Last night was the prom. So there we were at pre-prom taking about eight thousand pictures with the other parents, having a little wine, and basically kvelling all over the place, thinking to ourselves that there are certain moments in life that make parenting the single most gratifying experience on the planet. There we were, still snapping photos as the kids all piled into the limo. I looked at Dan. We were both filled with tears, and before we knew it, our daughter was being driven away.
“Now what?” Dan asks as soon as we pull away.
“I don’t know,” I answer, still in a parental fog. “I guess we should go home. It’s silly to go out to dinner. I probably won’t be able to eat anything. I miss her already.”
“You’ll be fine,” Dan says. He never believes me when I say I’m not hungry. So we head over to a nearby restaurant which has this amazing salad that has some sort of secret ingredient in it that Kim and I have recently become addicted to. As we’re approaching the restaurant, I begin to feel better and start imagining the thin slices of parmesan and I start salivating and begin to feel as though I have to eat immediately or I’ll pass out.
I think the secret ingredient might be a ton of sugar.
But when we get inside the restaurant, it’s packed. There’s a fifteen minute wait for a table. Fifteen minutes, in my condition, is not an option. So Dan suggests we eat at the bar.
The bar is a problem for me.
I can’t act normal at a bar.
I don’t even know where to put my pocketbook. And I never know what to order.
I also don’t know how to avoid perpetual eye contact with the bartender so I have to sit sideways the whole time. And of course there’s the fact that I can’t really hide my stomach on a barstool. There are other problems as well.
The whole time I’m sitting there I can’t stop thinking that the bartender just assumes I’m an alcoholic. Otherwise why would someone choose to sit right next to a row of bottles? And I hate the way people sit next to you and either stare down at their drink the whole time- as though they’re planning to jump off a tall building the second they leave, or they look up at you hoping for some conversation, as though you might be able to help them in some way. They should have t-shirts for people like me. People who hate bars. People who don’t want to talk to people they don’t’ know. A t-shirt that says something like, “I’m not helpful. Please don’t ever talk to me.”
But hunger is a powerful thing, and so I give in. I figure since I’ll be sitting with my husband it won’t be so bad. Because 1) Who cares about my stomach? He’s seen it. 2) I don’t have to order anything if I don’t want to because Dan is going to most likely order something for me that he thinks I’ll like, and then when he sees the glass is still full after half an hour, he’s going to end up drinking it himself anyway and 3) I will just tell the bartender that the only reason we’ve chosen to sit facing the vodka is because there are no other tables. But what I neglect to anticipate is that if you sit down at a bar with your husband, you’re still not safe. People will still try to talk to you. It’s unbelievable.
So we sit down and there’s another couple sitting right next to us. They’re on the young side, but not first or second job young, more like- we’ve been around, but we still work out young – clearly drunk, but not gross drunk, just a bit light in the limbs. The woman makes eye contact with me and smiles and sort of links her arm into her boyfriend’s arm and pulls him in toward me as though she’s about to introduce him to me. Normally I’d pretend I didn’t see that friendly little gesture, but I’d just come from pre-prom where I was forced to be social for almost a full hour and kiss a million of my daughter’s friends’ parents, and laugh, and act jovial, and so I make the awful mistake of smiling back at her.
Within ten seconds, here’s what I learn: The guy she’s with is her boyfriend of two years. She has two children and a parakeet named Mugsy. She went to Rutgers. She had two nervous breakdowns. At the moment she’s on a very good medication that she can’t remember the name of but she’s definitely going to call me with the name as soon as she remembers it. Her ex husband is bi polar and fifteen pounds overweight. She weighs 119. She’s 5’5. She has a good friend whose last name is Crull, but she can’t remember her maiden name. Her boyfriend was recently in a New York department store shopping for jeans -and all the gay guys were trying to pick him up. Her boyfriend wears a size 32 pants and he’s totally cut. Sometimes he can go as low as a size thirty if he stays off carbs. She had a 3.7 average at Rutgers even during the breakdown and her and her daughters like to walk around the house naked. Also, she still gets severely depressed in the morning. Mostly between eight and eleven.
The only thing I tell her, and I regret this is that my name is Stephanie.
She gives me her phone number, her email address and her boyfriend’s email address on a napkin. Two things lead me to believe she may be slightly off: 1) she keeps touching her mouth. 2) she mentions her bra size more than once.
But then the weirdness escalates to a whole other level when the boyfriend gets up to go to the men’s room. He’d been watching a game on the bar TV with Dan the whole time. They had said about ten words to each other while I was getting the names of the girlfriend’s entire family tree and their respective measurements and GPA’s. As he gets up to leave, I swear to God, he says, right out loud, to his girlfriend, “He looks great, right? Like Kevin Costner.” He rubs her back for a second and kisses her and walks away. Dan does look a little like Kevin Costner with his new haircut, I think to myself, But why would the boyfriend care what the girlfriend thinks about Dan’s haircut?. . . I continue to think. And then the next thing I know, the boyfriend comes back from the men’s room and invites us to his apartment.
“After this we’re just going home to open a bottle of wine and relax. Why don’t you guys come back to our apartment and hang out with us for the night?”
Here’s what I’m thinking: Okay sure. Let’s go! And while we’re at it why don’t I just call the police now and give them your address, and hopefully they’ll make their way over to your apartment before you have a chance to stuff Mr. and Mrs. Costner’s heads in the freezer?
Here’s what I say (somewhat): Gosh we’d love to but I have a stomach ache ; my son’s at home with his friend and they might be hungry; I have a bleeding paper cut, eczema, a sore throat, and I might be coming down with several other diseases as well.
Here’s what Dan says, “Yeah, she’s way too sick. But thanks.”
We quickly ask for the check and say goodbye, and I whisper to Dan, “Don’t say a word until we get to the car. They could be right behind us.” When we get to the car, I ask Dan, “What the hell was that?” and Dan says, “I’ll tell you what that was.
I could have had sex tonight.”
He wouldn’t have thought it was so funny seeing himself missing on the news the next day.
By the time we pulled into our driveway, Dan and I had worked up several scenarios, one of which included Dan running off with his new boyfriend to shop for all different size jeans, while I stayed home, running around naked, popping pills and sticking my head in the oven with my new girlfriend.
You have to wonder though how some people live their lives—and why it’s always better for the rest of us to wait for a table.