It was all Fauxhawk’s idea.
"Let’s invite them over to my house," he said. "We can make your parents dinner."
According to Fauxhawk, dinner was the logical next mission in Operation: Good Child. Having wallowed in the mediocrity of Medium Child status for several years, I looked to Fauxhawk to bring intensity and strategy to a plan that was once shapeless and ill-conceived. To my delight, Fauxhawk proved his chops at Fishgiving and at a series of family events. He was calculating. He was ruthless. He would stop at nothing.
We are going to trounce your brothers, he whispered, his face close to mine. They are going down. You are going to be Good Child. It was all very Jack Handy Meets Apocalypse Now. I nodded. I was ready to win it.
But on the day of the dinner, I was not ready. Suddenly, we looked at our watches and realized that we had four hours to clean Fauxhawk’s apartment, grocery shop, cook, shower and change. For some people, four hours is plenty of time. Some people open up a cookbook called TOMATO IMPERATIVE! and pick out something delightful, adapt it with ingredients in their fridge, make it their own, and serve it with rave reviews. Some people keep their apartments tidy and don’t have cats that pee in the shower. Some people don’t throw their junk mail and cigarette wrappers behind the couch. For seven years...without cleaning up. Fauxhawk and I are not some people. We are people who need to take a nap.
Ten minutes into nap time, Fauxhawk is comatose and I am wringing my hands in front of his collection of cookbooks. TOMATO IMPERATIVE! is freaking me out. TOMATO IMPERATIVE! sounds vaguely threatening and not at all soothing. I switch to a French cookbook that was a gift from Good Child and no doubt an effort to sabotage my culinary attempts. Each recipe has 27 ingredients, half of which refer to other recipes on pages 731, 864, and 967. Finally, I choose Macaroni Gratin, not realizing that this is in fact macaroni and cheese, not some elegant French dish that will impress my parents. In a moment of misguided optimism, I also decide to make profiteroles, my father’s favorite dessert. Suppressing memories of previous baking disasters (“Half-Baked Carrot Cake Surprise,” “Devil’s Food Pancake,” and “Grand Canyon Birthday Crevasse”), I hunt for ingredients, realizing we have none.
FAUXHAWK YOU HAVE TO WAKE UP WE NEED TO GO GROCERY SHOPPING OH MY GOD THEY’RE COMING IN THREE HOURS AND THIS HOUSE IS A MESS AND WE HAVE NO FOOD AND I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT I’M MAKING AND JESUS GOD HOW IS IT ALL GOING TO GET DONE IN TIME?
It’s my usual M.O. before giving a party: cursing, being passive-aggressive with Fauxhawk, and bursting into tears while running around frantically in my underwear and hair hat. Fauxhawk dutifully goes out with the shopping list, fielding at least seven calls during which I bark, “BABY CARROTS!” and several other items I neglected to put on the shopping list.
I set about to make the profiteroles. I realize, halfway through, that I have missed a few ingredients, and add them in at the end, hoping that no one will notice. The batter is looking rather thin, and I bring Fauxhawk in for a consultation. "Did you measure everything and follow the recipe exactly?" he asked, knowing full well that I did not, because what the fuck? Major pain in the ass, right? I am confident that they will be fine, and pop them in oven, checking every fifteen seconds or so to monitor their progress. My hope fades as the dough sprawls out across the cookie sheet, forming a large, amorphous blob instead of little individual puff balls. They are, without a doubt, an abysmal failure. It’s two hours until countdown and we have no dessert and no dinner.
Meanwhile, Fauxhawk is cleaning the house, bringing order to chaos, and removing the evidence. "Is there anything I should take off the walls that your parents might object to?" he asks. We scan the room quickly and somehow miss the David Shrigley illustration that says, in bold letters,
“SORRY I PAINTED THE WORD ‘TWAT’ ON YOUR GARAGE DOOR.”
Somehow, somehow, it all comes together. Dinner is in the oven and Fauxhawk salvages dessert. We look around and the apartment looks enchanted – a fire blazes in the fireplace, candles are lit, the cats snuggle in Cute Position on the couch. It smells like cinnamon and clementines and Christmas tree. When my parents walk in, they are dazzled. "How charming," my mother gasps, and she means it. I beam.
The dinner is good. The dessert is great. We drink and eat and chat amiably in Fauxhawk’s little apartment. My father speaks to Fauxhawk directly while making eye contact for the first time ever. My mother admires Fauxhawk's taste in paint colors. The teal is ravishing, she says. It is a wonderful, easy-going evening and I feel my anxieties dissolve. I forget about Good Child/Medium Child/Bad Child. I forget about Good Boyfriend. I forget about all the tension and tumult and upheaval I’ve caused in my family for the choices I’ve made in my life. I forget about wanting to be accepted and loved without judgment. Instead, I relax. This evening, we’re the best versions of ourselves.
When my parents leave, Fauxhawk and I look at each other in disbelief. “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE ARE THE CHAM-PIONS!” I sing, as I pump my arms in the air. Fauxhawk is also pleased. We high five, and recap every delicious detail, licking our chops.
Victory is sweet.
Illustrations by Julie Morstad. Unfortunately, I don't remember where I stumbled across Morstad's work...