Single In The Suburbs, Installment 19

Still recovering from hearing Leo’s shocking news, our columnist invites him over to dinner… with her kids.

By Sara Susannah Katz

To read the entire series of articles from the beginning, click here.

fter hearing Leo’s explanation of his past troubles, our writer relents and agrees to a dinner date with him—at her house, with her kids present. Will she revel in it…or regret it? Find out here.

Tuesday, 6:36 p.m.
I open the door to find Leo standing on my front step, a plastic Target bag in one hand and a bouquet of carnations in the other. He raises the Target bag and says, “I brought DVDs.”

“Great!” I say, stepping aside to let him in. He kisses me on the lips, quickly, and looks
I still haven’t recovered from Leo’s revelations.
around. “Where are the kids?”

“Oh, I assume they’re lurking somewhere.”

My heart is hammering. I’m afraid my kids won’t like Leo. I’m equally afraid he won’t like them. We are not the Waltons. My children are outspoken and theatrical. They bicker loudly like crows and they have the uncanny ability to sense those times when their good behavior is most desperately required—if only to defy that requirement. I am sure Leo will not like them.

But why should it matter? Frankly, I’m not so sure I like Leo. I still haven’t recovered from his sexual misconduct revelations. And to be perfectly and horribly honest, there’s a part of me that worries that Leo might actually hit on my 14-year-old daughter. I tend to catastrophize when I’m nervous so I take a deep breath, then another, and command myself to calm down.

It’s not working.

Tuesday, 6:40 p.m.
My son is first to appear. He greets Leo stiffly, extending a hand and mumbling hello. Then I notice a little smile playing at the corners of his mouth and I know exactly what my kid is thinking: This guy is shorter than my mom. I throw him a quick look that’s meant to telegraph: Don’t say it. Don’t even think it. Just be nice and go away.

I can’t help but notice Leo’s discomfort or, more precisely, his apparent inability to make small talk with a sullen teenager. Here I find myself dividing the world into two groups: parents of teens and everyone else. Parents of teens have tacit mutual sympathy. Everyone else just doesn’t understand. Leo and my son stare at each other for a few painfully silent moments. My son eventually goes back to his room.

I remind myself that eventually this evening will come to an end. Leo will go home, and I will go upstairs to the sanctuary of my bedroom.

Tuesday, 6:50 p.m.
Now it’s my daughter’s turn to materialize. She’s sweet and chatty, as always, flashing her most congenial smile as she reaches out to shake Leo’s hand. I expect him to ask at least a few of the usual questions:
I drink more wine and try to go to my happy place.
Where do you go to school? What’s your favorite subject? Something, anything, to hold up his end of the conversation. But he seems as dumbstruck with her as he did with my son.

This is not good.

Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
The kids must be eager to get away from us because they are rushing through dinner and there’s none of the usual repartee. They are preternaturally quiet, and I find this disorienting. Everyone gags down my hardened lasagna, then dessert. Leo has said virtually nothing. I drink more wine and try to go to my happy place: in bed, alone, watching Law and Order reruns.

Tuesday, 7:40 p.m.
Leo reaches for his Target bag and pulls out a stack of DVDs. “I thought it might be fun to watch a movie,” he says, smiling.

By now my daughter has retreated to her room where she is undoubtedly in the midst of an IM frenzy, telling all her friends about the silent midget her mom is dating. My son, however, has decided to linger. He looks at the array of DVDs spread out on the kitchen table. Sixteen Candles. The Wedding Planner. About a Boy. Stepmom. The Other Sister.

“From my personal collection,” Leo says, proudly.

I look at the movies and am filled with a strange sense that something isn’t quite right, but I can’t exactly say what. Then my son says: “Wait a minute. These are all chick flicks.” He looks at me with some combination of horror and amusement, then turns to Leo. “Is this all you like to watch?”

I can feel my face splotching. Oh God. “Umm, sweetie, don’t you have homework or something?”

“Right, Mom,” he says, all smart-alecky. “Whatever.”

Tuesday, 10:30 p.m.
It’s over. Finally. Leo and I sat through The Wedding Planner. He wanted to make out, and I indulged him but my heart (and body) weren’t into it. Eventually he left, I cleaned the kitchen, and now I’m exactly where I want to be, in bed, alone, with Law and Order reruns on TV. Now I can relax.

Tuesday, 10:35 p.m.
So much for relaxing. Craig just called. He sounds cold and angry. He is in scolding mode. He is mad at me. “Sarah,” he says. “We need to talk. Now.”

I suspect I know what’s on his mind. I brace myself for the worst.

Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.

Read Single In The Suburbs, Part 20

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Would you buy someone a holiday gift that you've been dating for less than 6 months?

Yes, if I want the relationship to continue

Maybe, but only to avoid seeming rude

No, that's too early to exchange gifts

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