My husband’s best friend, Marcus, and his wife, Penny, were coming to our apartment for a little pre-Christmas feasting and imbibing. The plan was to have them over, serve up a bunch of appetizer-type dishes, drink a lot of festive cocktails and then watch that heartwarmingest of heart warming holiday classics, Christmas Vacation. Marcus, a cook, suggested they contribute some goodies, which was more than fine with me – the more food, the merrier!
The day before the party I suddenly remembered that Marcus and Penny had been going gluten-free last I heard, and thought it the polite thing to do to call them up and inquire about the state of their diets. “Hi!”, I said. “So I know you and Penny have been doing the gluten-free thing. Before I get in the kitchen, is that still on? Just wanted to check and make sure! Oh, and are you still eating meat? Because I also remember at one point you guys weren’t eating meat, so…” “Well, no,” he said, “the gluten thing isn’t really on. I mean, we try not to, but it’s no big if we do.” We chatted for another minute and then just as I was about to hang up I hear,”But, um, yeah, about the stuff we don’t eat thing? Well, we’re not really into pork, and we’re both trying to stay away from red meat…veal is murder and WE WON’T TOUCH THAT! Um, and fish has so much mercury in it now, so maybe not fish. Chicken’s good. I mean, free range chicken is better, but chicken’s good. Oh, and tomatoes. The acid in them destroys your teeth, so we’re trying to cut down on those…uh, let’s see. We’re really trying to cut down on our fat intake, too, because all those cream-based things just make you feel so heavy, so maybe not that kind of stuff either.” The litany continued for another 30 seconds or so and finally ended with, “Ooh, but I’d love to have that pineapple tart you made that one time! That was so good! Just maybe not with the devon cream this time. I’d try whipped cream instead. That would be better.”
“This guy is a raging tool,” you may be thinking to yourself. Well, I was inclined to agree, even knowing that Marcus is just a very high strung individual with a lot of neuroses about, well, everything. But I had come to understand that for the very few times a year I saw the guy, I could put up with his antics, because it made my husband happy and I genuinely enjoyed Penny’s company.
The day of the party we’re bustling around cleaning and cooking when the phone calls start coming in. First Marcus wants to know exactly what I’m making so we won’t have any “flavour clashes”. We compare lists and Marcus hangs up. A few minutes later he calls back and wants to know what I think about his suggestions. “Sounds great to me,” I say, while wondering exactly why he’s so wound up. It’s just appetizers, man! Two hours later he calls to say that they’ll be at our place in an hour, but can they stop and get anything on the way there that we might have forgotten? “Yes!,” I shout. “The maraschino cherries for the Manhattans! Thank you!” 45 minutes later they call to say they’re heading out and will stop at a store on the way over. I hang up and ask my husband why Marcus and Penny seem so intent on narrating their entire day for me. An hour later they finally arrive. Marcus is grumpy and clutching a bottle of maraschino cherries. Penny looks annoyed. The implication is that this is all my fault for forgetting the cherries in the first place.
Everybody gets over their moods and we get down to the serious business of eating. I provided all manner of yummy snacks ranging from vegan to vegetarian to outright carnivore, and I took great (internal) smug glee in noting that Marcus had eaten tons of my chow and very little of his own. “Dietary restrictions, my widening fanny,” I thought to myself.
During and after dinner and cocktails we watched the movie and chatted about our plans for the holidays, and then, about six hours later, when the evening should have been wrapping up, it just…didn’t. Marcus and Penny stayed on, and on, and on, long past the point of either good manners or a genuine interest in our company. We had simply run out of things to say. Undeterred, Marcus began looking up stupid cat videos online (something I quite enjoy myself, actually!) When it, too, continued long past the point of being funny or even mildly amusing, Penny put her hand on his leg and said, “Do you want to turn that off, sweetie? Because I think it’s time we go. It’s pretty late.” Marcus sulkily muttered, “Yeah, yeah, okay, I get it, Penny, thanks.” For the next couple of minutes my husband and I sat uncomfortably and watched as Marcus and Penny not-so-jokingly tore each other to shreds. They didn’t seem to mind that we were there, but we sure did.
So I got up and began clearing away some dishes I had left on the table. They stayed on, sniping on. My husband blew out the few remaining lit candles. They stayed on. I filled up the cat dish, loaded the dishwasher and brushed the crumbs off the coffee table. Marcus and Penny stayed on, undeterred. So we gave up. Resistance is futile. We sat back down and stared blankly at one another as Marcus and Penny continued taking passive aggressive jabs at one another. Two hours later they finally left, clocking our “evening” in at a little over nine hours.
They got married some months after that and then divorced even more months after that, so, you know, there’s that. 0829-12
When our guests are not getting the subtle clues we drop that it is time to go home, my husband looks at me and says quite cheerfully, “Well, honey, I think we need to go to bed so these lovely people can go home.” We both then stand and start moving towards the door to lead the way for our guests to exit.