So this is a story about my dad.
(Dad, I know you hate it when I tell people this story, and I’m sorry for putting it online, thereby ensuring its immortality, but this is one of the funniest things you’ve ever done. Please don’t ever change.)
Journey back with me now back to the bedbug panic of 2011. Bedbugs are in the news. They’re in your home (according to the news) and there are more of them arriving every day from outer space. They’re coming! For you! Bedbugs!
I am in college. So is my bestly bestest friend in the whole world, Rachel, except she’s in college in Boston and I’m in college in Dunmore, PA, and it’s a very sad state of affairs, we haven’t spoken in months. Meanwhile, I am currently living with my dad, whose house, it just so happens, is right behind (not 50 yards from) the house of my bestly bestest friend’s ex-boyfriend (whom we shall call Mob.) Who is a really good dude. We all stayed friends, and given the proximity, I occasionally still saw this gentleman, but there are rules about these kind of things.
If you don’t follow these rules, the universe will punish you.
One fine day, the aforementioned Upstanding Gentleman asks me on a date. Like any intelligent young woman, I completely panic, say “Oh shit, um..I’ll think about it,” and proceeded to throw Upstanding Gent out of the house. I then immediately pick up the phone, call my besty, and (as Gent is still walking past my living room windows) scream into the phone “OH SHIT MOB ASKED ME ON A DATE WTF DO I DO?”
Rachel proceeds to hyena-laugh in my ear. “YOU HAVE TO SAY YES,” she shouts back. “YOU HAVE TO. WE MUST KNOW HOW THIS TURNS OUT.”
“ALRIGHT.” I say, and hang up. I call Mob, who probably hasn’t even managed to reach his house yet so little time has passed, and tell him I accept. We agree to do sushi and the new Harry Potter movie in theatres. It will be great.
Or a disaster.
As *soon* as I hang up the phone it rings again and it’s Rachel.
“WHAT IF THIS DATE GOES REALLY WELL?” she banshees. “WHAT IF YOU GUYS DATE AND THEN GET MARRIED AND THEN HAVE KIDS AND THEN THOSE KIDS FIND OUT THAT I SLEPT WITH THEIR FATHER? I WILL BE TRAMPY AUNT RACHEL!”
“HAHAHAHARHGHBLRGUH,” I say.
I know, I know. I said this story was about my Dad. And so it is.
Here comes Friday. And sushi. And Harry Potter. Mob and I have a lovely time. We get home around seven, which is far too early a time for a date to end, so I invite him in to watch cheesy Vincent Price movies for a bit. (Which isn’t an innuendo, that’s exactly what we planned to do, pants, and the removal of them, factored not at all into our plans.)
I park the car. We walk up the driveway to my front door. I reach out for the handle.
Do you hear that sound? That thumping, rumbling, ground shaking gallop that’s getting closer? That’s bedbugs.
Actually, no. It’s my dad. Vaulting off the couch and running to the door so he can bar our entry like a one man Red-Rover Red-Rover.
“WHERE DID YOU GO?” Dad demands. (There is a lot of shouting in this story. Emotions were running high this week for some reason: bedbugs.)
“Uh,” say Mob and I. “We got some sushi.”
“Cool,” says Dad. “Was it good?”
“WHERE ELSE DID YOU GO?” Dad asks, like a man waiting for the terrible phone call he knows is coming.
“The movies,” we say. “We saw Harry Potter.”
My dad is tense now. His knuckles are white on the molding of the door frame.
“Before you went to the movies,” he asks slowly, “did you….” a deep breath to steady himself, “did you check for the theatre on the National Bedbug Registry website?”
“Uh…” The what? “…no.”
Dad nods. He knew it was coming. Knew it was only a matter of time before the bedbugs found a way…
“STAY RIGHT THERE,” he bellows, and slams the door in our faces.
Mob and I look at each other. We are lost and confused.
The door bangs open again. Dad’s arm thrusts out, an empty garbage bag clutched in his fist.
“Both of you take this,” he says with slow determination, “and go into the back yard, and take off your pants.”
The universe itself has paused in disbelief.
“Pardon?” I say. Because apparently I’ve just had a stroke and my brain can no longer process the English language correctly.
“Your pants,” Dad repeats. “Go take off your pants. Put your pants into this bag. Then you can come in the house.”
He slams the door again and stares at us through the glass from the other side, his arms crossed, waiting.
I look at Mob, whose face has crashed and frozen like Windows 95.
Together we go into the backyard and stand looking at each other, completely silent. There is no first date etiquette for this situation. There is no ancestral wisdom passed down from our mothers’ that can help us now. There is no escape.
“We have no choice,” I say. “Take off your pants.”
And so, enclosed by the high, weather beaten wooden fence, standing amid weeds and left over firewood, we take off our pants.
Dad opens the door for our quiet, bare-thighed return. He accepts the bag with an approving nod and hands Mob a change of clothes.
“Now, go change the rest of your clothes, put them in the bag too. Then, put everything in the dryer for fifty-six minutes.”
Later I found out that what Dad actually said was “fifteen minutes”, but really I think it’s amazing I understood any of his words at all over the shrieking void of incredulity still ringing in my ears. Mob and I go down the hallway in our underwear and part ways to change in different rooms, as if the shreds of our first- date dignity aren’t already blowing like tumbleweeds through the desolate landscape of my backyard.
We watch a Vincent Price film and laugh about it, pretending that I’m not in my pajamas and Mob isn’t in my dad’s pants. We soldier on, determined to be totally chill and un-embarrassed. But the shadow remains, looming darkly over us.
We can never escape it.
Mob and I didn’t get married (obviously). And eventually, through a convoluted series of events (most of which were Rachel’s fault) I moved to Boston and now see my bestly bestie on the reg.
My dad finally admitted, some years later, that maybe it was just a little weird of him to insist that my date and I take off our pants in the back yard. He still maintains, however, that bedbugs are the root of all evil, and likely to be the downfall of this civilization.
That’s it for now.
Sleep tight, all. Don’t let the bedbu–OHGOD THEY’VE GOT ME SAVE YOURSELAAAUUUHGHGHGGHHgggghhhhh….