I knew I had to be on my best behavior if I must convince my Fiancée’s billionaire dad that I’m the best man for his daughter. They invited me over for dinner but I knew it was more of ‘sizing me up’ than merriment. They wanted to know my worth, to know my level of sophistication, my psych, to appraise my mode of conduct. If I was top class enough.
The table was set and dinner was served. There were about three or four butlers that waited on us while we ate. There were lots of sea foods. Oysters and green jellies. Roasted cat-fish roundly capped with well circle sliced onions, skewed fried snails; sandwiched with red sizzling fresh pepper and neatly sliced pumpkin leafs. Muffins and doughnuts were set in three tiers on different edges of the table. Hot potatoes, mashed with fairly ripe tomatoes and powder-grinded lobsters and shrimps were closely placed to the children’s sides of the table. It wasn’t their favorite, I noted from their furrowed faces.
“It’s good for the body, eat up, eat up” their mom nudged them.
One thing was on my mind though; the green flavored fried rice and the sizzling oil dripping-chicken that was placed on a white flat ceramic plate. My plan was to gel it with the mixed fresh vegetable salad that was at arm’s length from my spot. It was gastronomical.
My fiancée, who sat directly before me across the table, every now and then kept glancing at me. She was unsettled. She knows how terrible I am in the things of table. I hate eating under societal conforms. I hate eating; feeling supervised. Worst still; I was unaccustomed to rich families’ table’s etiquettes.
Before me were set of cutleries, cutleries I had no idea what they are used for. There were knives and forks. There were spoons, but in different sizes. There were others that looked like instruments of war. One in particular got me really worried on what its use was. It looked a bit like a dining knife, a double picket kind of dining knife with sharp edges at both ends. I stared at it over and over again, crying inwardly on how such an insignificant thing might ruin my chances of a lifetime love.
Surreptitiously I peered into Sidney’s eyes, trying to communicate my worries across. She got the message and smiled in restrain.
“Don’t worry, it’s no biggie” said her smiles.
I took a deep breath, sat up, and slowly began to fiddle with the cutleries. One of the butlers, the one standing 80 degrees adjacent me realized my predicament and began to laugh in restrain. His lips trembled while his eyelids batted intermittently. It was most embarrassing.
Everything seemed regimented and rehearsed. The kids’ hands moved simultaneously as if they were programmed robots. They sip wine at the same time, dap off their mouths at the same time, relax at the same time and resume eating at the same time. Her dad, who was sitting by the far edge of the table, ate as if dining was a delicate art. In fact they all appeared so. The way they interchanged cutleries left my mouth agape. Each food had its own instrument. There was one for the salads, one for the seashells, one for the shrimps, one for the muffins and variety of ones for the different soups they prepared. They even had ones for cakes and apples.
I watched in utmost surprise, as Sidney’s dad sliced bacon using four different types of cutleries. Before he sips wine, he will pause and allow the already eaten food to digest properly. Then he will carefully take a sip, barely touching the glass to his lips.
“Won’t one lose appetite?” I thought to myself.
Everyone was silent. The only thing talking were clinks and clanks of cutleries and plates. One of the butlers was on the grand piano chording out light and melodious jazz tunes to the excitement of the dad, I suppose. I pitied my fiancée and her younger siblings. They were in hell in decoration of heaven. They were living in a big expansive house, yet they appeared like people suffering from claustrophobia; small and repentant. Everything about them seemed preplanned. Their movements were quick and stiff. Their eyes hardly wander. They hardly smile, talk less of laughing. The entirety of their behaviors appeared almost robotic. I hated being a billionaire at that very instant even though I changed my mind soon after.
Dining according to the dictates of societal table etiquettes was the least of my worries. My greatest concern was how I was going to miss out on all these tongue whetting delicacies all because I will be eating them with unfamiliar instruments. I wasn’t born rich so forks and knives aren’t really my thing; I am a spoon-eating kind of guy, the kind of guy that will stay in a hotel room sipping shell stews in company of loud rasping sounds while drinking wine from the bottle. I’m that kind of guy that enjoys crunching the bones of my chickens to a shard state. I love to get ‘hands-on’ every now and then with my food. I love to eat with liberty, to eat with friends where I can elaborately wag my jaw or chew anyhow I want, where I can feel free to pick things that filed in-between my teeth. Where I can belch out loud after gulping a glass of wine, where I can talk with a mouthful without fear of hostility from surrounding guests or hosts. That’s who I am.
Who said one can’t eat while standing? Who said one can’t eat while watching super bowl, game of thrones or any other interesting TV program? Who said one can’t have a nice family conversation during dinner? Who said a man must genuflect while proposing to a woman? Who said women must be the ones to always make dinners? Who said you must wear suits to work? Who said we must work five days a weeks. Who said so, who- THE SOCIETY?
The first time I took Sidney out for Dinner, we were both smiles and giddy. But when our order came, my spirit dampened. I ordered my favorite; chicken wings with debris of over fried onions. She had vegetable salad, corn beef and roasted cow leg that she ate with a constant squirt of ketchup that was placed by the left edge of the table. I knew what I wanted to do with the chicken wings. I wanted to tear them into pieces with my fingers and gnaw them with both sides of my teeth while the oil dripped down my fingers. But I couldn’t, I had to be the perfect gentleman for my lady, at least for that first occasion. I had to be like those kinds of gentlemen that sip their wines as little as possible. That hardly gets the rim of their glasses to their lips. That eats sophisticatedly as if eating is a gentleman’s profession.
I ate the chickens with cutleries, chewing them as blithely as possible and at the end of the day, it was all a waste. I didn’t enjoy them one bit. I couldn’t lick those juices neither could I lick my fingers.
When we got home, Sidney sensed my weary movements and sudden taciturn and began to wonder what my problem was.
“Baby, what’s the matter?” she asked pulling off her shoes.
“Nothing, I’m fine. Just a bit tired.” I replied, sounding as brief as possible.
“Well I find that very hard to believe. Something is wrong, I can tell, just tell me or I will ask you all night instead of us doing the other thing all night” she teased, slowly stepping closer to me.
She came very close that I felt her breadth whooshing on my neck. Her hair smelt like apple juice, her breath wafts of berries. Her breast was full and firm like watermelon and her cheekbones were slender like crispy hot wings.
Gently she ran her fingers up through my body, draped her hands on my shoulders and as slowly as possible, gave me a very brief but permeable kiss.
“I’m all ears” she reasserted, peering into my eyes.
I dilly dallied for a while before opening up.
“Well I was just a little disappointed about the dinner.”
“What about the dinner?” she asked, squinting.
I restrained for a while before speaking again.
“I didn’t really eat the food as much as I had wanted.”
“What exactly do you mean by that?”
“I mean,” I paused again, feeling a bit shy. “I didn’t really munch the chicken as much as I had wanted to.”
“And why didn’t you?” she persisted.
“Well-you know-i-i-i-i,” I stuttered a bit. “I was trying to be a gentleman.”
“pfffff” she scoffed and bent her face downwards, chuckling.
“You are kidding, right?” she asked, still grinning.
“I wish I was.” I replied, keeping a straight face.
Afterwards a romance silence befell us. Her face was still downwards as her pointy nose poked my chest from time to time. Slowly she withdrew her right hand from my left shoulder, took the already uncorked bottle of wine that was near a Chinese vase on my glass table and took a quick swig. She yelped and wiped her mouth with the back of her palm, dropped the bottle and placed her hand on my shoulder again. We remained interlocked, staring into each other’s eyes.
“How would you have eaten it?” she asked in a very low and husky tone.
“Do you really want to know?” I asked.
“Yes. Tell me” she reasserted, sounding huskier than before.
“Well, first of all, with my bare hands, I would have torn the wings into different parts, graze and shove them together with those over-fried onions, after which I will gnaw and crunch their bones, milking out those stew juices from them. You know, get a little dirty than the whole fancy fork and knife thing.” I quickly added.
She remained silent again as we continued to stare at each other. The mood was becoming warm.
“Will you eat me like that?” she teased, steadying her eyes to mine.
“Pardon” I quipped, pretending not to have heard her. Slowly she leaped up and whispered into my right ear:
“Will you get dirty with me? Will you munch and crunch me into shards? Will you sip my ‘stew juices’?”
“Jude why aren’t you eating?” her mom asked me, eyes piercing and disapproving as I fiddled with the cutleries.
Everyone in the room paused and stirred their gazes towards me. Sidney withdrew and recoiled inwardly. She avoided eye contact with me. She wasn’t embarrassed, just shy. My stomach churned as her mother spoke. I needed a good answer and I needed it fast.
“Do none of the dishes interest you?” she asked, sarcastically.
“pffff” I scoffed. “Ma, are you kidding me, these are awesome.” I responded, sounding as blasé as possible.
“Then what else is the matter?” she persisted, sounding a bit serious and concerned.
Swiftly, I took a glass of water, drew a long breath, reclined into my seat and began to speak:
“Sir, Ma, if I may crave your indulgence, I’m not used to highly impeccable table manners and sophisticated eating instruments like these ones before me. I wish I was, but I’m not. And I will be damned if I can’t even be honest with you over such an insignificant but significant issue.”
I paused and readjusted forward to the edge of my seat.
“Sir, Ma. I’m so in love with your daughter that my heart literally skips anytime I see her. I sincerely believe that no man alive can treat and love her the way I hope to treat and love her. I may not be high class, nor sophisticated. I may not know how to appreciate the gentleness of jazz or the fillip that comes with the act of sipping wines with ease. I don’t play golf neither do I know much about the indices of stock exchange, heck, I can’t even eat with regular forks and knives, but my love for your daughter is way advanced and sophisticated than all that. All I ask for is your blessings to make her mine. Please, Sir, Ma, I would love to marry your daughter.”
Everyone’s gazes once again, simultaneously redirected to the parents. Sidney seemed thrown and proud. I saw excitement in her eyes. I saw acceptance in her siblings’ eyes. I saw gladness, calm and pride in my own eyes, but I saw nothing in her parents’ eyes. The silence was palpable. Her dad swung his face upwards, looking at nothing in particular. Her mom took a deep breath and folded her hands across her chest. She seemed assailed. My heart raced and raged at the same time. My seat became hot. The suspense was chilling.
Finally, her dad brought down his face, chuckled for a moment and said:
“Son; welcome to the family.”