#57 Artsy tits and asses
“Okay, let’s address all your worries,” I say in my calmest voice, trying to sound like a teacher. Like Caroline. If I just imagine I’m her instead of me, maybe I can do this. “I understand that you love me and want what’s best for me, but I think that our views on the matter differ greatly.”
Dshawn chuckles, but turns the sound into a cough when my Dad sends him a death glare.
“Let’s start with marriage,” I decide, taking a sip of wine. “There are three reasons why we don’t need to talk about marriage ever again. 1: We’ve only been together for… four months? Three months?” I look at Dshawn, who just shrugs. “For a while, not that long. So marriage wouldn’t even be on our radar, even if that was something we would like to do one day, which it isn’t.”
I talk right over my mother. “2: I don’t want to get married. I don’t believe in marriage and I think that a wedding is a waste of money that could be spend elsewhere. I’ve never dreamt of a big white dress or a dozen white doves flying over a little church while people throw rice at me, or whatever it is people do at weddings. I don’t want a wedding, and I don’t need a stupid piece of paper to know that someone loves me and wants to be with me.”
Everyone is staring at me like I’m crazy, except for Dshawn, who tries to keep a poker face. His hand is still on my knee underneath the table, rubbing up and down in a soothing motion.
“3: Dshawn doesn’t believe in marriage either,” I go on. “We talked about it and he told me… Honey, what was that thing you said about wanting a partner?”
Dshawn blinks a few times, surprised to be dragged into this. “Erm… I think I said… I want a partner for life, but I don’t care if I call her my wife or my girlfriend.”
“Exactly!” I lean back in my chair, crossing my arms over my chest. “So. Well… that.”
Dad actually laughs at that. “Okay, fair enough. I thought that every girl wants a dream wedding with the dress and the pearls and the doves and what else, but if you don’t and you two agree on that… As long as he’s committed to you, I’m okay with that, I guess.”
Just when I feel like smiling, happy with this breakthrough, Mom speaks up. “But he said he doesn’t care if she’s his wife or his girlfriend!” She points at Dshawn like she could possibly be talking about anyone else. “Why not just make her a wife then?”
“Who cared what he calls me?” I ask, shrugging.
“Marriage is about commitment,” she insists. “It’s about saying that you will always take care of the other person and that you vow to uphold the same virtues!”
If Dad had said this, okay fine, but this is Mom. The woman who cheated on my father with goddamn Walter and then moved in with him months after the divorce. I glance at Dad, who shakes his head ever so slightly. Mom doesn’t know that I know she cheated. I only found out by accident, when Mom and Trevor celebrated their anniversary and I did the math, realizing that she’d been cheating on Dad for at least a year before they got divorced. I asked Dad about it, who told me that I was right, but not to try and talk to my mother about it, because she would deny it. I want to be honest tonight, but maybe not about this. Let’s try to keep the peace for a moment.
“Our entire relationship is about that,” I tell my mother solemnly. “I don’t need to get married to know that Dshawn loves me and that we share the same virtues. Besides… I don’t believe I have to keep saying this, but we’ve only been dating for a few months and we moved in together a few days ago. This is too soon for this entire conversation. You’ll scare him off!”
Dshawn chuckles and puts his arm around me, pressing a kiss to my cheek. “No chance, baby.”
Dad seems a little less uptight now, but Mom is still prattling about how she can’t believe she’ll never get to go wedding dress shopping with her little girl. Oh well. I’ll take her shopping for a new blouse or something, maybe that will shut her up.
“Okay, next concern?” I propose when everyone is finally silent. Dad and Dshawn are even back to eating their lasagna. I’m on a roll, though, so I just want to get it all out there. “I believe Dad’s afraid that Dshawn won’t provide for me, right? I’m curious when I ever gave any of you the idea that I need someone to do that.”
“ShaSha…” Dad grunts. “If you had a career, I would understand you wanting to keep working for many more years, but you’re a waitress! That’s fine for now, but when you have kids, someone will have to take care of them and that will be you. I don’t want you to be with someone who won’t pull his weight financially.”
“Wow, okay, I never said that I wouldn’t pull my weight,” Dshawn says, his eyes wide. “Obviously I already do that right now and I won’t stop doing that. And if we ever have kids in the far-away future, I’m obviously going to provide for them. I just meant that I’m not Shaughna’s father – no offence, sir – but her boyfriend. She works, so she should contribute to the rent and the bills now that she’s living with me, right? And she’s never ever going to want to be a stay-at-home mom, she’d sooner kill herself – no offence, Mrs. Jameson – so even when we have kids, she will contribute.” He’s totally ranting now and it’s just so damn cute. “And she should. Maybe I want to work less when I have kids, who knows? Why does it matter that she’s a woman? Sure, I feel pressure to take care of her and to make money and to be the man, but Shaughna is always pointing out how ridiculous that is and she’s actually got a lot more money saved that I do, so she’s obviously very responsible and she’s really smart and I just-” He pauses, looking lost. “I don’t know what point I was trying to make… Erm…”
I laugh and pat his knee. “It’s okay, baby. I think your point is that you think we’re equals and that my dad asking you how you’re going to provide for me is stupid and old-fashioned.”
“Yes!” Dshawn says relieved. “That’s exactly my point. Or well – sorry, sir, Mr. Elmore – no offence, really.”
Dad laughs and holds up his wineglass in a toast. “None taken, boy. Okay, I get it. You’re all modern. Fine. I guess I feel a little better now, aside from the comment that Shaugha has more savings than you do. Do you-”
“Don’t you dare ask him about his finances, daddy!” I shout before he can say any more. “He’s responsible and we’re very open about money, so I know everything I need to know and that should be good enough for you too.”
“Oh,” Dshawn says suddenly, a smile breaking across his face. “I just realized something!” He turns to me, beaming. “Your dad just said that you’re just a waitress, but you aren’t!”
“Right,” I agree, turning to my parents. I never even thought about calling them to tell them that. They aren’t a part of my life. Not really. “I made manager.”
Dad holds up his glass again. “Congrats, honey!”
“Manager?” my mother asks surprised. “Really? Wow, that’s great. Isn’t it, Walter?”
Walter looks up from his almost empty plate. It’s obvious he wasn’t even listening anymore. “Yes,” he says, sounding unsure. “Of course.”
“It’s still a shame that you’re not really doing anything with your business degree, though,” Mom goes on, ruining the moment like she always does. “Such a waste of money, those four years of college…”
“Olivia!” Dad roars. “Not a single penny I have ever spent on Shaughna has ever been a waste!”
My heart tightens a little at my father defending me. I know that he, too, thinks that I should be doing something better with my life than working in a restaurant, but at least he doesn’t think that I’m a failure and he doesn’t regret paying my tuition.
“I’m just saying she can be whatever she wants, and I don’t think that waitressing is what she wants. Manager is better though.” Mom nods contently. “Much better.”
“I have to ask…” Dad hesitates, but decides to just plow on. “If the two of you don’t want to get married… Then this is it, right? Living together, I mean. No next step.”
“Yes,” I agree. “And since we only took that step five seconds ago, I think we should be fine for now.”
“No, kids are the next step,” Mom argues. “Little ShaSha’s. Oh, and they will be a pretty cappuccino color! Half black, half white… Just think of the pretty babies you will have. Walter, won’t they have pretty babies?”
Walter looks up from his plate in surprise to be called on again. He looks as Dshawns, who subtly nods at him. “Yes,” Walter says, relieved to know what he needs to say. “Definitely, honey.”
“And maybe we will have one or two kids,” I agree. “Many, many years from now.”
“Many,” Dshawn agrees immediately. “As in… ten years or something.”
“At least,” I say, grinning at him.
“You’ll be 35 by then, Shaughna!” Mom says, appalled. “At your age, I was already a mother and it’s the greatest accomplishment of my life.”
“Really?” I ask, seriously surprised by that. “Carrying me for 9 months is your greatest accomplishment?”
“Raising you, dear,” she says like that should be obvious.
“You basically just said that you think I’m wasting four years of college on being a waitress and that being a manager is only slightly better.” I blink a few times, trying to figure her out. “How can you say that and still think I’m your biggest accomplishment?”
Dad laughs loudly. “Well said, honey. Besides, you’re not anyone’s accomplishment. I think that despite our best efforts to screw you up, you’re still relatively sane.”
Dshawn chuckles softly. “Are you sure you’ve met your daughter?”
“Hey!” I say, pretending to be offended by that. “I’m awesome. Right, Walter?”
“Yes?” Walter responds, his eyes wide now that I am suddenly talking to him. “Yeah, sure.”
I decide to just leave the conversation like this. Dad seems relaxed and he doesn’t look at Dshawn like he wants to kill him anymore, so that’s good. Walter is useless as always and Mom… well, she’s just Mom. I finish my now cold lasagna, throw back my wine and get up from the table.
“Tour, anyone?” I ask. “This is obviously the living room with open kitchen and dining area. On to the bedroom?”
Everyone follows me, even though Dad has already been here. Mom says “Beautiful, right Walter?” a lot, but she pauses when she sees the paintings in Dshawn’s bedroom.
“Breasts?” I finish for her. “Yeah, but like, artsy breasts.”
“And is that…?”
“A vagina,” I confirm. “And over there are two asses.”
“But… why?” Mom asks, looking around at all the paintings of body parts. I guess she thinks it’s vulgar, but I loved them the moment I saw them that first night I was in here with Francesca. They are so pretty and pink and it’s like looking through fog and broken glass at the same time. They’re sad and happy all rolled into one.
“Oh, those are my friend’s Aston’s paintings,” Dshawn explains. “He made them for his art classes in high school and he was going to throw them out, but my mother saved them and kept them in the basement until I got my own place so I could put them up in my bedroom.”
“W-what?” I stammer. “These are… wait… no way! Aston?” Who knew that the fun, childish fitness instructor has been hiding a sensitive painter deep inside of him all along? Although… they are still painting of tits, asses and pussies. Yeah, that does seem like something Aston would want to paint. And lick. And smack. And brag about after.
“That boy has a lot of talent,” Dad says, looking at the painting of the breasts more closely. “Not really my taste in art, but very beautiful indeed.”
We move on to the bathroom and the spare bedroom, which concludes the tour. Our place is bigger than my old one, but it’s still just an apartment, not a mansion. Mom and Dad already had a house with a porch and a white picket fence when they were my age, but I actually like my life the way it is. And I have a feeling that Dad is slowly coming around to that. Mom on the other hand… Oh well. You win some, you lose some.