My father and my boyfriend Jeffrey have a few things in common – an affinity for lightweight tan pants, an eye for the stock market, fervor for Jeff Beck's guitar solos...and 1958, the year they each tumbled out of their mothers’ respective lower regions. They also share the same pet names, at least as far as I’m concerned. We’re talking “Pops,” “Dad Bear,” “Daddy,” and sometimes, when the mood strikes, “Sir.”
This said, the two couldn’t be more different. My blood father is a rosary-carrying Catholic who lives for his one wife and 10 kids (“Go forth and multiply,” was it?) while my resident daddy is a retired rocker who traffics in vintage microphones and doesn’t believe in marriage or any specific deities. Jeff likes to plead “insufficient data” when asked the tough questions about the universe that religious types like my pop are so certain they know the answers to. It became apparent early on that keeping these two far apart might be the best course of action. And fortunately, I had an ally in the Pacific Ocean and some radically different time zones. My folks live in Manila (where I was born and raised), and traveling to California with so many little ones at home was just too much of a stretch for their cash flow. They also made it quite clear early on that Jeff wasn’t welcome to stay at the family home should I choose to fly back with him in tow.
“If you’re not married, you can’t bring a man home. It’s disrespectful” was the official takeaway from chats with mom and dad. So I always made the 13-hour flight to the islands alone. And Jeff didn’t mind one bit. Being stuck on a plane for hours only to land in a hot, polluted third world city wasn’t exactly his idea of a good time.
The subject of the older guy I was seeing wouldn’t come up on these trips, except as an aside, when dad would look at me with sad eyes and ask me why I wanted to end up some senior gent’s nursemaid when I had so many years ahead of me. (The gap between Jeff’s age and mine is 26, you do the math if you like.)
Jeff and I met through good old Craigslist. He was looking for a curvy Latina-type with dark eyes and birthin' hips and I was looking for a table. I was a few days out of a messy long-distance relationship with a guy my age and decided it couldn't hurt to see what lay beyond C-list's furniture section. He seemed sincere when he ended his ad with "No toothpicks, please!" and I decided to e-mail him. We met, I walked home without my bra, and the rest is history.
Now that this this odd couple is approaching our fifth anniversary, things are starting to change. The 'rents are beginning to see that this isn’t some strange phase like the Goth “lesbian” days of high school. (And please, they stuck me in a private Catholic girls’ school, what did they think would happen?!) Instead of hounding me to date kids my age, they now wonder – quite loudly – when their firstborn is getting hitched. Isn’t it amazing how parents can ALWAYS find something new to be unhappy about?!
Anyway, one of the other barbs they threw at me came around my relationship’s three-year mark, when Jeff and I had moved to San Francisco and shacked up, y’know, in the same pad. Few things piss Catholic parents off like an unmarried couple living in sin together and they let me know that as long as this was the situation, they would not visit or send any of my cute younger siblings my way. Heaven forbid they emulate their black sheep big sister. Baaaaaa.
So let’s just say I was shocked when my dad announced earlier this year that he would be visiting come May and taking my two youngest chick sibs with him. AND camping out in the one bedroom I share with Jeff. For two freaking weeks.
Apparently saving a few grand by skipping out on hotels was a big motivator for the man to swallow his pride and sleep on our sofa. I was delighted and disbelieving, but once reality set in, I was scared out of my mind. Weeks before THE ENCOUNTER, as I dubbed it in my head, I started going crazy trying to make our little nest inviting and acceptable – buying new towels for the guests, wall decals to brighten up our small bathroom, even dropping $120 on a plush queen-sized airbed that featured a headboard (really!) for my siblings to sleep on. I would have picked up new pillows and 600-thread count sheets for all had Jeff not told me to step away from the bank account and chill. But he helped me stock the fridge for our guests and we threw ourselves into last-minute tub scrubbing and window wiping as the weeks of preparation turned into final countdown hours.
When my dad rang to let us know they were downstairs, we threw on our clothes (goodbye nudist ways, at least for two weeks!), leashed the dog and met them in the lobby. My heart was pounding like every cliché in the book as the elevator made its descent and Jeff squeezed my hand, but looked equally worried.
What happened next was a bit of a blur. I hugged my family, blood dad shook hands with resident daddy and we helped lug five enormous suitcases into our little apartment. Our Italian Greyhound, Mox, was all over the place sniffing the newcomers and eventually, stealing kisses from my sisters. Thank goodness for canine comic relief!
Dad plopped himself down on the couch next to the CPAP machine he’d taken along for the trip to help with his sleep apnea and he and Jeff fell into easy conversation – the weather, things to do and see, the housing market, and Jeff’s evil plan to sneak vegetables into his carnivore daughter’s diet. It was pleasant and so oddly anti-climactic.
I sent thanks to gods I didn’t believe in right then and there.
The next two weeks flew for me, but crawled for Jeff, who loves his space more than anything in the world…let’s just say sharing a bathroom with four people was a bit of an obstacle. As was not being able to sit around the house in our underwear like we usually do. But he survived it, and even put the tour guide hat on while I was away at work. So heck, I’m proud of him. He and pop even awkwardly hugged goodbye when it came time for the visiting crew to board the shuttle to the airport. (My dad would later IM “He hugged me!” as though he couldn’t quite believe it.)
Blood dad and my pet man e-mail each other these days. They talk about nutrition, real estate, and other things 53-year-old guys chat about amongst themselves. Jeff has dad cutting the carbs at 4pm and drinking grapefruit juice in the mornings. His goal is to get him off the CPAP at night.
I am thrilled, but hope we get a nice fat break before round two of family scrutiny comes around and Jeff gets to meet (dun dun dunnn!) my mother.
But enough about my mini family drama…Janesters, I want to hear about partner/parent headbutts. This highly-conservative-family-meets-your-rather liberal-values thing can’t just be happening to me, can it?
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