Today on Alphabet City: Chef’s portrayal in the book causes trouble when his parents visit for Holy Week.
My partner, Chef, was racing around the house two days ago “straightening” up. He picked through a stack of magazines leaving several issues of Bon Appétit but trashing some copies of Next, New York’s weekly pub about gay nightlife featuring a couple of shirtless guys. He tucked away a couple of DVDs we watch occasionally to spice up our 10 year relationship. And then raced to pull down from high on a bookshelf a questionable faux flower arrangement given to me by his mother a few years ago.
“Woah, woah, woah. What’s going on here? You’re in some kind of panic,” I worried.
“It’s Holy Week! My parent’s are coming!” he replied nervously.
Typically, I am the one whose agitation level gets set to threat level Red at the thought of my Mexican in-laws annual two week visit to our house. But after a few years of therapy dealing with my own family issues, I was feeling relaxed—dare I say—excited about their visit. So Chef’s nervous energy surprised me. I probed a little deeper and he confessed.
“They told that when they get here, they want to read Alphabet City,” Chef said sheepishly.
“But that means they’re going to read that part.”
That part. That part. That sweet chapter about how kismet brought us together—online—because I loved the way Chef described himself in cyberspace as a “happy soul, well endowed.” Before the book was published, we had many talks about if Chef was okay with that chapter. While he mostly worried about what his friends would say—they’ve been teasing him mercilessly—it hadn’t dawned on him that his parents might read it. I wanted to make some cheeky comment about how no Dad would be ashamed of a son for that, but instead decided to take the higher ground.
“From my experience, parents will read into it what they want. They love you. It will be fine. Besides, it probably won’t even translate.”
We were both right. That night, upon their late arrival, his parents made a huge deal out of my book—insisting I sign a copy for each of them. His Dad told me he would be start reading it before bedtime. Chef fidgeted restlessly in bed all night and then left early, leaving me to face the music on my own the next morning. And it was worse than expected—starting with the title.
“What does it mean ‘sitcom?’” my mother-in-law asked. I made a note to change the subtitle to ‘my telenovela life’ in Spanish.
“Why are you around all the celebrities? I don’t understand this job,” my father-in-law questioned. This time, the “even Jesus had a publicist” line of reasoning seemed in bad taste, especially so close to Easter.
“And there’s a part about my son,” papa-in-law continued. Now I was fidgeting with my coffee, not sure at all how this was about to go down.
“When he tells you…the name he is giving to the dog—Frida Carlota Xocitil Amarilla Buchmeyer Chavez! So funny!”
On cue, little Frida came racing into the dining room, demanding to sit in her grandpa’s lap. He evidently had skipped right over the problematic part, and delved into the chapter about his son and I becoming a family. Ten years ago, when I first met his parents over a similar awkward breakfast, I never would have imagined this conversation. But here we were, sharing a moment, my in-laws truly proud of my accomplishment, and loving me like a real part of the clan.
While I’m not sure they understand everything that’s in the book, I’m fine with that. And so is Chef. Some things are better left lost in translation.