I’m in the lobby of Marie Callender’s trying not to collapse on the hostess after a weeklong stint of food poisoning induced fasting when a man in a preppy suit and what can only be described as a douchebag choker appears by my side. He must sense my desperation because suddenly his hand is on mine, and my mother and I are quickly ushered to a table within staggering distance. I’m grateful, as such chivalry has saved me the trouble of turning off the hearing aids of all the geezers in the waiting area in order to steal their place in line.
Mystery man hands me a menu and without looking I order two blended margaritas, ignoring the empty stomach issue and hoping they’ll serve as an adult smoothie appetizer. Anything for starving girl! he laughs, and heads to the bar with a wink.
“He’s so flirting with you,” my mom grins.
“Cool, maybe he’ll make my drinks faster.”
For the rest of the meal choker dude lingers at our table, offering refills and condiments and overly personal details about his exciting life in Santa Cruz. I make the appropriate uh huhs and head nods but am busy caressing the sexy burger in front of me because, hi, priorities. Mama Edwards, however, is in fine form. Each question about my hobbies and interests is deflected with stories of her own hippie days over Highway 17, and questionable compliments on his questionable attire. His eyes flit back and forth between us, assessing the situation. On one side of the table: a doe eyed 22 year old, easily pleased by immediate gratification, yet more interested in making out with a turkey patty than a manager at a mediocre restaurant chain. On the other: a slightly more seasoned cougar dressed in clothing from the teen section, with a charming smile and a tendency to make physical contact at any opportunity. Eventually his eyes settle, and I’m left in peace.
This is OK with me for two reasons:
1. I already have access to incredible foreign deck.
2. The only perk to hitching my wagon to a manager at Marie Callender’s is the free pie, and I don’t have the self-control for that kind of glory.
I’m no stranger to the “Are you two sisters?” pickup. My mom is beautiful and embarrassingly cool, and she owns it. I’m not brown bagging my head anytime soon, but I haven’t had the years of practice finessing my sparkling personality yet. She has enough confidence for the both of us, and I’ve never felt the need to cultivate my own. I milk the quiet, blushing daughter angle and let her take the reins, as it usually ends in free food or favors and Saturday night plans, and everybody wins.
What’s frustrating is that I tend to resent her ability to dazzle anyone in her wake. My eyes probably have permanent damage from excessive rolling, and I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to have a role model who didn’t consider blue sparkle eye shadow to be a daily staple. In elementary school I pouted as other girls lined up to hug her legs and count the hundreds of shiny bracelets on her wrists. I’ve spent far too many extra minutes in the car waiting for the gas station attendant to stop professing his love. I don’t even bother asking about her latest soul mate because I don’t have the patience. But just as I’m plugging my ears to avoid her latest boyfriend(s) drama, she tells me I’m such an amazing daughter. That I’m gorgeous, smart, funny, [insert gushy parental terminology here], etc. I then get a wonderful sensation of overwhelming guilt, as she’s always been my biggest cheerleader, mini skirt included. She has nothing but immense—sometimes suffocating—love pouring out of her, and I’m over here all butt hurt because I inherited her hips but not the guts to shake ‘em. It’s not her fault I’m a late blooming wallflower. It’s not her fault I put her on a pedestal and refuse to climb up there myself. Although, it would be nice if I couldn’t see up her short dresses while chillin’ down below.
If for some godforsaken reason I was interested in manager man, I wouldn’t know the first thing about stealing his attention back. You’d think watching the master at work would have taught me a thing or two about captivating males out in the wild, but I’ve got nothin’. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m uncomfortable trying mating material in front of the woman who birthed me, or if it’s because I’m worried any suitor I meet may secretly harbor a kinky mother-daughter fantasy. Either way, I’m not sure I’m ready to blossom just yet. I bet my dad is incredibly pleased that the combination of her overpowering personality and my inability to flirt serves as the best birth control a parent could ever ask for.
By the end of the meal the man has finally disappeared, and we walk ourselves to the door. My mom shrugs and says, “He was nice. Too old for either of us, though.”
He was 32. Oh, the therapy.