Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner

Let’s be real. I haven’t been in many long-term relationships. And the ones that I have been in, we certainly didn’t get to the point of meeting the parents. Nicolás and my relationship started off fast and then escalated to the extreme when I was diagnosed. Months into the relationship my mother was living with me and meeting the parents was no longer an issue. But still, in my usual relationships freak me out mode, having dinner with the parents is a big step and a big deal.

It was his birthday on Monday and we were going to celebrate together on Tuesday. I get the text message “My mom is cooking dinner. Would you like to join us?” I panicked for a good 30 seconds before texting back “of course.” Then I panicked some more for a good minute. “What time?” I asked. “8:30” “Ok, so like 9:30,” I thought to myself. This is Uruguay after all.

I had already  met his mom and stepdad during the summer. But sitting and chatting in a paper store was vastly different than an entire evening of food and Spanish. Just like our relationship, my Spanish comprehension has taken off at a rapid pace, but I am still apprehensive about participating in conversations. And his mom texts me asking about my health frequently. But I am always worried I am going to translate incorrectly or say the wrong word  that causes offense. Plus I never know when to end the texting.  What is socially acceptable? It’s a constant dilemma. I like this guy and I want his mom (who is very important to him) to like me as well.

By 8:30 I am sitting ready to go and my phone buzzes. “I am getting my haircut and it is taking longer than I thought. Go without me.” Ok, my boyfriend is notorious for being late. Tardiness is a culturally acceptable practice since most Uruguayans tend to show up 30-40 minutes late. However, my boyfriend is the worst at this. And I am an on-time person. So I have a rule. If you are going to be more than 30 minutes then I need to know beforehand so that I can leave without you and you can meet me there. I don’t mind going by myself, but I will not be late. This text message was his way of telling me that he was adhering to my rule. Fine. Awesome! BUT IT’S YOUR FREAKING MOTHER’S HOUSE! As much as I assured him that I could wait, he was persistent. He had already told his mom that I was on my way. I was going to kill him.

In my car, I took a deep breath and told myself that if I could handle months of cancer treatment I could handle a few hours of Spanish conversation on my own.

I followed the directions, practiced my parallel parking, and rang the buzzer. Gustavo, his stepdad, met me downstairs and we made our way to the apartment. His mom greeted me at the door. And once I was seated and settled, I was fine. Spanish came easier than I thought. I got to hear stories about the family. Gustavo helped me out using his British English whenever I was completely lost. It was lovely. 9:30 rolled around. We were chatting about politics and laws in Uruguay, Gustavo’s family in the states, my school, what could be talking Nico so much time. 10:00 rolls around and we have the snacks out. My American tummy is starving by this point. They’ve gotten the fan out because I am sweating profusely with my head wrap. Nico’s mom is getting the table prepared for dinner. This is Nico’s birthday dinner, mind you.

Finally, 10:30 he walks through the door. Two hours late. I’m laughing because yep! That’s about right. Gustavo had been 30 minutes off when he said Nico would show up at 11. And his mom pulls the most Latino move…she chastises him for being late and then spoon-feeds him this honey mixture for this cough that he has. Gustavo chimes in with “Mama’s little baby” in English, which makes me laugh harder. And the entire time I realized that I had thoroughly enjoyed myself with these people. Don’t get me wrong…two hours is excessive, but the time was never awkward or uncomfortable. In fact, it flew by!

Dinner was served: chicken milanesa (of course), salad, cucumbers and onions, and cheese/olive appetizers. It was all very delicious. I will say, though, after two hours of holding the Spanish conversation, my brain was dead. So, I took a backseat and listened while I ate, only chiming in when I needed to. Then it was cake time. His mom had made the most adorable chocolate and dulce de leche cake with sprinkles. And then she brought out the whiskey. I knew I liked this woman! Unfortunately, I could not partake, but when all of this chemo is through, you better believe I will have an after-dinner drink with Nelia. img_8331

By midnight we were saying our goodbyes. I made the awkward move of going in for the besos in the apartment. I forget that you have to go down and let people out. But, if that was the only awkward moment, I will take it. It was a lovely dinner with lovely people. And making up for the guilt he felt for leaving me with his mom for two hours was more than worth all of the anxiety.

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