Monday, August 03, 2009

COLUMN: Summit

Grr. It's been one of those weeks where very little column-worthy's been going on in my life. Jeez, and it had such potential, too.

I mean, this weekend was the dreaded Parental Summit, wherein my girlfriend's parents journeyed to Galesburg to meet MY parents. This would be GREAT, right? And my great I mean AWFUL, naturally. After all, these are MY parents, legendary in the art of telling embarassing and cringe-worthy tales. I was prepping for the entire day to be an unholy exercise in patience, luck, and my deft ability to change the subject in mid-conversation.

But, like all potentially awful events in my life, the upswing is that even the worst of days can become the best of newspaper columns. I drove to Galesburg with trepidation in my heart but a sharpened and eager pencil in my pocket. If I was going to take the fall this day, at least I'd have something epic to write about. As I was driving towards my certain embarassing doom, I kept looking to the skies but not once did I see four horsemen. Good sign for me, bad sign for the column.

The sad and boring truth is that the whole day went swimmingly well. Astoundingly and shockingly well, actually. My parents and her parents got along from the first moment.

My dad wanted to show off his newest handiwork -- he just finished screening in the entire patio, an epic project with plans dating back to my childhood. Her dad asked all the right questions and nodded at all the appropriate points in the guided patio tour. Me, I got lost 30 seconds into it. There was something about expanding wood and aluminum reinforcements and suddenly the word "wolmanized" was in there someplace -- if wolmanized is, in fact, a word, which I'm not quite sure about. I was just amused at how my dad said "wolmanized" and then thought about what a weird word it is to pronounce, so I kept doing it in my head over and over - wol-MAN-ized, WOL-man-ized, wol-man-IZED -- and then pondered whether or not one who wolmanizes is referred to as a "wolmanizer," and how THAT is a business card I would kill to have ("Shane Brown, Wolmanizer") and then suddenly it turned into a Britney Spears song ("Wolmanizer, wolma-wolmanizer, oh, you're a wolmanizer, baby") ...and the next thing I knew, our guests were saying "cool" to my beaming father while once again I remain perhaps the most ignorant and inept son to ever live who couldn't build his way out of a paper bag, let alone screen it in with proper wolmanization. Sorry, Pop.

But the point is that the dreaded summit wasn't too particularly dreadful at all. Happily, she and I are both blessed with relatively cool parents (as cool as parents can be, I suppose) who are free of pretention, snobbery, and hang-ups. They got along like gang-busters.

And I only wanted to kill my mother once, but it really wasn't her fault. She only made the misfortune of saying "yes" when asked the following: "OOH! DO YOU HAVE ANY BABY PICTURES?"

Now, here I need to interrupt the story and talk a little bit about my girlfriend. One of things that initially made me go ga-ga for her was her countless photos up on Myspace and her seemingly inate ability to look cute as a button in every single one of them. "My God," I thought, "she's, like, the most photogenic human being in the world. This girl does NOT take a bad picture."

Now I know better. This is not to say that my girlfriend is anything less than wonderful (calm down, honey.) In fact, I'm quite the lucky feller to be with someone so stinkin' cute. But she, like everyone else on planet Earth whose names don't include the words "Iman" or "Schiffer," is not immune to the occasional bad photo. She simply overcompensates for it by taking approximately 11,000 photos of every major event in her life -- events such as, oh, driving in a car.

The other day, in fact, we were driving in a car when she went, "Ooh! This needs a picture!" Naturally. Because three score from now, we'll want to be sitting in our rocking chairs reminiscing fondly, "Ooh, remember that one time when we went driving in a car? Good times..." But, me being the nice guy and all, was like, "Umm, okay." I then learned that it takes upwards of 12 staged photographs to effectively capture the pure spontaneous bliss of driving in a car. By this time, I'm flash-blind and a danger to pedestrians. But at least if I killed a pedestrian, we could provide the police with our own handy photographic evidence.

This doesn't sit well with me, as I detest having my photo taken once, let alone 12 times. I don't need twelve reminders of what an unphotogenic mess of a human being I am. Cameras point at me and my head instinctively turns to an odd angle, my eyes sink into my head, my second chin grows a third, and my mouth forms what my brain thinks is a smile but my brain is sadly mistaken. This is a girl who can take twenty pictures of a dress, and this is a boy who takes less than twenty pictures per decade.

My mother, on the other hand, shares my girlfriend's fondness for capturing those moments of life best lost to the ages. Next thing I knew, photo albums were coming out like the wind. Chubby baby Shane. Christmas morning Shane. Crying Shane in a forced pose with a fake Santa. Shane dressed up as Uncle Sam for the sesquicentennial parade. Shane in his "Welcome Back Kotter" sweatshirt. Acne-ridden pubescent Shane. "Ooh, remember that one time when you had those grotesque zits? Good times..."

But I survived, despite the assorted ohh-ing and aww-ing of the female summit members and the eyerolls of the male contingency. Pizza was had, jokes were told, and hopefully some new friends made. Too bad it wasn't exciting enough to make for a good newspaper column. Or was it...?

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