“I SUPPOSE you’ll want to meet him then,” I sighed, hiding my nervousness behind a piece of cherry log.
“Only if you want to, no rush,” Daddy Dunne replied, looking up from The Star, before retreating hurriedly when he saw the look on Mammy Dunne’s face.
“Of course we want to meet him, don’t be an eejit all your life,” she exploded, banging her tea-cup down on the table, her eyebrows working overtime at my father, translating into ‘shut up you, you gobshite, this might be our only chance to marry her off’.
I had been dating Yer Man for about two months and we had quickly become inseparable. We met almost every night, even if only for an hour, spent whole weekends together and had basically morphed into one of those sickening couples who use the royal ‘we’.
It was my first serious relationship, I had never even mentioned another boy’s name to my parents, so my constant chatter of ‘Yer Man said this’ and ‘Yer Man said that’ had clued them in that this might be the real deal.
I decided it was time to Meet the Parents, get it over with, instead of leaving it for years and building it up into a whole ‘Doctor Livingstone I presume’ thing.
We set the date, the next Saturday, for lunch.
By that morning I decided it was a good thing there was going to be food involved as I hadn’t eaten all week. Or slept.
Sheer terror took to waking me up every morning at 4am, shaking me awake. Taunting me. I had a bad case of the what ifs and, boy, did Terror exploit that.
What if they hated him?
What if he and Daddy Dunne came to blows over the relative merits of Liverpool FC versus Leicester FC?
What if Daddy Dunne discovered Yer Man doesn’t really do the GAA? Practically sacrilege in our house.
What if Yer Man didn’t have a second ham-and-cheese toastie and mortally insulted Mammy Dunne, who would forever brand him ‘a poor eater’?
What if, and this was the big one, Yer Man took one look at the pair of them, decided it was too scary a future to even contemplate and ran for the hills?
Mammy and Daddy Dunne headed off to the shops the morning of the meeting, allegedly to buy some essentials, but really to buy enough cakes, buns and doughnuts to feed an army, in a bid to impress Yer Man and make sure he knew they were people who could put on a spread.
Though they tried to hide it, I knew they had a bad case of the What Ifs, themselves.
What if he was a skinhead?
Or a drug addict?
What if he was a gold-digger, only out to fleece me? You hear of them, you know. Men who prey on unsuspecting women and get them to hand over their life savings for a few turns in the sack. The fact that I had precisely €17.87 to my name didn’t seem to matter.
What if he was the shy and retiring type who didn’t say two words? What would they TALK about? The horror.
What if, and this was the big one, Yer Man took one look at the pair of them, decided it was too scary a future to even contemplate and ran for the hills, not taking me off their hands at all?
“No,” Mammy Dunne decided pushing the trolley frantically along the cake aisle in Tesco “no, we can’t have that. Put another 17 boxes of French Fancies in there. We’re not letting this one get away.”
While they were out buying enough confectionary to give a small town diabetes, Yer Man arrived up to the house in a taxi, wearing a shirt so ironed it would take the sight out of your eyes.
“Why are you smiling like that,” I asked, terrified.
“I’m practicing,” he said through clenched teeth “this is my ‘I’m a nice guy’ smile, shut up!”
We sat in petrified silence in the sitting room, palms sweating, jumping at every little noise, until eventually we heard them pulling into the driveway.
Mammy Dunne bustled into the room full of the joys of spring, hand outstretched in welcome, enormous ‘I’m the perfect mother-in-law honest’ grin on her face, booming with laughter and asking, unnecessarily, “Is this him?”
Yer Man took an involuntary step backwards.
She’s a force to be reckoned with in full flow is Mammy Dunne. He gulped, but to his credit managed a normal non-axe-murdery grin back at her and they were off.
Daddy Dunne meanwhile circled in the background, giving Yer Man the once over for stray tattoos or piercings. Finding none and taking in the blinding crispness of his shirt, he nodded once and stepped forward for a handshake.
Although a little stilted at first, thankfully conversation flowed and pressure off, we all ate like animals.
Yer Man, clocking up the brownie points like there was no tomorrow, managed two ham-and-cheese toasties, three cans of coke, a cream cake, a few biscuits and a veritable mountain of French Fancies.
Mammy Dunne regarded him proudly. The boy could eat.
He was in.