When Aging Lad popped round yesterday to unveil his plans for Valentine’s Day, it brought back vivid memories of his misadventure last year.
He’s in the habit of visiting occasionally, to get a fix of teeming family life. Thus he can reaffirm his chosen path of one-night stands and zero responsibility, and we can experience the violent envy that’s so bracingly testing to our morale.
Last year we assumed his February call was business as usual, so were staggered when he showed us a diamond engagement ring, saying he was going to propose to his most recent paramour, the waitress from Pizza Express. While we hauled our jaws back up off the floor, he went on, ‘Booked a table for Valentine’s at the Real Eating Company. Champagne, bended knee, the works.’
I pinned a screaming Thing Two to the floor to prevent him smashing his sister’s face in with a light sabre, the kind of standard parenting technique which would normally send Aging Lad half-way down the highway on that lonesome bachelor trail. But he didn’t even flinch.
‘Lad!’, wailed my Crèche-Manager (we job-share), appalled our friend was failing every beat up, broken down, vicarious-living Lewes husband, ‘What’s happened to you?’
Aging Lad humorously sat Thing One on top of a bookcase, then sauntered into the kitchen for a drink, forgetting she was there. ‘Getting old, guys’, he called over his shoulder, as Crèche-Manager caught her in an outstretched blanket, ‘You know how it is’.
On 15th February he was reluctant to talk, claiming an almighty hangover, but finally, we got the story. It had started well: Pizza Waitress looked lovely, the food was great, the champagne sparkling. So sparkling that Aging Lad drank most of it – ‘out of nerves’ he claimed. He then forgot his honourable intentions and reverted to type, flirting outrageously with the waitress serving their meal, rather than the one sitting opposite him.
Time was at the Real Eating Company you’d have been hard pushed to find a waitress to take your order, let alone one to flirt with, but things have changed. Lad teased, flattered, and leered; and when he finally went down on bended knee it was to look up the wrong waitress’s skirt. Pizza Waitress ran to the deli counter and grabbed what she thought was a wheel of cheese to crown him with, but luckily for our Lad it was a large buttermilk loaf and he got away with superficial crumb damage.
So yesterday we were surprised by his undimmed enthusiasm as he waved the engagement ring about again. ‘Second time lucky’, he grinned.
‘Who’s the unlucky girl now?’ I asked, hiding a traumatised Thing One behind my legs.
‘Oh’, he mumbled, ‘Waitress from the Real Eating Company.’ He was hazy about how they’d got together.
‘Where you taking her?’ asked Crèche-Manager.
‘Thought we’d try Artisan’, Aging Lad said airily, ‘I don’t know what the food’s like but they’ve got some cracking-looking staff.’
Beth Miller, 9th February 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com.