“Noah had spent the night at his place and I at mine. He was supposed to come pick me up later that afternoon. Instead of waiting around all day, I decided to go out and enjoy my day off. Thinking I would have plenty of time to change and get ready before dinner, I threw on what Noah called my “neon watermelon ensemble” to head out to the mall. I still hadn’t quite settled on a style at that point in my life, but I knew my neon watermelon wouldn’t be appropriate for dinner out, especially with Noah’s mom being Noah’s mom. She was an old-school, high-society type and had certain expectations about presenting oneself to the world. Neon watermelon was nowhere on that list.
I didn’t have too much issue with her disapproval when I was showing up for the sake of showing up in whatever I happened to be wearing, but dinner was different. As I was heading back to my apartment, Noah called. I don’t remember why specifically, but he wanted me to meet him at his parents’ house rather than pick me up. He also asked me to be there much earlier than expected, but he gave me the impression we would have time to get ready before dinner. So I detoured immediately and headed in all my watermelon glory to Noah’s parents’.
I arrived and made my way inside to find Noah sitting at the kitchen table in his usual khaki shorts and tee shirt, his mom in a skirt, his sister in a dress and his dad in a tie. Apparently they had decided to have a late lunch instead, but no one had bothered to tell me. There I was in my neon, and his parents were prepared for a semi-formal dinner out. I was absolutely mortified. “Hey, Babe. So, we’re going to go eat early. Plans just sort of changed,” Noah said, not bothering to rise from his chair to greet me, but, instead, giving an exasperated sigh as he saw how unprepared I was.
“Oh. Well, sure. Just let me go change. I have my clothes in the car,” I said with a smile as I turned to head back outside, trying to think how to get something presentable ready in less than a moment’s notice. I did have clothes in the car, but they weren’t pressed or even folded for that matter. They were clean, as I had neglected to take them in from the laundromat, but they were wrinkled and had been stuffed in my trunk for days. I frantically dug around trying to find a suitable outfit that wouldn’t look obviously disheveled. I managed to throw something together and rush inside to change. Lucky for me, I had put on the earrings Noah’s mom had given me before I left the house. She would be looking for them after I changed, I was certain.
It took just fifteen minutes to adjust my outfit and scrub as much of my glitter and neon eye shadow off as I could. In my haste, the only thing I could find that was any sort of formal was a pair of my work pants. They were khaki and too long. Walking around on wet restaurant floors all day had left them ragged around the ends and slightly stained. With my shoes I could pull off a high hem, but getting safety pins and hair clips and everything else I could find to achieve my desired higher-hem effect was another whole thing. Noah ended up knocking on the bathroom door a few times during the whole process, asking if I was ready to go, and when I eventually made my way out, I found his entire family had changed. I felt awful. His mom and sister were in jeans, and his dad switched out to a polo. On one hand, it was nice they were polite and tried to accommodate me, but it was embarrassing to show up there that way, all sorts of a mess and completely unprepared.
Social Strike 1: It was an offense, especially to his mom. She never let me forget it.
After I pulled a decent outfit completely from my ass, we all piled into his dad’s car and off we went. The awkward factor increased with every passing moment. His dad’s driving was something entirely of its own. I guess 90 mph doesn’t feel so fast after a lifetime of racing, but it was pretty nerve-racking in the back seat of a Buick flying through traffic. Plus, we were in the back seat of a car with his parents. I felt like I was 10 again, going somewhere with my own parents, which made it oddly comfortable but unusual just the same. Noah was nearing 30, but as we sat together in the back seat, it felt juvenile and naïve.
We arrived and decided to wander around the mall attached to the restaurant while we waited for our table. It was an exceptionally nice day, and we all wandered around together for a moment until there was a social split between the girls and the guys. His mom invited me to head off with her and his sister, but I declined, mostly because I was broke and couldn’t afford anything in the store they were interested in, but also because it felt strange to me to go off with these people I barely knew who didn’t particularly like me. I don’t know if it was so much that they didn’t like me because they never really had a chance to get to know me, but they definitely weren’t sure what to do with me and my lack of social grace. I knew they were trying to figure me out, and I was having none of it.
Noah’s mom and sister wandered off while I stayed with Noah and his dad. Noah pulled me aside a few moments later and explained that his dad wanted to talk to him privately, which made things even worse. I had realized it as we walked down the sidewalk in total silence, but having him point it out made my stomach drop to my toes. We ended up waiting about twenty minutes in a small courtyard at the mall where a deafeningly awkward silence ensued. I made up an excuse to wander away from them and give them the time alone they wanted, but the mistake had been made and it didn’t matter.
Social Strike 2: I refused an invitation to shop and ruined Noah’s dad’s chance to talk to his son.
Finally getting seated at the restaurant didn’t make anything better. I’m not sure how it happened, but instead of sitting next to Noah, I got seated across from him between his sister and dad on whom I’d already made a less-than-great impression. The waiter came around for drink orders, starting with Noah’s mom, who immediately said, “Oh, they have the best mojitos here. Let’s get one girls! Three.”
I’m was only 19. I would turn 20 later that year, which Noah had apparently never mentioned to his family. Celebrating their son’s late-twenties birthday, his parents just assumed I was much older. As politely as I could, I tried to decline the mojito before the waiter asked for my ID. Noah’s mom thought I was just being fickle, so she insisted that I try one until, eventually, I said, “Well, it’s not that I don’t want one. It’s that I can’t.” There was a bit more resistance from Noah’s mom as I sat trying so desperately to stall while digging around in my purse pretending to look for my ID until Noah or I (I can’t remember who said it or if we said it together) finally piped up with “She’s/I’m not 21.”
Social Strike 3: I was out.
The entire table went silent – absolutely, pin-drop silent for what seemed like forever until Noah’s mom finally told the waiter, “Bring three anyway. I need two.”
During the entire exchange Noah’s dad was trying not to burst out laughing behind his menu. It took him several minutes to compose himself. “You’re not 21? For the love of God, please tell me you’re at least 18,” he said with a small chuckle.
“Oh my God! Dad! What the hell?” Noah yelped, turning four shades of red.
“Yes. I’m over 18. I’ll be 20, so I’m close. Just not quite there yet. Next year,” I replied, smiling at Noah’s father for being so straightforward.
With that out of the way, tensions eased a bit. The first round of drinks arrived, we ordered our meal and share a little polite conversation until, once again, Noah’s dad spoke up. He was stuck on the fact that his son was dating someone so much younger and was, more than likely, trying to tally up the legal fees Noah might accrue if he we had begun dating before I was 18. “Wait. So you’re going to be 20. You’re 19 now. How long have you been dating? Two years?” Noah’s dad asked, looking intently at me for my response.
“Dad, her birthday is in June. She was 18 when we met. It’s barely been a year since we started dating. I’m not going around robbing the cradle. Good God. Happy birthday, son! I’m going to make you as uncomfortable as humanly possible and embarrass your girlfriend,” Noah almost yelled in my defense before I had a chance to respond.
I don’t remember what his dad said in reply but I do remember remaining silent for the for the rest of our meal, avoiding eye contact with pretty much everyone while his mom directed the conversation away from Noah and me and toward his sister and her career.”
To read more about Rebecca and Noah’s relationship you can purchase Candy Apple Butterscotch: A Memoir on Amazon. Kindle and Paperback editions available now. Audiobook coming soon!
Copyright R. MacCeile 2018