Slowly but surely, I am turning into my girlfriend.
I suppose this is natural in any relationship. Spend enough time around your significant other, and you start to absorb some of their traits. It’s not like I’m suddenly wearing heels and carrying a purse – at least not in public – but there are little things I’ve picked up here and there. Habits and phrases and the like. And I believe she’s done the same. After all, she was a football fan when we met, and now she’s a Denver Broncos fan, which probably has something to do with my longstanding allegiance to the team. Either that, or she’s suddenly developed excellent sports tastes.
(As an aside, there was a brief time when I did carry a purse. Well, not really. But I did strap on a fanny pack a few times in the late 80s, until I actually got a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realized that doing so was wrong on about a hundred different levels. Oh, the shame. I worked in a luggage store and they were all the rage. Luckily, I never succumbed to the whole “man bag” craze despite an episode of Seinfeld (greatest sitcom ever!) in which Elaine convinces Jerry to carry a purse. But I digress).
Anyway. This became evident to me yesterday, when I was shopping for groceries and picked up a tube of squeezable minced garlic.
When I visited, Tara had a tube of squeezable minced garlic in her fridge, and I sort of made fun of that. In a lovable way, of course. Because there is nothing like freshly minced garlic, am I right or am I right? Especially when you’ve got a fancy garlic press (thanks, Ikea!) that makes it simple to mince garlic to your heart’s content. I couldn’t understand why somebody would pay $3 for a tube of garlic when you can buy a whole clove for 33-cents.
And then I tried it.
I was cooking her dinner that Tuesday after Christmas. Chicken cacciatore. The recipe calls for garlic, and because all she had was that squeezable tube, I grabbed it from the refrigerator and squirted a dash into the pan.
Wow, I thought. That was easy. And really convenient. There was no garlic to peel, no garlic press to disassemble and wash, no garlic residue on my fingers. And the dish did not suffer from a lack of fresh garlic. The dish, it turned out, had no idea I’d made a fourth-quarter substitution.
Which is why I forked over $3 for a tube of squeezable garlic yesterday.
But that’s a little thing. One bigger change I’ve noticed is a sudden interest in being sociable.
Not that I was ever a hermit or anything. Growing up an Air Force brat, all my childhood friends are scattered across the globe, so there is nobody I keep in touch with. I have been unable to locate my best friend from high school, despite repeated attempts utilizing the resources of the world wide web. And the friends I made from work are all married or partnered up. It’s tough being the proverbial third wheel. Because of these factors, more often than not I found myself alone when I didn’t have the kids. This didn’t bother me; I’m the guy who took a solo road trip across the country, remember? But there was definitely something missing from my life. I would look to my parents, who always have friends to invite over or hang out with, and wonder how they made it all seem so effortless. I think a big part of it was a mental block on my part.
And then I met Tara. My first trip to Ely, she had her friend Ray join us for dinner one night. I was a little surprised to learn he was coming over, but we had a good time together. In October, when we visited her mom in Seattle, there was a night spent playing cards and drinking wine with her brother’s girlfriend, Anne. Again, a highlight of the trip. I was beginning to realize I enjoyed the company of others – the laughter, the camaraderie, the stories. So when she and I threw a dinner party the Friday before New Year’s, I was actually excited to play co-host, and had a great time.
So, when I had friends from Sacramento in town over the weekend, the logical thing to do was to invite them over for dinner. We’d already had plans to meet up in Portland on Saturday, but I figured, why not have everybody over to my house in the evening, as well? That way we could have a nice, relaxing dinner, drink some wine, play some cards, listen to music, let the conversation flow. I floated the idea out there, and it was met with enthusiasm. It was a spontaneous move on my part, and totally inspired by Tara, but I was excited to have people over and entertain ’em. Besides, once I’d sent the text to Chris, I couldn’t very well back down!
Earlier in the day we’d met up at Powell’s Books in the funky, eclectic Hawthorne District of southeast Portland. My friend Chris (from Portland Book Review) and her daughter Ruthie, and Heidi and her daughter Jordan, who had flown up from Sacramento. I first met Heidi in person last June, when I lost my car in the parking garage (another Seinfeldian moment in my life), though I’ve known her through blogging – and as a business associate – for years. We walked around Hawthorne, stopping in a bunch of cool shops and taking a break for lunch at a Mexican restaurant before parting ways. I had a dinner to prepare, after all, and even though spaghetti is fairly simple, it still required a few hours to cook.
They showed up at 5 PM and the five of us – plus my kids – spent the next several hours eating, drinking, talking, listening to records, and playing Phase 10, the card game that I have really gotten hooked on these past few months. It turned out to be a great evening, much more comfortable (and less expensive) than if we’d been out on the town. I enjoyed having everybody over, though it definitely would have been even better if Tara had been there. That’s one thing we’ve talked about – the dinners we’ll host and the parties we’ll have when she’s living here. I can’t wait for those!
And I thank her for bringing me out of my shell and introducing me to a whole new world, one which I find quite appealing.