My blog friend, Terri, posted a story today describing an awkward conversation with her 18-year old son about his new girlfriend. This reminded me of an incident when I was about his age that was a seriously painful experience.
The summer after my junior year in college in Florida, I returned home to Pittsburgh for my last summer at home. My only serious girlfriend in several years, “Melanie,” was left behind in Gainesville where she was taking summer classes.
About a week after getting home, I walked in the house after work. My parents were sitting in the kitchen and greeted me with:
“We’re glad you’re home. Sit down. We have something we need to discuss.”
Conversations that start that way go only downhill, and this was no exception.
“Karen, your friend from Florida, called a little while ago looking for you. She said that your girlfriend, Melanie, has a COMMUNICABLE DISEASE, and she thinks you ought to get a blood test.”
My mind wasn’t running in the gutter, so I was thinking of diseases like small pox, diphtheria, or some weird tropical thing that no one has ever heard of.
“Really? I wonder what that is all about?”
My mother had the answer. “Obviously she has the CLAP! Have you been SLEEPING with that girl?”
A brilliant 20-year old and a master of snappy comebacks, I responded:
For the next several minutes, I made a concerted effort to assert my rights under the 5th amendment to avoid incriminating myself. I’m not sure I was entirely successful. I was 100% positive that whatever “communicable disease” had Melanie in its grips, it was not venereal in nature. However, I had no objective evidence to put before my parents. (“I don’t know any Karen or Melanie, so they must have the wrong number.”) Finally, I said I needed to call someone in Florida and get to the bottom of the story.
This was at least 10 years before the first cell phones were developed and 25 years before they became as common as wristwatches. I left messages all over Gainesville, without being able to track down Karen, Melanie or anyone else who knew what was going on.
When I returned to my parents, my mother began to tell me how much she and my father had wished they had been able to sleep together before they were married. I think she wanted to put me at ease. It didn’t work. I tried prayer.
“Dear Lord, just take me now. Put an end to my misery.”
Apparently, God was taking the night off, because I remained fully alive and conscious throughout the conversation.
Eventually, with no additional information on my end and far too much information from my parents, the encounter ran out of steam.
It was several hours later when I finally received a return call from Karen.
“I’m so glad you called me back. You really need to checked out because Melanie has….MONO!”
I was both relieved and so angry I wanted to reach through the phone and grab Karen by the throat a thousand miles away.
Melanie recovered from the mononucleosis just fine. We stayed in touch over the summer and resumed dating in the fall. We had a good laugh over it. We dated for another year and then split up. We both ended up marrying our next serious relationship and both marriages are intact today. If she reads this, I hope she gets a laugh.
I don’t know what ever happened to Karen. Let’s hope she didn’t go into the communications business.