Slappin’ Bones And Takin’ Names

So the weekend’s here. Not just any weekend, but a holiday weekend. Of course, that means making the rounds with the boyfriend. It’s our first Fourth together and to be perfectly honest, I’m not looking forward to it. Sure, hanging out with Jonathan certainly beats how I spent the holiday last year – binge drinking Arbor Mist while watching an “I Love the 80’s” marathon – but new issues abound. Our plans include a barbecue at his uncle’s house in Corona, where I’m scheduled to meet his family (teetees, nanas, play-sisters and all) at exactly 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Let me first tell you exactly how I feel about my relationship – I’m indifferent. Jonathan’s positives (smells nice, eclectic musical taste, sprung on me, good kisser) are easily defused by the negatives (no job, no job prospects, no motivation to identify any job prospects). So while I’d like to make a great impression with his family, half of me just plain doesn’t care; that I should go ahead and drink liberally of whatever’s offered to me, wear my teeny dress with a built-in push-up bra that shows off my cleavage, and not be shy about sharing my political views. My biggest dilemma, however, is whether or not I reveal my superpowers.

At this little get-together, it’s inevitable that there will be a folding table or two set out where the men-folk will gather to partake in a bit of competition. What form, I can’t predict; but chances are good that there’ll be a set of dominos, the usual go-to game for a cookout. I might also find a friendly battle of spades or bid whist or perhaps even blackjack. Someone may even decide to pull out a pair of dice. The game really doesn’t make a difference – if I make the decision to join in, it’s over. My superpowers will rule over the trash-talkers, the wise and cautious players, and the skilled masters alike. I’ll eat ‘em up.

No…for real.

You see, I come from a long line of hustlers (which, I’m sure, is what truly fuels my attraction to Jonathan). Until junior high school, I actually thought playing cards was a legitimate and esteemed profession. By then, I could already beat most of the “grown folk” pops would bring over to the house, whether they were slappin’ bones or doing a little gin rummy. In fact, I think he even earned a little something off of me on some occasions. Taking a lesson from his experiences (losing our house, then my mom, then my step-mother among other things), I work hard to stay away from any sort of gaming environment, including my division’s annual Monte Carlo Night. But if I ever lose my job, at least I know I can enter one of those tournaments they always show on tv and make rent money.

So it’s with great trepidation that I prepare myself for this barbecue. It’s sort of like inviting an alcoholic along on a wine tasting trip, and then telling her to knock herself out with the grape juice. Part of me, however, says to just go ahead and allow myself to have fun and fully partake in the festivities. But I’m concerned about Jonathan - not only might it be embarrassing for him to learn he’s dating a card shark in front of his entire family, but a lot of men (and women) take their “game” very seriously – when I put them to shame with my ‘powers’, who knows what might happen? I mean, I’m pretty sure that his kinfolk won’t get stupid over a round of dominos, but most of us have that one crazy cousin who shows up strapped to every function. You just never know. Anyway, if I embarrass him, he’ll be sulking for the next six weeks.

On the other hand, Jonathan just might take pride in my abilities, bragging left and right once he sees me in action. But that will no doubt lead to a whole new problem – him trying to pimp me out. I can see him now, collecting money from his people and pressing me to do a turnaround to Vegas.

I suppose I could play the rookie role, jumping with fright at the slap of the dominos on the table or innocently asking “Baby, which one is the spade again?” But I know that would make pops gasp up there in Heaven, his earthly remains rolling over in the grave.

So it’s really a lose-lose situation for me. Looks like I’ll have to force myself to stay in the kitchen and help Jonathan’s mom and aunties work on the side dishes and desserts.

Hmm. The more I think about it, another bottle of Arbor Mist and a few hours of “I Love the New Millennium” (why VH-1 couldn’t wait a couple more years on this, I don’t know) may not be so bad.

Diane is (quite) a character on the online soap opera Buena Beach (www.buenabeach.com). Her weekly insights on what’s happening at the Beach are featured exclusively on Urban Thought Collective.

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