Note: This week, I let my 14-year-old daughter Poppy hijack my column since, as my wife Lala often reminds me, turnabout is fair play. ---
Usually, I like attending dinner parties with my parents. But when my mom and dad become too comfortable at a person’s house, disaster strikes like lightning in a rainstorm; one second, everything is fine; the next, there’s a fire.
One of these "rainstorms" rolled in last Friday when my brother London, my so-called father and I were at a party.
The event was supposed to celebrate a viewing of the movie in which the host had a speaking role, but it really turned out to be a reason for my dad to shamelessly embarrass me.
While the rest of the party guests were chowing down on sushi, my father was busy talking up a producer of independent films. My father adores making himself sound smart in front of strangers, but I see right through it.
When the time rolled around for us to start the movie, my good old daddy realized there was no sushi left. He claimed he was absolutely starving (my father has the appetite of a sumo wrestler).
"Poppy, there's no sushi left!" he whined. "When I was talking, everybody ate it all."
"Well, that's your fault," I said, looking longingly at the lemon squares.
"I'm starving. Do you think I can order a pizza?" he asked, patting his pockets for his cell.
"No, dad, we are at someone else's house. It's impolite."
"But I'm hungry!"
After this little conversation, my father oh-so-nonchalantly made his way to the fridge, and opened it up.
"Oh. My. God. What are you doing?!" I screamed, upset and quite embarrassed, as he pulled a Tupperware container full of shrimp out of the fridge and into his eager hands. I felt the same pang of anguish I experience when he answers the phone pretending to be me until my poor friend Ben practically bursts into tears out of frustration. Ben knows it's my father but, for some reason, my dad won't give up his awful valley girl impression of me.
At the party, I ran toward the man who is supposed to be my role model and grabbed the Tupperware out of his hands. I shoved the shrimp back into the fridge and stood protectively in front.
He tried reasoning with me: "Come on, Poppy, they won't care."
"You do not know that!"
"It's fine," he said in a calm voice.
"No, it's absolutely not!" I kept guard of the fridge and stared my father down until he finally gave up. After the host called us all in, we went to watch the movie but, after a while, we got back up to get more drinks and to take a little intermission. Everything was going A-OK and my dad was conspiring with his friend, Karla, about whether or not one of the party guests was a movie star, when suddenly—BAM!—the shrimp was out of the fridge again. My father was becoming more embarrassing than a dog dressed in one of Lady Gaga's outfits.
"Daaaaaad!" I whimpered.
"It's OK," he said, laughing at my distress. He enjoys watching me squirm.
"What's wrong, Poppy?" Karla asked.
"My dad is trying to eat that shrimp." I pointed to the scene of the crime.
"Oh, really? Then here." She rummaged through the fridge until she found a bottle of salad dressing. Once she had the glass bottle in hand, she passed it to my father, who was grinning with obnoxious glee. Before I could stop him, he poured the dressing into the Tupperware and started shaking the thing like a spaz.
"See, Poppy, it's totally fine. Don't be such a freak." His mouth was now brimming with brined crustaceans.
“I disown you,” I mumbled, as my dad slurped away at the little pink turds.
Robert Wilder’s most recent book is Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge. Daddy Needs a Drink appears the first Wednesday of each month in the Santa Fe Reporter.