Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Oh, auntie...

Quick note: in Chile, we don't call our friends' parents' Mr. or Mrs. this-or-that. We call them aunt or uncle. My father is the exception to this rule, demanding my guy friends and boyfriends to refer to him as "Don (instert my dad's first name.)" It would be totally Godfatherish if my dad was intimidating, which he's not.

I'm used to being adored by my friends' parents'. Some friends even invite me over to their houses more often than their other friends because they want their parents to have a better opinion of them. I say this very humbly: parents LOVE me. I'm convinced it all comes down to table manners. I give all the credit to my mom, who was always very strict about them (I usually neglect manners at home just to piss her off, but they blossom as soon as I enter somebody else's house) and etiquette as well. I always eat with both hands on the table, sit up straight, and won't start eating until everyone has their food on their plates. So it's all about manners and the ability to make small talk sound remarkably interesting.

Getting along with your best friend's mom is very much like getting along with your in-laws. You're with their child all the time and they tell you everything they don't tell their parents. You have to earnt their trust and let them know that their precious child is in good company. I feel I always had a little trouble reaching my best friend's mom. She's very quiet and I always thought her to be a little harsh. There was also the fear that she secretly wanted me to shut the fuck up for once and for all.

When my best friend left she asked me to check on her mom regularly, a task that seemed challenging at first because I didn't know what to talk about with her. The first couple of weeks I called her we had brief and very polite conversations. I talked to another friend who was also checking on her, asking her what else I could talk about with Aunt. She said, "I don't really know what to say to her either, so we just text from time to time." Brilliant. That was just what I needed to hear, the perfect solution to my problem.

I resorted to texting. That worked pretty well for a while, but then I thought about how impersonal texting can be. This was my best friend's mom, and she deserved better. If her daughter ever asked her if I'd kept in touch, I didn't want her telling my best friend that we'd texted a lot. I wanted to be a better friend than that. It was back to calling...

After a few phone conversations over a few weeks, I took a leap of faith and asked her to join me for a cup of coffee. She said yes, and when we met and walked to the coffee shop my mind kept telling me this was going to be awkward as hell. What was I gonna talk to her about? Shit. This wasn't good. We ordered coffee and when we sat down I asked the smartest thing I've ever asked in my adult life: "So, aunt, how was your summer?" The most extraordinary thing happened. She talked and talked and went on and on, leaving no room for me to make stupid small talk. I found myself laughing my ass off at some of her stories. And we barely talked about her daughter, my best friend. It was reassuring to know we had other topics of conversation besides her. It was all about her summer and how much fun she had with her friends and her job. I realized that she wasn't harsh. She's just dry, which means she also has dry humor. I love dry humor. How could I have missed this about her? We had a lovely time together, and I felt like I had finally earned her trust.

She called me a couple of days ago and she made me laugh a lot. She didn't think that what she was telling me was particularly funny and she was a little upset about it, which only made me enjoy it more. Her birthday is coming up, and I called her to save me a day of that week because I'm taking her out to dinner. She said "awww, darling" and suggested that we also had to celebrate my belated birthday. A dual celebration it shall be. I'm looking forward to this, and I'm abnormally happy about all the progress we've made during my friend's absence.

I just hope she'll never hear the words "I don't like that friend of yours" coming from her mom.