the Elder Sister called a few evenings ago in a huff. having sorted through the usual general greetings and felicitations, we got down to the business of why precisely she was in a huff this week. i mentally ran over the things i’ve done this week, to figure out if i was the reason behind the huff, but came to the conclusion that i was completely blameless for this week’s episode of huffiness. having raised my mobile phone bill to levels beyond my income level, she proceeded to inform me that the Niece had come home that day and informed her that she had gotten a boyfriend.
which, generally, would have been happy news, except for the fact that the Niece is 10 years younger than me. i remember feeding this kid, changing her diapers and babysitting her while her mother studied for exams. i remember times when i carried her around on my lap at parties and other social events. apparently, unbeknownst to me, she had actually grown up.
more importantly, she had a boyfriend, whereas her very eligible, rich, intelligent and good looking (not to mention modest) uncle was still single. no fucking fair!
having found my own personal moment of misery within the happiness of my niece, i proceeded to heap congratulations upon the elder sister. “your kids are growing up,” “today a boyfriend, tomorrow a husband,” etc. etc. ad nauseum. however, it turns out that congratulations were not what was desired by the Elder Sister at that time. instead, she was furious about the fact that the Niece had a lovelife (not, may i just mention, that her brother lacked one). apparently, the Niece was too young to talk to guys. such a revelation took me back to my own puberty talk from my father, delivered when i was only a tender 18 BLOODY YEARS OLD.
while i tried to explain that times had changed from 30-odd years ago when the Elder Sister was the age of the Niece, and that such behaviors are now considered acceptable among the youth of this country, the Elder Sister was having none of it. rather, she proceeded to inform me that my duty now as the loving caring uncle that i am was to find this guy and beat the living crap out of him.
right. just the start i need to another week.
having slightly calmed down the Elder Sister, to the point where she no longer insisted on ritual sacrifice but just a good whacking for the boy, i proceeded to inform her that i would have no part of the beating up of an innocent teenage boy who was having his first relationship. moreover, i expressed my distaste at the Elder Sister’s attempted interference into the Niece’s personal life. more importantly, i wasn’t beating up any teenage kid without at least seeing him first – what if he worked out and had muscles and ended up beating the crap out of me? some of the teenagers in this country scare the living crap out of me.
hence the Elder Sister and i agreed that the best way for all parties to proceed in this extremely strange and unforeseen situation would be for me to have a chat with the kid. actually, i didn’t actually agree to anything – rather my intervention was volunteered in this case.
and so it turned out that i would be taking the young boy out for a chat. why i couldn’t talk to the guy on the phone or in a place that did not involve me spending my hard-earned meager salaray is beyond me. but, apparently, as i was informed by the Elder Sister, it was my duty as an uncle to spend money on the Niece and the apples of her eye. i swear, she better marry this kid – i’m not taking out any other boyfriends she may develop.
so this evening, i sat at my favorite cafe waiting for this young romeo to appear.
now we all know that i end up in situations that have no previous precedent whatsoever – just look at how i ended up taking my foricbly betrothed’s cousins out for ice cream. so obviously, i had no idea how to react or behave in this particular situation. do i act tough and angry and ask him his intentions with the Niece? do i crack jokes about making out with girls that will leave him scarred and emotionally deficient for the rest of his life? do i just act like myself and hope that he doesn’t dump the Niece for having such eccentric relatives? in the end, however, i opted for a slightly angry but yet willing to negotiate state of mind.
i should have known i was in trouble when this kid walked in with one pierced ear, a black half-sleeve t-shirt with the name of some obscure death metal band and a pair of the baggiest jeans i have ever seen in my life. i should have been concerned when he came up to me and said, “hey man, what’s up?” i should have run for the hills when he sat down, leafed through the menu and ordered half the menu – the expensive half. but no. being the understanding and caring uncle that i am, i decided to withstand the painful assault on my eyes and my wallet and figure out what this kid was really like.
in retrospect, i don’t know exactly what i was expecting. i was hoping for a slightly bookish kid who would order the vegetarian dish, would dissect schopenhauer over the main course and show me on a napkin how waste products could be recycled into energy over dessert. instead, what i got was “the coolest kid in school” who proceeded to explain to me how the same angst-filled kill-me-now lyrics of every single death metal song ever written inspired passion in his soul, and how every single piece of music that i listened to was crap. by the time dessert rolled around, i realized that death was a more welcome eventuality than having to hear again how the rich guitar chords of children of bodom could inspire delight in the kid’s soul.
having paid an exorbitant amount that would have been enough for my own personal sustenance over a three-month period, i resolved to leave as quickly as possible. however, i was yet to experience the magic of death metal for myself, as the kid hopped into my car, threw my beloved ben harper cd into the nether regions of the backseat and put on what i swear was the simultaneous death rattle of several million banshees. i had to endure this cacophony for the duration of the forty minute ride to his home, by which time i was certain that my sense of hearing had completely abandoned me for eternity.
the minute i got home, the phone began to ring incessantly – the Elder Sister, calling to find out how the “getting to know you” session had been. at this point, every single injustice committed by my entire family upon me welled up, and i lied to the Elder Sister that the boy was akin to an angel descended from the heavens. let her deal with the pants falling off the ass and the pierced ear when she finds out about it, i figured.
late this evening, the phone rang again – the Niece, this time. debating on whether i should embark on a “what the hell is wrong with you?” speech, i tentatively picked up the phone, to be greeted with her giggles.
at which point she informed me that the apple of her eye had passed his own judgement upon me – for an “old dude”, i was still quite “cool”. she hung up thanking me profusely for my positive review of the guy to her mother.
now i’m in a quandary. i don’t know whether to be pissed off at the Niece’s awful taste in guys, or to be ecstatic that teenagers still think i’m cool.