I walked into the house unannounced. The door was unlocked. Nobody answered the doorbell so I let myself in.
I was young, six-two, awkward, freckles, shaggy hair, telephone-pole legs, and size-13 clown shoes. In a word, I was “gawky.”
In this world you had your handsome guys who were going places; guys who came from generations of good breeding, with investment portfolios. And then you had guys like me. Our family heirloom salad bowls all said “Cool Whip” on the sides.
I announced myself to the empty house. “Hello? Anybody home?”
I was here to Meet the Parents, and I was nervous. I had been dating this girl for a little while. We were at the phase where family introductions were a necessity. I felt like I was going to puke.
An older woman came from around the corner to greet me. Dark brown hair. Chocolate eyes. Early 60s.
“Are you Sean?” she said.
I swallowed. “Yes, ma’am.”
“I’m Mary. Jamie’s mother.”
“Pleased to meet you, Miss Mary.”
I could tell by the look on the woman’s face that I was under inspection.
Which is a brutalizing process for a young man. I stood naked before these two exacting eyes.
I shoved my hands into my pockets while she evaluated the boy who was dating her daughter. I half expected her to inspect my teeth.
“Sean,” she said, tapping her chin. “Such an interesting name.”
“No, ma’am. Baptist. But I drink a little.”
“Well, we’ve heard a lot about you.”
Uh-oh. God knows what they had heard. Because I had nothing going for me. A high-school dropout. A string of failed jobs. I’d done everything from construction to scooping ice cream. What pittance I had in savings was wadded in an Altoid tin beneath my mattress. I would later spend it all on an engagement ring. I was—I hate to keep pointing this out—not a prize catch.…