My mom adores me. I am her only child, and I am pretty awesome. None of this is up for debate.
But she never misses an opportunity to bowl me directly under a bus if she can help it.
Such an opportunity arose on Christmas Eve, when we travelled home for the holidays.
I touched down in Atlanta, where we headed straight to the hair salon, and to dinner with my godfather afterwards. He picked a great little Italian spot in Virginia Highlands that we’d not been to. The food was amazing. The service was impeccable and attentive. The company and conversation were excellent. By the time the chef came out to talk to our table, with promises to send out a special dish he’d just concocted for us because we hadn’t “eaten enough” (despite us all having an entire loaf of bread, a salad, huge plates of food and a ridiculous amount of wine and liquor), I figured this had to be the best first night home I’d ever had.
And then my mama saw fit to ruin it.
“Oh my God! This is so crazy!” she said looking down at her phone. “First Love is next door!”
The thing you need to know to fully comprehend how ridiculous this situation is is that First Love and I have not spoken to each other in well over two years since this happened. There is no ill will (anymore) but I think we have both come to feel like there is no real need to have our high school sweethearts in our lives anymore.
My mama is having none of this.
See, she is in full on grandma mode. She wants grandkids yesterday. And having first given up on me getting married, then on me even liking the guy I’ll have these supposed future babies with, she has now apparently given up on me ever meeting another man EVER AGAIN IN LIFE, and has taken to asking me about exes and male friends, all the while espousing how she had “high hopes” for them all while gazing longingly in the direction of the nearest Baby Gap.
She could say that her grandmother longing has nothing to do with the fact that she keeps in touch with my ex even after I no longer do, that it has more to do with the fact that I dated him for six years, that our families were incredibly close, and that she once loved him like a son. So their occasional texting back and forth, sending of family pictures and things is just keeping them mildly aquatinted.
But, she would need more people.
I am completely stunned at this turn of events. And even more stunned that, despite knowing our history and that we no longer speak, she is genuinely all aflutter at the fact that he is about to walk from next door to join us. It is my godfather who thinks to ask the question that my mother should have asked;
“La are you cool with this?”
At this point, what could I say? No, tell him to stay where he is? With my mama damn near giddy at the idea of seeing him? I would prefer that he didn’t because while my hair is done, I am not wearing any makeup, I’m a bit tipsy and travel weary and my clothes are too big because I am losing weight faster than I can shop?
“It’s fine,” I say. And it really is. I down the rest of my martini just in case it isn’t.
When he shows up at our table, he as at once familiar and a stranger. He looks the same as he always has, since the first time he harassed me in my ex-stepdad’s math class, but older. And mildly balder. He’s still just as handsome and hilarious as he’s always been. I just realize that it doesn’t really affect me anymore, as it once did, strongly and without fail. No matter how long we had been apart. Or who we were dating at the time.
But that is another story for another day.
Instead it is just good to see an old, significant-to-me friend, who I am glad to know is doing well. We all talk, having spent many years around a dinner table together, as easily as we ever have. As my mama and godfather veer off into some tangent only they are interested, he leans a bit closer to me, dropping the volume of his voice and asks, “Are you still in your… situation?”
Because I know him as intimately as I do, I know he is asking me if I am still with my ex-girlfriend, whom I told him about not too long before we stopped speaking. He was… shocked to say the least.
Though to be fair, I think any time you tell a former boyfriend that you don’t speak to regularly that you are in a relationship with and planning to move to a new city for a woman, it’s always a bit of a surprise.
Like when a fat stripper pops out of a birthday cake.
“No, I’m not. It ended a while ago.”
“Oh.” He says. I can read all over his face all the questions he wants to ask me, but won’t because my mom is there. Though a tiny part of me would be DELIGHTED at discussing my ex-girlfriend (whom my mom likes to think was “just a phase”) in front of a guy my mom “once had high hopes for.”
After that, the conversation moves on easily enough, my mom doing most of the talking and me doing most of the drinking. As I am deciding if I should order my third martini or not, my mama gives me just the swift kick off the curb and in front of the bus I need to know that a martini is a requirement, not a possibility.
“Yeah, do you know what I loved about her being with you, First Love? I knew I didn’t have to worry about her. I knew she would be safe and taken care of. I can’t say the same about all the other riffraff she has dated since you.”
The first and most important thing to understand about this statement is that it is an out and out lie. Number one because, well, I rarely bring the people I date to meet my mama anymore. For reasons I think have been thus far quite clearly illustrated. And number two because the only person she is more obsessed with than First Love is The Great Houdini, whom TO THIS DAY, she still asks about, pontificating aloud about how “disappointed” she was in how he treated me, but despite all that, do we still talk?
She also gave a speech quite similar to this one to him many moons ago, but that’s also another story for another day.
No, what astonishes me more than anything is the fact that she would throw my entire dating history in the ten years since he and I were childhood sweethearts under the bus IN FRONT OF HIM.
See, my mom adores me but she has NO LOYALTY. In this war on my uterus, it is perfectly acceptable that my pride be collateral damage.
My ex, while not alltogether a terrible human being, is not gracious. He LOVES to hear things like this. His ego eats it up with fava beans and a nice bottle of Chianti. I watch his lips slowly unfurl into a sly smile as he looks at me. He looks so content with himself, so happy with the knowledge that it appears that I have not dated anyone more worthy than he since senior year in high school, that I almost don’t have the heart to crush the dream for him.
“That’s kinda sad,” he says to me smirking.
“It’s also a lie,” I coo in his ear, smiling sweetly. “But if it makes you both feel better…” I trail off and turn my attention back my drink. I’d be lying if I said that my smile didn’t become genuine when I caught his slip just a bit.
The conversation stutter steps on, my godfather looking just as flabbergasted by what just happened as I am, and my mother none the wiser. At one point, First Love whips out a picture of his longtime girlfriend and shows it to me. She’s pretty. I tell him so.
I wait for that old pang of jealousy I used to feel when he and I would discuss who he was dating and it never comes. I love him, and cherish our time together, but I’m over it.
Now if I could just get my mama to get over it too.