Like most people, I spent my freshman year of college bouncing between multiple groups of friends, trying to find the one (or two, or four) that fit me the best. By Spring, I had found a boyfriend, and had quite a few friends, a handful of very close ones, but the majority were the type you get along with really well if you're around them, but you only hang out when your paths cross.
One day, I was hanging out in the room of some guys who fell into this latter category of friendship. We were having a nice enough chat, when another guy (also this casual type of acquaintance - we'll call him John) came into the room. After passing around the normal greetings, he looked at me and asked if I would be interested in helping him celebrate his up-coming birthday. He was from the town where our college was located,Omaha, so his parents had offered to take him and a group of friends out for dinner in his honor - as any poor college student knows, the chance to eat in a real restaurant and have someone else pick up the tab is not an opportunity you should ever pass up. But because I didn't know John very well, I hesitated. Seeing my uncertainty, the two other guys reassured me that they would be attending the festivities, as well. I asked who else was invited and was given a list of about six other people, most of whom I knew.
The dinner wasn't for almost a week, and I had nearly forgotten about it, until that Friday, walking back into our dorm, I passed John, who casually reminded me that the dinner was that night. Although I had a car in town, I didn't particularly like driving it around (and losing my highly-sought-after parking spot on campus - our university was notorious for having little to no available parking - at least close to the dorms and in good locations. One time, my car was broken into on campus while it was parked in a less-than-desirable lot, but that's a story for another time), so I asked how he and the other attendees were going to be getting to the restaurant.
"Oh, my parents have a minivan, and they can drive us. There's room for you, so I'll stop by your room and get you this evening before we leave," John told me. With that, I went up to get ready for the evening.
When John came to pick me up a few hours later, he was alone. Since the other people who were going were all better friends with John than I was, and most of them were from Omaha, as well, I figured they were either already downstairs or had driven themselves. We went down to the front of the dorm where I saw a minivan parked, waiting for us. John went over and opened the door for me, and I climbed in.
I was immediately accosted by his overly-friendly parents, both of whom turned around to voraciously great me.
"You must be Laura!" "We've heard so much about you!" "Welcome to our van!" Okay, they might not have said the last one, but I was slightly caught off guard by their eagerness. To meet ME. After all, I didn't know their son too well. We'd had one class together and were in pep band together, but otherwise, I knew his friends better than I knew him. I forced myself through some niceties, then turned urgently to John, who was pulling the van door shut behind him. No one else was in the van.
"Um, where is everyone else?" I asked him.
In a hushed town, he mumbled something about how they were driving themselves. Slightly unnerved, I accepted this answer. After all, they were all from Omaha. It probably wasn't a big deal for them to drive themselves.
On the way to the restaurant, I made friendly chitchat with his parents. The usual, "what's your major; where are you from; what do you parents do" college talk. They seemed nice enough.
We got to the restaurant, and it was absolutely packed. His dad ran up to give them our names, and I was a little surprised to hear that they hadn't made a reservation. For a large group of people on a Friday night, it seems like a reservation would have been the smart thing to do. We crammed ourselves into the already over-stuffed lobby and stood in an uncomfortably close group of four amidst the other hungry patrons, waiting for a table. I glanced through the crowd but didn't see anyone else I recognized. They must all be running late, I told myself, as doubt began to creep in.
After 45 minutes of waiting with no sign of anyone joining us, making increasingly uncomfortable idle chit chat with John and his parents (his poor mother seemed desperate to talk to a girl - I wasn't surprised to learn she had two boys), we were finally called to be seated. As we followed the hostess to our table, all shred of hope slipped quietly away. It was a table for four.
The dinner itself was pleasant enough, after I came to peace with the realization that I was now on a double date with a guy I hardly knew and his parents. We quickly ran out of things to talk about (I didn't know what to say to John, let alone his parents. I was not prepared for this!), and I began to feel more and more uncomfortable. His parents were so pleasant and seemed so genuinely happy to get to know me, but the longer we sat there, the more and more uncomfortable I got as thoughts like, "those other guys, my supposed friends, must have been in on this. They said they were coming. Did they cancel and nobody bothered to tell me I would be the only one going? Or had it been a trick to take me out on a double date with his parents all along, and the other guys just played along to get me to go?" ran through my head.
Over dessert (they really went all out for us), things took a turn for the even more bizarre. "So what are you and John going to do tonight when we drop you back off at the dorm?" his mother asked sweetly. I glanced quickly over at John only to be struck by his eager look of anticipation, "yes, what WILL we be doing?" his face seemed to scream, almost desperately, at me.
I felt a cold chill of realization trickle down my spine. I'm not sure how it took me over two hours to realize, through of the niceties and excitement, but John's parents very clearly believed we were in a relationship. It dawned on me that he had not only tricked me into going on a date with him, but that he'd also misled his parents into believing I was his girlfriend. I had to act quickly to save myself.
"Um... I have to work on a paper," I muttered. Not untrue, but also not very helpful as his father suggested, "you have the whole weekend! Surely you don't need to work on it tonight!" John's face dulled, then quickly brightened at his father's fast thinking.
"Well, um..." I hadn't wanted it to come to this. I didn't want to crush these sweet parents' dreams so acutely. But they'd left me no choice. John clearly wasn't going to interrupt and save himself the embarrassment of correcting his parents' assumption (at this point, I was truly hoping it was an assumption on their part, and not anything he'd explicitly told them). "I'll probably watch a movie with my... boyfriend," who is not your son, I felt like adding.
The rest of the evening was uneventful. They drove us back to the dorm and dropped us off ("it was simply wonderful to meet you, Laura!" "Take care, and we'll talk to you soon!" Clearly, their train of thought had not been entirely derailed, or they'd managed to pick up the pieces and return to their world of oblivious assumptions. I think his poor mother was just desperate at the thought of almost having a "daughter" of sorts). I jumped out quickly, yelled, "thanks, I've gotta run," to John, and darted into the dorm, up the stairs, and locked myself in the safety of my room.
Over the next few years, I remained casual friends with John, but the date evening with his parents was never again mentioned. To this day, I still don't know if it was an intentional trap or simply a misunderstanding or miscommunication. His darling mother, however, did keep a place in her heart for me. She would occasionally send a grocery bag of treats for my roommate and I with John when she bought food for him. She twice bought me small Christmas presents. And she even gave me a card for my graduation. I'm unsure whether or not she thought I was just a friend of John's or a very reclusive girlfriend for the remainder of college. I hope she wasn't devastated the day she found out I got married - not to her son. She definitely deserves a good daughter-in-law, but trickery is most certainly not the best way to go about acquiring one.
At the very least, I hope I was personable and pleasant on our dinner-date-trap. It's just so important to impress the parents.