22 November 2005
So, dear readers: a challenge. Your most awkward Thanksgiving dinner ever. I just told Rick about this one, which I rarely discuss for reasons that will become obvious.
There was a guy I dated on and off for more than a decade. Whenever we weren’t otherwise engaged, we’d go out. These days, I’d probably call it “friends with benefits,” but at the time it didn’t seem like that. We’d met at the ice rink — he had a pairs partner, and I ice danced with him. I wish I could say that we had the sort of intimacy that would come naturally by being held aloft bowling-ball style from the crotch, but it just wouldn’t be honest. There really is no ice-dancing equivalent except, perhaps, a torrid tango.
He had two kids by a prior marriage, plus, I later discovered, a third that he’d raised in the early years but who didn’t live with him. When he married his wife, she was pregnant by someone else. When they divorced, she got custody of the eldest son; he got custody of the younger two.
A few years after we started dating, his ex-wife was killed in an auto accident. However, his ex-wife’s family had invited him over for the holidays so that “the children” could all be together. Awww.
A complication, however: one of his ex-wife’s sisters wanted him. Badly. And it was not reciprocated. Her family was for this, because it would bring the children “together again.”
Could I please (he asked rather desperately) come play a serious girlfriend?
One of the things that annoys me about women is the way play the “I know so much about this person, therefore I must be more intimate with him than you” game as a competition sport — frequently seen as played by the outgoing ex-girlfriend or wife to the incoming — in part to compensate for insecurities they have about their relationship. However, in this case, I was being asked by said gentleman to use that power for good.
At first, the entire situation was quite awkward, because everyone was wondering who I was and how they could wrest me from my date, so I was peppered with questions, some innocuous, some not. Plus, of course, there were the usual quasi-intimacy claims, because they really had known my date longer than I, though not as well as they may have hoped.
I answered some questions, deflected some, and just stared at the questioner for some (dumbstruck that someone would ask me something like that). However, as time went by, they began to realize that a) I was smart; b) my date respected me; c) we’d obviously been going out a long time. At some point, I could see a look of resignation from proposed wife, at which point my date relaxed considerably.
All in all, it turned out okay, but it sure seemed odd at the time. I remember the oddest details: the place we parked our car (and how desolate that seemed), the trepidation at the doorstep, the look from his mother-in-law when she saw me, some of the knick knacks sitting atop the side table. It was a plain house, one that seemed to me to be entirely without joy.