I think most people would agree that bringing someone home to meet the family is a really big deal.
I do not think that anyone quite understands what it means to bring someone home to my particular family, however. The best way I can put it is this: you wouldn’t throw your average American into a desert-backpacking trip without sufficient training and resources to withstand the elements. And you wouldn’t bring your average 20-year-old to a family dinner party armed with enough poetry, soul-searching, and tears to make Burning Man look like a diffident business meeting.
If you’re asking in your head right now if my family is possibly cooler than yours, the answer is yes. If you’re awesome enough to appreciate it you will probably be invited to dinner. But most people aren’t.
My mother worked very hard to give my siblings and I the childhood she didn’t grow up with.
If her own adolescence had contained all the welcome and warmth of a soviet labor camp, mine looked more like tinkerbell’s wet dream. She carted me and my two siblings around from swimming, to tutoring, to ballet, and back again without even a hint of resentment, never asking for anything in return, never expecting any sympathy or thanks. So when my sister and I abruptly stopped inviting friends over (each around age 15,) she was equal parts horror-struck and mystified, unsure as to what she’d done wrong.
“If your friends want to come over this Thursday I’ll cook for them,” she’d remind us gently, as if we’d forgotten. “Our door is always open…” And, though we’d consider it for a moment, we’d each decide that no one under the age of 50 could withstand the onslaught of emotional candor that came with each meal—the tear, song or poem lurking behind each “please pass the salad,” every clink of glass and fork.
My first boyfriend actually hid in my room as to escape the possibility of hearing my father read poetry (note: parents love this) and for four of the five years we dated he came to family dinner maybe twice…an impressive feat, given that it was and is an almost nightly occurrence. When we broke up, I ended up dating someone so completely like my parents; he continued to come to dinner long after we stopped speaking.
I was so scarred by these unwanted extremes, I subsequently sidestepped ever inviting anyone over again. That was, until last night, when a friend came over for one glass of wine, which turned into one bottle of wine, which turned into dinner.
With my family.
The immense terror I usually have of this occurrence was partially subdued by the fact that I was 1. Slightly buzzed and 2. In a state of mild shock. The friend was, admittedly, a guy, yet funny and engaging to my parents as well as me. By the time my mom told him “we need someone like you in the family,” I was so comfortable with the present situation, I didn’t even flinch. Not much anyway. The evening left me wondering who, exactly, I’ve been protecting by hiding from my family, and if in fact I’ve been unduly discrediting the 20-something male population…
I decided in the affirmative: my family is just too weird and wonderful to remain hidden any longer. If a guy is brave enough to want to come home to my parent’s house, I should and will stand back and let them.
So long as they bring a poetry book, and a few extra tissues just in case.
Editor: Kate Bartolotta
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