Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Meeting The Family

I was mildly uneasy, of course. I had avoided it before: birthdays, other holidays, this past Thanksgiving. One really has to pick the right time to meet your significant others' family.

I generally have a rule to only meet the family after I know that I am going to be in the relationship for the long haul. I avoid going to meet the parents for brunch the morning after a one-night-stand, no matter how big the guy's dick was. It's just not a good idea to meet the parents until you know the guy a little better, like knowing his last name. Otherwise, you'd be calling his Mom and Dad, Mr. and Mrs. Trick.

But last Saturday, after almost two years together, I finally met Brian's family.

Meeting the parents for the first time is very important because it is the event for which you will forever be judged--first impressions are the only ones that count. Stir in the added complication of Brian not being entirely out of the closet, you know that Mom's wondering if this friend is just a friend or a "friend". Brian says that his family "knows" he's gay. He felt comfortable enough in the past to bring one other boyfriend home for Thanksgiving dinner. That's a story for another post.

After some discussion, Brian and I had agreed to come meet his family in stages. I would come in a non-holiday, with some innocuous reason like to help put up the Christmas decorations. It would be busy with little time for in-depth grilling, plenty of avenues of escape. I would meet just his mom and younger brother--I would meet the two other siblings and in-laws at a later time.

Does being knocked down by a recalcitrant golden retriever as you’re coming through the front door count as an omen? Mom's booming voice after the escaped dog was heard by the whole neighborhood. Brian and younger brother Brad ran around the block, cursing profusely, trying to capture the jubilant dog, Rusty.

I stood by the front door trying to decide if it is too early to "join in the fun" or if I should wait to break the ice. Oh well. Rusty was eventually caught. I followed the now subdued dog into the cold living room. I imagined Mom's eyes burning a hole into the back of my head for letting the dog out.

In the living room, amidst the boxed up ornaments, there were minutes of furious activity and seconds of long silences. These are times when I marvel at the power of God. He imbued Man with the intellect to invent TV. At least we could stare at it when the chit-chat dried up.

I wondered what it was like for the first guy Brian brought home. Did he also have the huge uncontrollable urge to redecorate the living room or at least surreptitiously knock over some knick-knacks into the trash can?

There wasn't really a getting-to-know-you period, which meant that for now, I don't have to answer questions like "how did you meet?" and "how long have you been poking my son?" We pretty much stayed in the land of "Where should the icicle lights be hung?" and "Is the tree leaning forward?" Great, at least I know I have a second chance for some memorable moments.

Finally the tree is up, the lights are hung, the plastic nativity scene is set serenely on the dying grass lawn. We grab our coats and the four of us (Brian and I, Brad and Mom) head to Cracker Barrel for dinner.

Luck is on my side as teenage Brad is just as finicky an eater as I am, I start feeling like I belong as we both make unreasonable demands on the waitress on how to prepare our food. Bread kept us from having to make interesting conversation. After all, it is not polite to eat and talk at the same time.

Just as dinner was being served, older sis Debbie calls on Brad's cell and decides to join us for dinner. She arrives a few minutes later. We stop eating as Brian hunts around the crowded restaurant for a spare chair. I warm to her as she makes it clear that I am amongst my tribe: she wants her food her way. Clearly, Brian is the mutant with his genial ways and reasonable menu choices. She takes over the entire conversation--even better.

After dinner, we head out to the cars. Mom and Brad joining Debbie in one car leaving us free to go home directly. I wave an awkward goodbye as Brian hugged his mom. To my surprise, I get one too. My arms hang like wood as I try to gracefully receive the hug. And then it is over. We walk to our cars as snow begins to fall.

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