Sunday, November 4, 2007

It Was Not What You'd Call an "Awesome Moment"

Last weekend when I was home for a few days, I had to do something that no girl should ever have to do. I had to break down and ask my father if he minded terribly if the Boy From Work spent the night.

The BFW had spent the night before, of course. In fact, he'd done it almost every single night from July 10th until I left for Maine, but I'd been careful and considerate back then. I'd had the decency to keep my bedroom door wide open all night, which gave the impression that maybe the BFW and I had just happened into my bedroom and were hit with such an unexpected wave of tiredness that we took a quick nap. The BFW and I kept most of our clothes on, which I hoped would signal to my father, God forbid he ever had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and saw us together on my bed, that there was no funny business going on. If there's one thing my father hates more than anything else, it's his daughter engaging in any sort of funny business.

I set my alarm every night for some ridiculously early time--usually right around 5:30 AM--so I could sneak the BFW out the front door before my father's own alarm went off. That way it seemed like nothing had happened at all. There was no boy in my bed, and there was no record of any business being done, funny or otherwise.

Did my father know this was going on? Possibly. Probably. Did we ever speak of it? Absolutely not. There are just some things I feel ill-equipped to deal with, and one of those things is trying to explain to my father why I, a twenty-six year old girl, might want to spend the night with a boy in my bed.

But now it all just seems so silly. I'm on the backslide to thirty, and I'm fairly certain I have earned the right to spend the night in a bed with my boyfriend with the door shut and no alarm set to jar us awake at an ungodly hour.

Before I drove home, I asked the BFW if he knew what this meant. It meant I was going to have to admit to my father that there was a part of me that wanted to sleep in the same bed as a boy, which, in my father's brain, might have been translated as, I am a giant nymphomaniac, and I'd like to have lots of premarital sex in a bed under your roof.

I didn't know if my real argument would be good enough for him, or if it would even make it into his brain unmolested by the translation. My real argument was this: the thought of being in the same state as my boyfriend--and, in fact, being within a ten mile radius of my him--and not sleeping in the same bed he was sleeping in seemed cruel and inhumane. What would we do? Talk on the phone until 3:30 AM, me painting my toe nails and munching on popcorn, him surfing through the various ESPNs and having a staring contest with one of his cats? That was what I did when I was sixteen and infatuated with my cousin's boyfriend. We used to talk on the phone late into the night, until he fell asleep and started snoring. If there's going to be a boy snoring into my ear nowadays, he better be curled up next to me and not on the other end of a phone.

(The BFW, it should be noted, does not have a snoring problem. If there's an occasional snuffle, it can be remedied with a quick poke, and I am extremely thankful for that. Going to bed with this boy is a dream compared to the bedtimes I used to have with Ex-Keith, who was--probably is--a notorious snorer. There were times I definitely fantasized about smothering him with my pillow because I could not sleep, no matter how I rolled him or how many times I jabbed him in the side with my elbow. When he rolled out of bed the next morning--fresh-faced and cheery--I wanted to kill him.)

The BFW, however, was not concerned about the potential conversation I would have to have with my father. "Your father likes me," he said. "He'll be okay with it."

Later, when we were talking about the situation in front of Amy, the BFW repeated the sentiment again. "Her father likes me," he told Amy. "He's going to be okay with it."

"Ha," Amy said.

"Thank you!" I said, gesturing wildly at my best friend, who, because she's been around me for the last eight billion years, is well versed in the ways of my family, especially my father. "See? Someone will back me up on this!"

The BFW was convinced I was overreacting, that the conversation wouldn't be awkward, that the idea wouldn't bother my father, not at all.

"Ha," Amy said. "Good luck."

Of course, it wasn't the BFW who needed the luck. It was me. I was the one who was going to be having the conversation, and I was almost certain it wasn't going to go smoothly or elegantly. Somehow, I would foul it up because that's what I am good at.

I was able to delay the conversation until I arrived at my house on Sunday night. When I got there, I found my father stretched out on the couch watching Extreme Makeover, which I settled down to watch, too. On a commercial break, my father turned to me and inquired about the BFW.

"And will the BFW be joining us tonight?" he asked.

"He's working until midnight," I said. I felt a cringe settling into my shoulders. I could already tell where this was going. This moment was going to be my chance, my opening, my way to broach the subject. "He'll be over later."

"After work? Around midnight? Kind of late, huh?" my father asked.

"Well, yeah," I said. I swallowed around a lump in my throat. "Uhm, actually, Dad, I was wondering how you felt about him spending the night."

My father's response was immediate. "On the couch?" he asked. "In your brother's room?"

He'd assumed when I said spend the night I meant in a room that does not in any way contain me or my pajama-ed body.

"Uhm, well, no. In my room," I said, and there it was: those words, the words I knew would sink into the soft gray matter of my father's brain and cause a mini electrical storm that fired back an immediate gut reaction: No! No! No! No!

To his credit, my father kept that gut reaction vaguely concealed. He did not shriek No! No! No! No! into my face, but he didn't really say anything. In fact, he said nothing. He said nothing for a very heavy and uncomfortable set of seconds.

I felt I needed to fill the space. "Well, okay, alright, I mean, it's clear you're uncomfortable with it. I shouldn't have asked."

My father sighed.

I couldn't look at him. I thought back to times before when I'd been faced with similar uncomfortable moments that were brought to light because of a boy and my father's idea of what could happen with that boy if he didn't somehow control the situation. And controlling the situation usually meant telling me what I couldn't do with that boy. I couldn't see him. I couldn't talk to him. I couldn't be in an room with him if that room did not contain at least one parent.

I wanted to turn around and plant myself, face down, in the couch cushions.

"You mean in your little twin bed?" my father asked.

Then I did something really, really stupid, but--if you look at it the right way--really brave.

"Keith and I slept in my twin bed all through college," I said. Immediately, I regretted my quick decision to throw that snippet of information in my father's direction. On one hand, I wanted him to realize that this wasn't a new thing, that I'd been having sleepovers since I was eighteen years old. But on the other hand, what I did was pretty stupid. After all, I didn't want my father to reach back in his memory and think about all the boys I'd possibly shared a bed with. He didn't need to go down memory lane like that, because I was almost sure it would do nothing for my case. Therefore, to cut the mood and the air--which now felt like it weighed at least a hundred pounds--I tried to be funny.

"And Keith got really fat near the end of college, but we still managed," I said.

My father sighed again.

"It's okay," I said. "Forget it. No big deal. You don't like the idea."

"No, no," my father said. He scrubbed a hand across his face, a gesture that admitted defeat. "You're twenty-six years old. I guess it's alright."

I was so thrilled that I almost went on and said things that didn't need to be said. I was so thankful I almost said, We won't even touch each other, I swear! or I'll wear really ugly pajamas to bed, so you don't have to worry about anyone giving anyone else the eye!

But I clamped my teeth down on my tongue and remained silent. It was enough that we made it through that moment without one of us slowly disintegrating into nothing or else exploding into a million bits of buzzing red matter. I would take it, and I would be good. I would climb back into my tiny twin bed with my boy in the late hours of the night, and I would whisper in his ear, This feels just like summer, doesn't it? And the next morning I would be so, so careful about making an exit from my bedroom without the BFW, so my father, when I arrived in the kitchen, would be able to fool himself for a glorious few moments, trick himself into believing I was the only other one in the house and there wasn't a freckled boy tucked under the covers just a few steps down the hall.


Squints said...

Wow Jess! That takes some guts! I was not allowed to sleep in the same room in my parents house with Derek until we were married! Bold, good work.

Jason said...

"If there's an occasional snuffle, it can be remedied with a quick poke . . ."

But, really--what can't be remedied by a quick poke?


ba-dum crash

Thank you. I'm sorry.

Diana said...

I've been waiting for this day.

Jess said...

Oh, Diana? What day is that? The embarrassing day I had to ask my father if I could sleep in a bed with a boy? Sigh.

Diana said...

The day you'd summon up the nerve to do it--you're a grown up, kitten!

Jess said...

It's true. I am. I definitely know that. I just think sometimes it's hard for a father to want to think about his little girl in that way.


cornshake said...

omg. you are much more brave than i. i *still* get a little antsy when my parents visit and D and i say goodnight and go upstairs. together. and we are married! and have a baby! i got nervous and stressed just reading this. ;)

Jess said...

I think I just needed to do it, Aimee, because I don't have all that many chances to see the BF. If I am going to be in the same state as he is, I need to be in the same bedroom, too. And my mother would allow me to sleep with him at her house, so I figured my father could get to that frame of mind, too. After all, he sleeps with HIS girlfriend when I'm there. (Yes, I know there's a difference, but still.)