When the Palinode and I were first dating, I brought him to my parents’ house for supper one evening. He and I had already been friends for several years, so I had some idea where our relationship was headed, and I wanted my family to get a chance to meet him.
I was nervous about the whole thing, because I come from a conservative family, and, as much as I had warned the Palinode about keeping himself in check, I didn’t think he really understood what I meant. When I was growing up, we weren’t even allowed to say gosh, because it sounded too much like taking the Lord’s name in vain.
What I was really worried about, though, was the smoking. Both of us smoked back then, and the Palinode was a veritable chimney. My mother? She abhorred the habit, and I spent the afternoon rigid with anticipation, waiting for the moment when the Palinode, unable to hold off any longer, would whip out not a pack of cigarettes but his pouch of tobacco and rolling papers, because not only did he smoke a lot, but he also rolled his own cigarettes like he was some kind of very tidy hobo. If anything was going drive this family introduction over a cliff, I was sure it would be his pouch of Drum tobacco.
I was wrong about that, though, but only by a hair.
My father was taken with the Palinode. I could tell, because he’d broken out a fresh bottle of Crown Royal for the occasion.
“So,” my father said, leaning in to insinuate gentlemanly camaraderie, “Are you much of a golfer, Palinode?”
The Palinode was not a golfer. I doubted that he’d ever even putted. I held my breath.
“Well, sir,” said the Palinode, leaning back against the picnic table as he geared up for what looked to be a humdinger of a joke, “I’m less of golfer, you might say, and more of a smoker.”
My soul let out a tiny, withered eep as MORE OF A SMOKER echoed around inside my head. I looked at my mother, sure her face would have the blank stare that overtook it whenever one of us accidentally dropped a damn or, God forbid, a shit, but she looked enchanted. The magic he’d worked on me seemed to have overtaken her, as well, because rather than cut the evening short she said, “Well then, we’ll have to take you to the driving range and give you a taste for golfing.”
I guess what’s meant to be is meant to be, whether or not, by all outside appearances, it should have been a complete and epic failure.
How’d your meet-the-parents go?