A: what ru making for dinner tonight?
A: your enthusiasm is overwhelming
L: how’s that feel?
A: much better
A: oh and i was going to make chicken too
A: except i went to King’s and got 500 things and forgot the chicken
A: so that’s awesome
The family dinner is an imperfect science (and by imperfect we mostly mean shitty). It’s a struggle to sit down together all at the same time, prepare the perfect meal (and by perfect we mean something at least mildly appealing) and have interesting conversation (and by interesting we mean talk about something other than fantasy football standings or the status of one’s Brandy Melville cart or talk at all). While we both can admit that the magic does happen occasionally (and by occasionally we mean with about the same frequency as our kids saying ‘mom, i’m gonna throw in a load of laundry, do you have anything to add?’), it certainly isn’t a regular occurrence. In any case, here’s a snapshot of our dinnertime reality.
Angie’s story first. Welcome to dinner at the Comiteaus! Here’s what it looks like under the hood at 5:30 pm at 3 Edgemont Ave. No judging, please. Ok fine, judge away. Angie typically cooks 1 of 3 things. Let’s choose one for the sake of this story – flank steak, steamed broccoli and rice. Lame, but when you have to cook every single night for the rest of your life until you die, you sometimes lose motivation. On this particular Wednesday night, she cooks and presents the meal, turns on some tunes and sets the table to try to manufacture the dinner she envisions. Everyone files into the kitchen and the alpha dog fills his plate first. That’s Will, Angie’s oldest. He mostly runs the show so it’s no surprise that he steps up first. Will carefully takes the middle, medium rare, most perfect pieces of steak, the bright green broccoli and the unburnt rice (there’s not too much of that, truthfully). Next up, Ben. Then, Chad. And guess who takes what’s left? Maybe ‘she’ gets the well-done ends. Maybe ‘she’ just eats broccoli and rice if the steak is all gone. For years, it’s like this. Funny thing is, it doesn’t really bother Angie. At all. But then something monumental happens, that makes her pause and take notice of her ‘going last’ status at dinner. On September 19, 2019 Will says 'Hey mom. Why do you always go last?' Whoa. What just happened? And thanks for noticing, Will. Even if it’s taken 17 years, 5 months and 1 day.
Laura’s story next. She and her family go out to dinner with her in-laws, Ann and Mel.* They meet at a new Asian fusion place and all sit down, starving. And they over-order while simultaneously pleading to the waitstaff to bring out the food as soon as it’s ready. The appetizers are gone as quickly as they arrive - dumplings, spring rolls, ribs, noodles. You can imagine the scene and pretty sure you can imagine everyone (well, almost everyone) going at it with gusto. Laura and Ann, sitting quietly across from each other, have a moment. At the exact same time, they notice the food is completely gone. This is when they pause and smile and laugh uncontrollably because they both know what has just happened - none of the appetizers made their way down to their end of the table. Laura says to Ann, while pretending to be talking to everyone at the table - 'Don’t worry about us down here, we’ll just have bread.' And, despite Laura’s snarky comment, turns out neither of them minds at all.
Here’s the thing about going last. It’s not because we are being martyrs. It’s not because we have long-standing issues about putting our own needs first (um, we do that plenty). It simply goes like this. It makes us happy to put the people we love in front of ourselves.
And when we stop. And we think about it like that. We see going last in a whole new light.
A: how'd the chicken turn out?
L: maybe B-
A: the dogs liked it
A: i've moved on
A: now i'm trying to create movie night
A: which is going really well
L: u trying to make them watch RBG again?
A: ha! i've agreed to superbad
A: and i kinda like it
A: just don't tell them
*Sometimes we change the names and sometimes we don’t. For obvious reasons.