Let's Talk About God and Lose Friends
We've all been there. Your eyes meet with someone for the first time. Your pupils deadlocked with a glean of romantic invitation. You stare deep into each others souls and, for once in your life, you've made a connection. You think this person may be the one. You share the same favorite movies. Anchorman? You guys can recite the whole script. College frat movies? You know every nude scene. That great Mexican restaurant at the corner that only the cool kids at your school know about? You get the same burrito. Avocado on the side, like a pro.
But after a while, just when you're really starting to get comfortable, she drops the bombshell.
"Let's go meet my parents!" She says. "Like OmG'z you will lyk LOVE my parents"
"Ok." I say. Like a pro.
She was a quality girl. We met in ye' old English club after school. Quirky with a nice smile; had a playful but mischievous sense of humor; cute butt. We had been dating, if you could call it that, for about 6 months. I was new to this scene so I had to play it by ear. I was naïve but intelligent; I could handle it.
You get out of the car hesitantly. A 6 bedroom stunner on the "nice" (white) side of town with perfectly manicured grass, a working sprinkler system and even some remaining "neighborhood watch" signs that haven't been gratified over with somewhat over-sized misrepresentational images of male genitalia. You feel reassured.
"So what are we having for dinner?" I ask.
"Oh my whole church wants to meet you, so its pot luck and everybody's bringing their own dish."
"This must be judgment day" you think. "Am I dreaming?" Your stomach churns as you look back at your car "I CAN STILL MAKE IT" you think rapidly
Suddenly the door swings open. "JOEY!!!!!" A frenzied cadre of female voices scream. They rush towards you like a horde of screaming Donny Osmond fans now coming back to reclaim the lost lover they never had. These were the predecessors to Bieber and Usher fans. These were the Golden Girls. Holly, Dean, Connery? They were there. They had come back to life and were now living vicariously through you. Good god.
"OH he looks so much better in person than in the pictures you sent me!" One of them screamed
You look to your (ex) girlfriend like an antelope staring at a pair of headlights
"Mom!!" she yells as she giggles and jumps up and down showing you off like a prize pony
"Nice to meet you." You reply, like a pro.
"Come inside we're just finishing up our prayer group and bible study and then we'll be ready for dinner" The mom exclaims gleefully
This plane is going down rapidly. You have no other option. There is no escape route. All you have is the magazine rack in front of you and a window seat to watch the flames. You buckle your seatbelt. You're going to handle this. You're going to survive this crash and you're going to walk out the other end. For the next 2 hours, your life has no meaning. You are already dead. Survive the ride and watch the show. You're going to handle this. That’s right, like a pro.
You walk inside right over a place-mat on the front porch with a picture of Jesus' face on it. "Good timing" you think.
Inside the atmosphere is nothing short of a circus, and you are the main attraction. There are people in wheelchairs, kids running around, and a Saint Bernard shoving his nose into your crotch. At least you hope that was the Saint Bernard.
"IS THAT JOEY!?" One of the kids screams. "He looks so much different than the pictures!!"
"Stay cool" you think, "It's only the first round."
You make small talk and greet heartily every patron that has gathered in the hallowed halls of your girlfriend's childhood mansion.
Round two goes smoothly and you make it to the dinner table.
"Time for prayer!" the mother yells. You notice the image of a basket full of kittens that has adorned the front of her mother's T Shirt. You also couldn’t help but notice the large stack of Cat Fancy magazines next to the radiator.
"You can do this" you think, "Just bow your head and don't do anything stupid"
Suddenly Mom perks up
"Joey would you like to lead us in prayer?"
The table falls silent.
"Prayer? Oh.. uh.." you think to yourself. You consider starting: "Now I lay me down to sleep.." but quickly decide to take the path of least resistance. No chances here.
"Oh I really shouldn't." You reply with a smile
Luckily dad saves the day
"ILL DO IT GODDAMNIT"
Well he didn't really say that but that’s how I remember it.
We get past round three without incident. Now I just have to make it past the after dinner conversation before I remember that my grandmother is in the hospital and that I promised I would go visit her. How hard could that be?
"So what Church do you go to Joseph?" Aunt Maggie asks poignantly
"LIKE OMG I never even asked you what Church you go to Joey!!" My girlfriend chimes in "How CRAZY is THAT?"
You grip the sides of the airplane. "In the event of an emergency secure your mask before attempting to assist others"
"OHH you know.." you try to remember the last sign you saw. "St..Lutheran..Catholic..Episcolalalien of Saturday.. Paints...?"
Uncle Jeffery's ears fail him
"What did he say?"
Suddenly my maître d for the evening comes to my aid
"OH your Catholic too!!?"
"YES!" I said with a smile as the entire table erupted in a joyous ruckus of celebration
"Thank god you're not a PROTESTANT or something" The mom adds, "The neighbors next door are and they are just a NIGHTMARE"
"Oh yes" I said "Damn protestants."
Round four over. I'm not sure how much longer I can last.
"So when's the wedding?" Aunt Jinnie asks cheerfully
"JINNIE!!" My ex-girlfriend chimes
"Wedding..?" I reply
"He hasn't even ASKED me yet Jinnie!"
"You said it was practically in the books!" Mom interrupted
"Mom!" she replies again.
I eat my peas slowly. They go great with the baby carrots.
There was obviously more research that needed to be done on this vessel before we set sail. "Always check the cargo" I noted to myself "Always check the cargo."
I stand up and am just about to make my escape as the father pulls me to the side. His eyes are serious. "Joseph I want to talk to you for a second."
Gas mask is on. Oxygen falling quickly.
Dad pulls me over to a secluded room. "Have a seat Joseph."
"Please locate the nearest exits. In the event of an emergency you must be able to locate exits quickly and efficiently" "Children under 18 are not allowed to operate emergency exits."
Dad talked about what life was like when he was my age. All I remember are some vague references to the Beatles, 8 track tapes and the degeneration of Biblical life in modern times. Then came the big one.
"I want you to know how lucky you are to be dating my daughter. She's no ordinary girl and she follows the tenets of Christ to the letter. You understand what that means right?"
"This is your captain speaking, brace for impact"
"Mmhmm" I said
"That means no funny business before that ring is on her finger. We believe strongly in the sanctity of marriage."
I thought about the time in the back of my car. I thought about what happened in the movie theater during "Nick and Nora's infinite playlist". I thought about the things we did in that McDonald's play place the night after Prom. Now was not the time to be reminiscing.
"Absolutely." I said "So do I"
"Good" he said "I'm glad were clear."
I answered with a smile. "Like a pro" I thought, "Like a pro."
Aunt Patty popped her head in the door "Joseph when you're done we're going to go over the prophetical implications from Deuteronomy 23:1; would you care to join?"
The alarms were going off inside the cabin. "EJECT. EJECT."
I looked at my watch "Oh you know it really is getting late.. My uh.. Grandma.."
Aunt Patty understood. An enlightened one she was.
I quickly said my goodbyes and thanked everyone for the meal. My exit was now secure.
"God bless" I said as I made my way out the door. "May Jesus bless your .. soul." I was now spouting off random phrases. "Amen" I said to aunt Jinnie as she responded with a confused look.
I had survived one of the most traumatic events a boy could endure. The only thing that could possibly be worse would be trying to explain to this girl why our relationship just wasn't going to work out. How would her parents react? How deep hath I dug thine own hole!?
On the way home I thought about running away to Costa Rica. I thought about faking my own death. I would have to change my number. She would call me tomorrow. What would I say?
As I lay in bed that night, I remembered something that lay dormant in the nightstand beside my bed.
I picked it up and started reading.
"Genesis Chapter One" it read.
I took a deep breath and buckled my seatbelt. This was going to be bumpy ride.