Rely on me to be ultra confident in job interviews or any other interview for that matter. I don’t produce physiological, gruesome body fluids and my mind is as clear as a bright blue sky effortlessly stringing sentences together. But put me on an awkward social spot, specifically for an intimate dinner with my boyfriend’s most favorite aunt from the States, then rely on me to effortlessly make a fool out of myself. Everything that I’m supposed to feel at interviews happens in these types of situations. My hands get sweaty, my tongue feels dry and short, and my thoughts go on overload that basic rules of conversation elude me. There are a couple of bad social experiences I’ve had so far where I exhibit extremes. It's either I successfully imitate a rock or say tactless things that make silence unbearable that I could just dig a hole somewhere and die. I know that I’d rather be talking to a high ranking official about non-personal things than talk with someone’s relative or a personal hero talking about me and my personal thoughts.
When my boyfriend invited me last week to have dinner with his favorite aunt, the sort of iron hand of their whole clan, I knew it was something I should consider and psychologically prepare for. Her aunt seems to be his favorite and I believe he is also one of her most treasured nephews. She resides in the States and from what I’ve heard from him all these years was that she is the type who speaks her mind, who’s frank and effortlessly commands respect. After her blessed upbringing and achievements, one of which is Mitch’s success right now, I would just easily be an insignificant fern that fell in love with her nephew.
It’s different with close relatives. They hold a different degree of power and advantages. There are lots of opportunities to get to know the parents. Usually parents offer a much forgiving judge or state. The love for their own children is at its highest that there are more rooms to understand and accept whatever (whoever) comes in their children's life. However, close relatives in general, are the unspoken jurors that observe and form thoughts in a raw level. Sometimes they only need that first encounter to make a lasting impression and they are under no obligations to go out of their way to get to know relations that do not directly concern them.
And for that, meeting Mitch’s clan is always a nerve wracking experience, even though I am too lucky to find out that they’re very gracious, funny and engaging. All of them emanate the sense of aristocracy, high respect and subtle power, but they’re very accommodating, gregarious and lovely that writing this now make me feel so guilty. I would always have high praises for all of them, but I think it’s already a part of my personality to buckle up my knees when I’m with them. It’s just the way I am, I’m afraid. And last weekend was a special challenge unlike any other.
While attending an earlier afternoon mass with Mitch, I found out that the dinner would only involve me, him and his aunt. All the while I thought I was to dine with his family, plus the girlfriend of his younger brother. My nervousness and silence will not be so obviously highlighted if that was the case. Mitch found my apprehensions kind of stupid, but he just nudged me to just be real and to enjoy the night. I sighed. Well, there goes enjoying my sumptuous dinner.
We drove to his grandmother’s house in Makati where his aunt temporarily resides and asked me to just chill a couple of minutes because he had to fix his aunt’s computer network. As I entered the house I already thought of a couple of topics to talk about.
After meeting some of his regular nephews, a slim woman appeared and greeted me graciously. I couldn’t remember what I said, but I hope my smile wasn’t that scary. She and my boyfriend excused themselves as I watched an NGC show about people in desperate emergencies. I learned how the body inevitably grows stronger when the issue of survival is at hand. Endorphins and adrenalin make ordinary humans seem superhumans that made them get out of life threatening situations. I figured I might have had the same adrenalin pumped at my bloodstreams at that moment.
After a couple of minutes, they were done with the computer stuff and we went to Serendra to have dinner. It was awkward at first, getting in the car and finding ourselves together while Mitch went away randomly to get things or talk to someone. I’d rather let him entertain her aunt more and forget about me. I’d rather like that than personally giving her aunt a horrible time by sharing the night with a nervous and socially awkward person. ON the way, I had a couple of scenes playing in my mind. I prayed for ideas and words to fall through and I hoped not to disappoint anyone lest I be a laughing stock of their whole clan.
We settled for a very crowded Italianni’s at Serendra and started to do the normal shift of conversation. Naturally, it should be a dinner for Mitch and his aunt to catch up, holding no boundaries in discussing family matters, but since I was there I might hold a banner of limitations. I figured might as well get rid of my inhibitions and just enjoy the company of her aunt. I let go and enjoyed I did because once I got past the normal description of my work and my family. Her Aunt and I kept talking about my experiences in the States and her love for the States. We listened to each others’ stories intently and I even made a couple of wacky facial expressions while I would comment, but I was still stuttering nevertheless. I might have jumbled my words and messed up my sentences, but that was just my “pessimistic control freak me” reminding myself that “I should still be nervous” because there were times that I felt like I was talking to just one of Mitch’s random friends. I talked about my experiences like how I get to talk to his mother now, which took me months to get comfortable to.
While his aunt and I talked, Mitch was the one who fell into silence and just focused on Italianni’s bad service. Her aunt and I just occasionally stop whenever he mumbled how long the Lasagna’s going to be served and realized we’ve been waiting already for an hour for that infamous dish. While Mitch went to talk to the manager, I realized one thing. I truly like this particular aunt. If I didn’t quite relate with her I would’ve realized the lull times of waiting for that lasagna. I would’ve thought of how I ate and I wouldn’t remember much of her stories. I wouldn’t have laughed, made facial expressions nor shared any of my humiliating professional experiences.
As time passed by and the crowd was thinning, Mitch got the bill, and the night ended extremely lucky when the Manager told us that everything we ate was FOR FREE. The news apparently excited us too much that all of us immediately began to stand up and leave. Mitch was still drinking his soda while his aunt and I were already on our heels. While on our way to the parking lot we were laughing our heads off for not leaving any tip and how we turned out to be such a bunch of “escapists” for leaving the scene immediately as if scared that the manager will change her mind.
On the way home, Mitch’s aunt told him that he was extremely lucky to not pay the pricey bill. The two of them were trying to recompute, but I just laughingly said that “we will never know, since we haven’t seen the bill especially paid for it.” I was astonished with the generous act, seriously. I would’ve expected that they would scratch off LASAGNA from the bill, but not the ENTIRE BILL. We are pretty honest and capable people. We would’ve understood, but slashing off the entire bill was just too much luck for the night. Also we ended up talking about snakes, salamanders and his aunt’s love for the city.
After dropping her off, Mitch and I had coffee somewhere and I applauded his luck. I also told him that I really liked his aunt. I never expected that I would be so candid with her and I sincerely hope his aunt didn’t think of me as a nutcase or a blabbering idiot. I even told him that I admire her aggressiveness, her straightforward thinking and modern mind. With how she speaks, her stories and how she relates with people, she is truly a person that from day one knows what she wants and is unafraid to meet anyone. She will never be a slave to her own fears or apprehensions. She is like Mitch in a way that she is assertive, street smart and very opinionated. I understand now why Mitch loves her and respects her so much. She is a tough and independent force to be reckoned with, although I doubt if anyone ever tried and came out alive with only with their limping egos. Based from her stories, I believe nobody ever did, as she is still living the life that she enjoys and loves. She sends out a message of hope that as young and single Mitch and I are, we should always find the courage to seize opportunities and enjoy life to the fullest.
Glad I faced my fears last night and got to enjoy her fabulous company. It was a shame we didn't so much order food for take out, we could've gotten it for free also. There are only few practical "strangers" whom I've spent time with and genuinely enjoyed it. It was a good decision on my part. Aside from the free Italianni’s dinner, I can say luck has a big part of it.