Last Valentine’s Day, I got dressed up (all black everything in honor of the day of love), beat my face, and took myself out to eat at a fancy restaurant I rarely get a chance to go to.
I was the only chocolate chip in the vanilla ice cream and the only solo person, so people stared. Just openly, chin-resting-on-their-palm stared.
A waitress, I don’t recall if she was mine or not, came over and gushed about how beautiful she thought I was, and didn’t want to embarrass me, but wanted to know if I’d be interested in modeling for her mom’s Mary Kay demos. She gave me her mother’s card. I never called.
One of the staring men, when his wife went to the rest room, asked why I was alone and said that he felt like he ought to buy me a rose. Did I want a rose? No, thanks. I did not.
This year, I again made my reservation for one and had a lovely and somewhat uneventful dinner. A rowdy table of four convinced one of the waiters to sing A Capella. Singing in front of an audience is, to me, the most terrifying thing a person can do, so in an act of solidarity, I kept my nose in the same book that I brought last year and hadn’t finished. Let’s explore diabetes with owls by David Sedaris, if you were wondering.
One of the rowdy table dwellers came over to mine. “Honey,” he said. “Honey, he’s gonna sing. Five minutes, okay?” and motioned to my book. I smiled – it was probably more of a grimace – and closed it.
The man asked the waiter what he wanted to sing. The waiter didn’t know; he was so nervous. Rowdy Roddy Piper, now back at his table, shouts over to me and says “Honey! Pick a song! What do you want him to sing?” I shook my head and put my hand up. “Oh. You don’t want to pick a song?” He put his hand on his chest, mildly shocked by my refusal. I tried smiling again and softly said “Too much pressure.” The waiter looked at me and nodded. “Yeah! Too much pressure!” I hoped this would be the end of it and that I could get back to my book and fazzoletti d’aragosta. Of course it was not.
When someone unexpectedly bursts into song and you’re made to watch them, what is the proper etiquette? Are you, as my own audience did last year, expected to put your chin in your hand and stare at the impromptu performer? Turn in your chair, fold your hands, and slowly nod along to the music, an example of both your inherit rhythm and approval or support of the vocalist? Broadly smile, showing all your teeth, and loudly whoop at random intervals?
The few diners that remained did these things. They also recorded the performance with their smart phones. I slunk down in my seat and cast my eyes to the floor because I was in the shot. Of course I was.
I turned awkwardly in my chair, folded my hands, nodded my head, smiled broadly, pretended to make eye contact with the waiter by staring at a point directly above his head, and put my chin in my hands. I did it all except for the whooping. The restaurant had real linen napkins and tablecloths. What am I, an animal?
The waiter sang “I won’t give up” by Jason Mraz adequately enough. But he sang all of it. Including a reprise. My face and neck was starting to hurt from all the forced nodding and smiling. I hadn’t thought about that song in years. I’d be a happy person to never hear it again.
It eventually ended, as most things do. I was able to order the restaurant’s perfect pistachio cake and savor it while the rowdy table drunkenly name dropped and one-upped each other. “Well, I’m in Manhattan all year round and just can’t get away!” “Really? Because we have a working farm with cows and chickens and everything and we manage to get away pretty often.” “Huh. Anyway, I didn’t see you at Wealthy Locally-Famous’ annual ball. You don’t go anymore? Absolutely everyone goes.” “Oh, well, I guess it’s just not really our thing. Speaking of balls, my husband has the smoothest, biggest pair of testes I’ve ever seen. Harvey, stand up and show them your balls.”
Earlier in the week, my thoughts weren’t on Valentine’s Day at all. Instead, they were consumed by the Squatty Potty.
I was looking into buying one as I’ve had. . . issues. There may also be a connection between straining and uterine health? Some women have claimed that the squatting position helped relieve fibroid symptoms over time, which is questionable to me, but hey. I can use all the help I can get.
I’d been trying to talk my dad, a colon cancer survivor, into getting a Squatty Potty. He was aware of their existence but was totally not convinced of their necessity or effectiveness. “Go and get yourself a stool from the Family Dollar. If you want something that’s better quality, Christmas Tree Shop is having a sale.”
I argued for the “ergonomic design” of the Squatty as opposed to some regular old stool that didn’t have a sticker of a smiling, squatting, barefoot white woman slapped on the front. “Hmmph. Well, they sell them at Bed Bath Beyond. Get one of those coupons before you go.” “And you’ll get one too, right Dad?” “Hmmph. We’ll see.”
I was at work when my father and I had this conversation. A student was bemoaning the fact that she didn’t have her Squatty Potty with her as she lives in on-campus housing and didn’t want to seem “weird” to her roommates. You know, for having a piece of furniture specifically designed to help her shit. When she sang the praises of the Potty, I called him right away.
Later, I went out to my car on my dinner break and noticed something in the driver’s sea. It was square and wrapped in a Bed Bath Beyond bag. A pink envelope sat on top, my name written in red ink, the ‘i’ dotted with a heart.
It was a Squatty Potty. It was from my dad. He signed the card as if it was from both him and my mother, but this had him written all over it.
Someday, I’ll fondly tell this story to my rescue cats and dogs, about the day on which I got a stool to help me effectively move mine as a surprise early Valentine’s Day gift from my father.
I took a picture of the card my dad sweetly included because it wasn’t just hearts and flowers and good wishes. Nope, that would be too boring and mainstream for my father.
In case you’re having trouble reading it, here’s what he wrote:
We love you!
God loves you!
Now go with the flow🙂
Mommy and Daddy
And there you have it.
I can’t and I won’t complain. It was a kind and thoughtful gesture (By the way, it works like a charm.) It is also an improvement over the Valentine’s Day he and my mother sent flowers to me at work and signed the card with the initials ‘JR’. For more than an hour, at work, I thought I had a secret admirer or that a guy I’d briefly dated with those initials was trying to reach out to me. Just to be clear, my father’s initials are RS; my mother’s are MJS. You should now be able to solve their terrible puzzle, and probably well before I did.
This, again, had my dad written all over it though he’d dragged my mother into it too. He did not see what the big deal was. “I didn’t want to embarrass you, sending flowers from your mom and me to you at work. We know how you get: ‘Ew, my parents are so embarrassing!’ So we mixed up our initials. Thought you’d figure it out.”
Oh, dad. I love you too.