I come from a relatively big family, as I’m one of four children and have a good amount of cousins on each side. Both of my parents hail from the Deep South, and although I grew up all over thanks to the military, my parents “retired” well below the Mason Dixon line. While we’re just far away enough from our extended family to escape weekly Sunday night suppers fueled with Chardonnay and bitterness, we’re just close enough to gather for the holidays. Due to our roots, cultural norms, and a little thing called “Ring by Spring” in the SEC, every single one of my sisters and female cousins are married. Every. Single. One.
As the heretic of the family who went to a city school “up north,” I missed out on lush green quads, all day tailgating, and the ability to lock down a fiancé my junior year of college. My grandmother blames my old maid status (I’m 23) on the fact that I chose an internship at the U.S. Supreme Court over debutante season. And this will, of course, be brought up at the dinner table on Thanksgiving night.
“You’ll never find a husband in a pantsuit…or with that hair,” she’ll drunkenly coo at me while tucking a loose strand behind my ear.
“It’s so flat. Your hair is so flat. You look like Hillary Clinton. Did you become a Democrat? Also…I think you’ve gained weight.”
As I watch Jim Beam take over the body of my 90-pound grandmother, I’ll nod politely and pour another drink. The eyes of twenty-five extended family members will be on me. Poor, poor, lonely Catie. How sad she must be. Sitting there all by herself. Bless her heart; she’s such a little trooper. Just a sad, sad, little trooper.
“I’m happy, Nana.” I’ll nod assuredly at the group. “I’m doing just fine.”
“Well, of course you’re not, sweetheart. You’re alone.”
With that, one of my cousins will interject with a solution.
“One of the guys Tommy works with is single. He’s recently divorced and a little odd looking, but at least you’d have someone.”
And then the flood gates will open.
“Joe has a friend of a friend of a friend who is single. I think his name is Malcolm. Do you want his number? I’ve never met him before, but I bet he’s really nice,” Caroline will say.
“Oh! I know this guy who I used to date in college, well his fraternity brother’s real brother just got out of a serious relationship and he’s all sorts of screwed up. We should find him on Facebook,” Ashley will add.
“No, you’re an idiot. My guy is better,” Elizabeth will butt in. “He’s super handsome and probably straight. I’m going to tell him to text you.”
I’ll sit, wishing to die, while simultaneously drinking the straight vodka I’m masquerading as water.
“Sorry” my mother will mouth from across the table as we sit silently while everyone dukes it out over which one of their guys I’m going to marry. Truth be told, I’ll hope for them to kill one another, but I won’t be so lucky. Instead, someone’s baby will be woken up from his nap in the other room thanks to the literal shouting that was taking place, and the mother will jump up from her seat at the table, like a fireman reporting for duty.
The brief reprieve will be appreciated, except that instead of silencing everyone like it should, the crying child will turn the conversation from marriage…to babies. As I sit there and listen to my younger cousin regale me of how her crying lump has changed her and how I’m really missing out on the joys of motherhood, I’ll bite my tongue and pray to Jesus that I don’t physically hurt her.
“All I’m saying, Catie, is that you gotta strike while the iron’s hot. You don’t want to be an old mom.”
“Well…that’s okay.” I’ll pause for a dramatic effect. “I don’t think I want to be a mom at all.”
“Lord have mercy,” my grandmother will say before clutching the cross around her neck and muttering the Lord’s Prayer while pouring another whiskey on the rocks.
For the rest of the dinner, my family will continue the meal in near silence, while giving each other worried glances when they think I’m not looking.
“This is all your fault, you know,” Nana will finally slur to my mother. “You never should’ve let her go to D.C. I bet she doesn’t even shave her legs anymore.”
As everyone’s eyes immediately shift underneath to table to check on this incorrect assumption, I’ll be saved from yet another drunken relative.
“Yeah, Washington is a mess,” my glossy eyed uncle will chime in. “Did you hear Detroit filed for bankruptcy?”
Ah, yes. Thank you, Uncle Chip. And thank you, city of Detroit. Saved by the bailout.