Streaming hot tension expanded through the room waiting to explode with the first puncture of the silence, just like the chicken Kiev awaiting each guest. Calmly, the man with the scruffy beard set down his knife and fork, And addressed the broad shouldered man usurping his rightful seat at the head of the table.
“Im sorry could you repeat that?”
The older man shifted in his chair, “This may be hard for you to hear, coming from such an entitled generation, but im sorry, no you cannot marry my daughter.”
“Don’t you think that is a little harsh, Roger? This is great news.” Roger’s wife spoke with tact forged over 30-years of preempting these arguments, but her faltering voice revealed she had little hope of keeping this storm at bay.
“Great news, are you kidding me? I kept quiet when they started dating because you asked me to, I even kept quiet when she lent him all that money. But I simply will not give my permission for some bum to suck my daughter into a life of supporting him.”
“You can say what you want about me, but we do not raise our voices at our dinner table,” interjected the bearded man.
“What, you think this table belongs to you? Well I got news for you, Carol bought this table and this apartment. This is her place and frankly I have no respect for any man who needs to have his girlfriend pay his rent. Especially after you don’t even have the stones to ask for my daughters hand in marriage yourself. You sit here and have her ask for my permission instead of coming to me like a man.” He shifted to his daughter, “This is what I’m talking about, he isn’t man enough to have you.”
“You misunderstood. We aren’t asking your permission. I’m informing you of my plan to marry Sage.” Carol replied.
“Excuse me?” Roger blurted indignantly.
“I would never asked your permission to marry Carol. That implies you own you daughter and control her future. Giving me permission to marry her is only passing off that control over Carol from one man in her life to another. So no, I never asked your permission, not out of disrespect to you but out of respect for Carol. She doesn’t need a man’s permission to proceed with her life.”
“See honey its this granola feminist shit that I’m talking about. There is a certain way to do things if you are a real man. And this is not a real man. He can’t make enough money to support you. In fact you have to support him and subsidies his bullshit career, for a stand up comedian he sure doesn’t stand up for himself much. I did not raise a girl who wants to marry some little faggy boy like him.”
“Daddy that’s enough. You barely know anything about Sage. He is exactly what I have always needed in my life.”
“Why because he can cook and you haven’t caught him cheating on you like all your other boyfriends?”
“Roger!” exclaimed his wife.
“Well I’m sorry, but just because she had a string of bad judgement when it comes to boyfriends doesn’t mean you should lower your standards to end up with this joke. I’m sorry but if you two get married, you are not as smart of a woman as I thought you were as a girl.”
Tears welled up in Carol’s eyes as shame and embarrassment welled up in her mother’s. Her mother stared down at her chicken Kiev, Carol stared directly at her father, who watched the wine swill around his glass as he avoided eye contact. Sage stared directly at his fiance. He watched as each tear reached her chin, waiting for her to give a sign.
Carol was an accomplished doctor with chops for research and a knack for public speaking. Standing up for herself in the face of patriarchy, misogyny, or just men being assholes had always been forte. However, we all have people in our lives who have power over us. Their words cut us a little deeper and their disappointment hangs over us like an overcast chill ruining a vacation weekend.
Sage made his living as a comedian, although Roger was not wrong about the young man’s financial situation. He was good off the cuff but his prepared material needed work, but his strongest tool was the ability to verbally disembowel any heckler that crossed him. When he let loose and started swinging, Sage was a force to be reckoned with. Carol, out of love for both men, had made Sage promise never to use this skill on her dickhead father and to only come to her defense when she explicitly asked him to do so.
Carol steadied herself, wiped the last tear away with her yellow cloth napkin, and met her fiance’s gaze. She shook her head and mouthed, “No.”
Still looking at his wine Roger spoke again, “Paul may have cheated on you but at least he was man enough to stand up to me if he thought I was upsetting you.”
“We really should get eating, this Kiev is going to get cold, and Sage worked so hard on it.” Another failed attempt by the pacifist.
“Do you know why Sage has never stood up to you Dad? Its because I asked him not to. For your protection.’
“Ha like I need protection from some comedian! Andy, now you might have needed to protect me from him. He was a real man who could throw a punch. Ya I think I’ll be fine with chuckles over here.”
She caught her fiance’s gaze again and he saw rage flash across her eyes, and she said, “Honey, you are completely off leash. I dont care anymore, I’m done protecting him from himself. And Dad, remember how you taught me how to get others to work for you? This is me telling you off the best way I know how, delegating it to Sage.”
“Really completely off leash? are you sure?”
“Give him your best, baby.”
“HA! Let’s hear it this ought to be good.”
“So Roger, you want to talk about who is man enough to provide for Carol? Ok we can have that conversation. Because ya, I do not pay her bills for her, Carol pays her own bills. What she can’t do is love herself. You want to talk about what makes a real man? A real man learns how to love. A real man gets over his own shortcoming and learns how to hug his daughter. A real man says ‘I love you’ more than just birthdays. I have spent every day of the last three years providing for your daughter emotionally and teaching her how to love herself. You had thirty years to show her that and you weren’t man enough to do it for a single day.
“A real man is needed. Does anyone at this table need you? Carol needs me because I mean everything to her and her quality of life. She hasn’t needed you since the day she got her own check book. Your wife doesn’t need you, she gave up on hoping you’d be a real companion the day you forced her to vote for Ronald Reagan the first time. I know you think your employees need you, but all they need is your signature on their paycheck. If you died, they’d be dancing on your grave before they even filled in the hole. So that leaves your two friends you see twice a year, and something tells me they could find someone else to talk about the ’85 Bears with while fishing.
“And I wasn’t going to say this but you really upset my fiancé, Roger, so here it goes. Most real men at your age still fuck their wives. You don’t even have ED or low T, the only reason you don’t have a sex life is because your wife can’t stand the sight of your misogynist ass anymore. You are so far from a real man that the thought of a sexual encounter with you makes your wife’s pussy close down like Fort Knox under siege.
“So ya, I might not make a ton of money, or have a bunch of stories about bar fights, but I’m man enough to teach the woman you so aggressively damaged, how to really love. I’m man enough that people need me around without spending a cent. And I’m man enough to fuck the shit out of your daughter and the funny thing is, when that happens, I’m the one she calls ‘Daddy.’
“And hey, I’m man enough to invite you to the wedding, even after all of this. But you should know, If you want anyone to actually care if you are there, then you’d better bring your precious little checkbook.”