By Lauren Huffman
My mother is the daughter of two off-the-boat Italiano’s. Despite being born and raised in a Chicago suburb and having an appropriate accent for the Midwest region, you could be fooled. Her American vernacular is abandoned without trace when words like mozzarella, cappuccino, and biscotti enter her vocabulary. Like wine from an aerator, these words flow out of her mouth with a heavy Italian accent, as if she were a woman born and raised in Tuscany.
As her heritage suggests, she was a strict mother during my teen years. Like a ninja figuring out a booby trap, I had to figure out how to navigate her formidable parental skills. My abilities peaked when it came to dating.
I was not allowed to date until I was sixteen. The day after my sixteenth birthday, I rounded up every available guy in my class and evaluated them on stringent criteria. One, were they cute? Two, did they have a car?
The latter was most important, as the idea of me driving was a losing battle against my mother. I got my license at sixteen, but it didn’t matter. I rarely had access to a vehicle. The Italian did everything in her power to keep me from getting in a car without adult supervision. Once in a blue moon, when she was feeling generous, I would get access to the dark purple minivan resembling a dust buster. Do you really think I wanted to be seen in that thing? Pass.
Imagine this in purple.
After careful consideration, I made my dating decision. Ralphie. I chose him because he followed me around like a puppy dog for months and his parents were loaded. Having rich parents meant he had a multitude of vehicles. Also, and maybe less importantly, he was sweet. He would hold my purse at the mall and pick me up wherever I was and take me wherever I wanted.
When our first date was ending, Ralphie walked me to the door like the gentleman he was. We stood in front of my house’s entrance, my arms wrapped around his neck, his arms wrapped around my waist.
“Lauren, I had such a great time with you tonight. I think you are very hot and I want you to be my girlfriend.”
“Ralphie, that is so great, I like you a lot, too. I would love to be your girlfriend.”
He closed his eyes and started to lean in, lifting my chin with his hand to meet his lips. As our lips edged closer, my stomach was filled with butterflies. I couldn’t believe it was finally happening. I had my first boyfriend and was about to have my first kiss. It was perfect, like something out of a rom com. It felt like I was floating.
“LAUREN! IT’S TIME TO COME IN!”
I was quickly brought back down to Earth with the sound of the front door flying open and my mother screaming at me about my curfew. Behind her toddled my little sister, Kendra, and dog, Lenny. There was an audience.
Startled, Ralphie and I took a step back from each other. I looked at my mother. Her wide eyes, raised eyebrows and determined stare told me there was no way in hell I was getting another minute to finish our goodbye. My night was over and my first kiss was a disaster.
If you are wondering if I am still holding a grudge against my mother, I am Italian. And she taught me well.