Sunday, April 1, 2012

an April Fools' story.


If you were to ask someone what the proudest moment of their life is, you’d most likely get a fairly predictable answer: the day they graduated from college, the birth of their first child, the time they got the Nobel Prize. If you were to ask me, I’d have a totally different answer: April Fools’ Day, 2007.

In 2007, I was a sophomore in college. If you recall from my radio story, at this time, I was dating a hipster art major that my parents weren’t at all fond of. I was starting to agree with them. The relationship had been deteriorating for months already; the spring semester thus far had been particularly taxing. Hipster Boyfriend tended to be depressed and needy, and I do not deal well with needy. Perhaps that was why I never worked as a babysitter.

In any case, during the early months of 2007, I had come close to breaking up with Hipster Boyfriend on multiple occasions. Why didn’t I, you ask? Well, the primary reason was that I chickened out. However, in February, I was struck with the best idea I had ever had (and probably will ever have). I needed to keep Hipster Boyfriend around long enough to play an April Fools’ Day joke on my dad.

In order to understand why this April Fools’ Day joke was destined for greatness, you need to understand my parents’ distaste for my boyfriend. It’s not that Hipster Boyfriend was rude or inconsiderate to my parents; not even close. He simply clammed up around them. My parents are friendly people, so the first time I brought Hipster Boyfriend around, they did their best to make polite conversation. Hipster Boyfriend, however, was not having it. My parents could barely get one-word answers out of him. Honestly, Mom and Dad are not scary people; Hipster Boyfriend simply had no people skills. Just like I have little patience for neediness, Mom and Dad have little patience for social ineptitude. Hipster Boyfriend also tended to follow me around like a lost puppy, which earned him zero respect points at my house. It didn’t take long before my parents more or less gave up on him. Honestly, I was about ready to give up as well.

It took a lot, but I managed to hang on. The promise of the April Fools’ Day joke to end ALL April Fools’ Day jokes was enough to convince me that a few more months of a bad relationship would ultimately be worth it. In March, when Hipster Boyfriend was in an uncharacteristically sunny mood, I pitched my April Fools’ idea: on April 1, I wanted him to call my dad and ask for permission to marry me.

Not surprisingly, Hipster Boyfriend balked at my idea. Fully aware of my dad’s distaste for him, Hipster Boyfriend didn’t want to fan the flame. “Oh, no,” I lied. “My dad will think it’s hilarious. He’ll probably like you BETTER because of it!” Hipster Boyfriend was still not convinced, so I resorted to pouting. I know it makes me sound like a spoiled ten year old, but Hipster Boyfriend could never withstand my deadly pouting/silent treatment combo. I believe the layman’s term for such an individual is “whipped.” Hipster Boyfriend reluctantly agreed, and I eagerly began to count the days until April 1.

The fateful day finally arrived. April 1st landed on a Sunday that year, and Hipster Boyfriend and I had spent the weekend at his parents’ house near Minneapolis. I was a little less than thrilled that Hipster Boyfriend would be making this phone call within earshot of his humorless parents, but what do you do. Hipster Boyfriend’s dad spent the weekend trying to ruin my plans by making disapproving faces and suggesting lame alternatives. “Maybe YOU can call your dad!” Hipster Boyfriend’s dad hopefully suggested. “I bet it would still be funny.” I politely declined: it HAD to be Hipster Boyfriend. “But what will happen when he REALLY asks you to marry him?” Hipster Boyfriend’s dad asked. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that my intentions with his son were less than honorable – the thought of ACTUAL marriage made me queasy.

Since April Fools’ Day was on Sunday, the timing of the call had to be perfect. My parents would be back from church in the late morning, and I wanted to give them plenty of time to eat. If Hipster Boyfriend called and they didn’t answer the phone, I would’ve had a hard time convincing him to try it again. It was do or die. I decided that the best time to call would be mid-afternoon: my parents would almost certainly be lounging and available for phone calls.

The morning and early afternoon passed slowly. At long last, it was time to make the call. Quivering with anticipation, I sat down on the couch with Hipster Boyfriend as he shakily dialed my parents’ number. I sat close to Hipster Boyfriend so I could hear the conversation; I didn’t dare listen in on another line for fear of Dad hearing my stifled giggles and realizing something was up.

Within two rings, Dad picked up the phone. Hipster Boyfriend was his nervous, awkward self: “Uh, Tim, do you have a minute for me to talk to you?” I heard my dad pause apprehensively. “Yes…?” he said. Hipster Boyfriend took a deep breath and went on: “I know I’ve only been dating Calla for ten months, but I’ve honestly never met anyone like her. She’s wonderful, and she means the world to me. I would like your permission to marry her.”

I held my breath: this was the moment of truth. Dad would: a.) realize what day it was and the jig would be up, or b.) panic. Luckily for me, he chose the latter. I heard my dad’s voice go up an octave as he said, “Have you talked to CALLA about this?!” My parents were fully aware of my relationship woes, so my poor dad didn’t know what to say. Hipster Boyfriend said that no, he hadn’t talked about it with me. In his entire life, my dad has never been rendered speechless… except for the afternoon of April 1, 2007. Famously diplomatic, Dad did his very best to let Hipster Boyfriend down easily. I heard him say “How are you going to support her with an art major?” and “It’s not that we don’t LIKE you; we just don’t KNOW you!”

Meanwhile, I was sitting on the couch, trying not to choke on my own laughter. I don’t recall how long the phone call was, but I’m sure Dad thought it lasted forever. But like all good things, this too had to end. Finally, I took the phone from Hipster Boyfriend. “Dad?” I said, suppressing my cackles. “What day is today?” Dad paused as he looked at the calendar. “It’s April 1st,” he said. Then, it hit him. “It’s April 1st. You little shit.” I dissolved in a fit of laughter of epic proportions; I could hardly breathe, and tears rolled down my face. Dad was not laughing (yet), but there was an audible sigh of relief. “I’ll call you back when my heart starts beating again,” Dad said, promptly hanging up.

I spent the rest of the day basking in the glow of my victory. Hipster Boyfriend was just glad that it was over. I later found out that Mom had been sitting right by Dad during this phone call, so she also spent a few minutes in horror. My prank was a two-fer.

News of my April Fools’ Day joke spread like wildfire in my hometown. I came home for Easter that year, and I was a minor celebrity. My parents’ friends all congratulated me on being a diabolical genius: Dad’s old band director was especially proud of me.

More than anything, I wish I could’ve seen Dad’s face during this phone call. “You know the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Nazis’ faces are melting?” Dad said. “I think it was a lot like that.”
Looks about right.
Out of all the stories I have to tell, this one is far and above my favorite. I tell it every chance I get, particularly around April Fools’ Day. Many people don’t even mind hearing it multiple times – especially if they know my dad! Dad, too, has come to accept the brilliance of my April Fools’ Day joke. He, too, enjoys retelling the tale of that fateful spring day. It’s been five years, and the story still hasn’t gotten old. However, ever since 2007, Dad and I no longer talk on April Fools’ Day. He has been known to call me at 12:01 on April 2nd, but never again will we speak on April 1st.

 You may be wondering: how long did I keep Hipster Boyfriend around after more or less forcing him to do my nefarious bidding? Did I swiftly kick him to the curb on April 2nd? Actually, no.  Even after he totally ruined my birthday in mid April (which is a story for another time), it took me until June to work up the courage to break up with Hipster Boyfriend. Even then, it was short-lived: I felt guilty and took him back that same day. I broke up with Hipster Boyfriend for good in July: we had been dating for just over a year. It was the longest year of my life, but it was worth it just so I could give my dad a few more grey hairs.

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