pure emotional abuse.

Yes, emotional abuse. And if your husband doesn’t have the backbone to stand up for you because he’s been browbeaten by his loser family, you can count on Ms. Meniscus to do it for you. So what I would like you to do is print out our Q&A, and the next time your in-laws start making fun of you, hand them this:

Paula’s In-Law’s:

It has been brought to Ms. Meniscus’ attention that you have been calling Paula “lazybones” and other names when she visits on holidays and doesn’t jump up to help. You know Paula has Rheumatoid Arthritis. Google it and “invisible illness”. Enough said.

 It’s not clear to me why you are doing this to Paula. You may simply be a dysfunctional passive aggressive family that uses joking as a weapon. Or, maybe you’re one of those families where the women are expected to do all the trudging and work on holidays while the men sit around stuffing themselves and watching television (interesting how these fellows are rarely called “lazybones” to their faces).

 But you know what? I really don’t care about your reasons or underlying psychological motivations for picking on Paula. What’s important to me is that you stop. Now. And if you don’t, Paula may never come back for a holiday again. There’s no reason she has to put up with you people; shape up or she’s gone.

 — M

PS…Paula, if you’ve already had enough of these people and can’t bear the thought of showing up for another holiday, send them the link to this Q&A before your next visit. If they have a problem with it, tell them to talk to me.