(Six months later, I’ve finally changed “don’t” to “shouldn’t”, because, let’s be realistic here, what I should do versus what I actually do can be very different things)
I’m a fairly quiet person. I don’t generally consider myself shy (as in, afraid of talking) with one notable exception: when I really, really want someone to like me and/or be impressed with me. This is why, no joke, I’m fairly certain that The Geek didn’t really know what my personality was like before we started dating. (Apparently a smart, nerdy girl that plays video games and listens intently to him when he speaks was good enough.)
Since I don’t see his family a ton, they’re still definitely in this “if I don’t say anything they can’t think I’m stupid or incompetent, just shy” phase with them, which I realize logically is ridiculous but can’t quite seem to get over. It’s a bit easier with his siblings since we can generally chit chat about college or I can ask a couple questions and get them talking.
But his mom. Is intimidating. Not just the general mother-of-the-boyfriend intimidation either, because she has a very intense stare. The Geek has the same stare, but of course when he does it I think how sweet it is that he’s listening so intently and how much he loves me.
When his mom does it, even though she’s been nothing but kind and friendly, I feel like she is searing my soul to unearth every flaw that makes me unworthy of her oldest son.
Which is why, on more than one occasion, I have been known to respond with things that are vague and also incomprehensible. Thankfully no one’s yet asked me what I meant, but if I were to be totally honest my response would be “I don’t know, I just felt like I’d reached my limit of socially acceptable ways to rephrase ‘yea’ without adding something else to the conversation”
The one benefit here is that his family, unlike mine, are fairly regular drinkers. Beer or wine are generally offered to everyone of age, and the phrase “well I’ll just be finishing off this bottle” isn’t unheard of at the end of dinner. And this is nice, since a drink or so is good for helping me unwind and relax a bit.
There’s a fine line between “relax a bit” and “relax too much”. As a little bit of context, The Geek and I haven’t ever explicitly stated to his parents that we are planning on getting married. He’s concerned with finding a job and being financially stable before we take that step, and they’ve never asked, so it remains unspoken.
But I don’t drink much, so I’m a lightweight and often get myself into some tight corners. At Easter this year I made brunch and mimosas for us, and feeling content in my adequate show of domestic skills I drank my mimosa a little too fast and implied more than I meant to, turning my face bright red.
No one else seemed to notice my faux paus, because there are some things that other Westernized-but-non-Americans are more relaxed about than conservative evangelical Christians (like my family, hence why I’m being vague in case my mom ever stumbles across this) but I was pretty embarrassed.
The tipping point was when we were discussing immigration to Canada over dinner on a two bottles of wine night, and The Geek’s dad asked how much I knew about immigration and how I was going to get in to the country.
Unfortunately, the only answer that popped into my mind was a cheeky “well I am planning to marry a Canadian citizen*, so that should help.”
This is about how my internal dialogue went:
Rational Rachel: You can’t just say that!
Drunk Rachel: Why not? We’ve been dating for almost two years, they invite me to family outings and holidays, and we’re talking about moving to a different country together. We’re obviously serious, this shouldn’t exactly be a shock.
Rational Rachel: Yes, but it’s his family, he gets to decide when and how to tell them. Also, dropping that in the middle of dinner like it’s nothing will be super awkward.
Drunk Rachel: Okay. Fine.
Rational Rachel: …
Rational Rachel: You… do still need to respond to the question though.
Drunk Rachel: But now I’m so focused on not saying on that, I can’t think of anything else!
Thankfully, after what felt like a full minute of silence, but was hopefully (maybe, probably?) only a couple of seconds, his mom bailed me out with a response whose words I don’t remember, but the vast feeling of relief I do recall vividly.
And that’s why I shouldn’t drink around The Geek’s family anymore.
Or even my family really, since over Christmas and New Year’s of 2011 I made the ill-advised choice after a few drinks to reveal to several family members that I am not a Christian, am not planning to have children, and consider myself awkward, which resulted in not only lots of drunk crying but also months of arguing.
Maybe I just need to implement a one drink limit per hour when around my family. Or anything vaguely resembling “family”. Ever.
*The Geek was born in South Africa and is a citizen of Canada with his green card for the US. He’s got a pretty interesting story.