You know how sometimes dinner parties can be awkward because no one is talking? I’m not terribly familiar because I never stop yapping, but I did once sit through the most awkward of awkward dinners.
We took each of the kids on a trip as their Bat/Bar Mitzvah gift. Aubrey was first of course, and we settled on Paris. Aubrey and her family hosted a French exchange student, Olivier, a year or two prior to our trip, and we made arrangements to visit him and his family. His parents insisted on having us for dinner.
When we arrived at their home everything was beautiful and they were very warm and gracious, at least as far as I could tell, because it turns out that they don’t speak English, and we of course don’t speak French. No problem, I figured Olivier could translate for us. Unfortunately we discovered that Olivier’s English had really gone downhill since he’d been in the States, so there we were, smiling and nodding and saying nothing.
As we sat there nodding and smiling and saying mmm, yum, Aubrey told me in a stage whisper that dinner was awkward. Yep, true, except for Dan. This is the exact situation he loves; no need to make conversation or exchange pleasantries. He was happily scarfing down all the food without a care in the world. It didn’t hurt that they were serving wine with each course, and Dan was drinking way too much of it.
We endured course after course in silence, other than Aubrey whispering to me that I should say something and me smiling and reminding her I didn’t speak French. At long last we got to dessert, and were nearly home free, until they offered Dan coffee. Far be it from tipsy Dan to just politely decline; he launched into a monologue about how he had reflux. He kept gesturing to his neck and saying reflux over and over again as if that was going to help. Aubrey begged me to get Dan to shut up, and I kept begging him to do exactly that, but he was on a roll.
In a desperate effort to make Dan shut up, the family brought out a stack of photo albums; Olivier’s baby pictures. Who knew baby pictures were the international language? We oohed and aahed and made a fuss over the adorable pictures and at long last we all relaxed.
Before we left, the family wanted us to see one more thing; a box of macaroni and cheese that Olivier brought back as a souvenir. They were laughing hysterically and managed to convey that they thought it was a gag. They kept pointing to the picture of the cheese packet and then pointing to the lovely selection of cheeses they offered us. Bright orange powdered cheese? All of the tension melted away as we laughed and laughed about the box o’crap.
Let’s evaluate our cultural exchange. The French gave us amazing food, wine, fashion, art and café society. We brought them soda, Le Big Mac and Pizza Hut. Good deal!