[Thank you for the sweet comments yesterday. I'm pleased to report that the day did indeed improve, thank God, and a good time and a massive chocolate-cake-stupor was enjoyed by all yesterday evening. Go make this flourless cake immediately, whether you're gluten-free or not. I may never make anything else again.]
So I’ve been meaning to tell you this story for a while, but it was while rereading yesterday’s post and saying to my husband, “HAHA! You can’t tell I’m off my meds at all from that! HAAAAA!” that I realized it was time for a good-size dose of levity—the kind of levity that only 1) confused people and 2) me being a dork can provide.
Anyway, perhaps you have gleaned that due to recent events I am in full-on hermit mode. I mean, I drive children to doctors’ appointments and stuff, but I do not socialize. I do not dress up. I do not go anywhere I don’t HAVE to, because every ounce of energy is currently focused on keeping the particles in my body from spontaneously breaking off and shooting into space due to stress. (Well, no, that’s never happened, but it COULD, right?) Of course in the midst of this, my husband had to go win a big award.
When you win this particular Big Award at the University, there’s an Event. One which requires dressing up and mingling and sipping wine before dinner, and then sitting down in a banquet hall with a few hundred of your closest colleagues and having Fancy Dinner and making small talk prior to the hour of Event Presentations.
If you are me, there are about a dozen different ways that sequence of events can go sideways in a hurry, as evidenced by the last time Otto won this award, when I used my advanced social skills to imply that one of Otto’s colleagues was pretty much destroying our food supply.
Otto prepared for this event by… coming home from work and changing into a suit. I prepared for this event by… spending an hour spackling my face, trying to figure out what hairstyle best camouflages the fact that my hair is currently two-tone (haircut on Saturday; stay tuned), locating and ratcheting myself into my Spanx, waggling my eyebrows at my husband and asking him if he likes my hooker shoes, and figuring out which cocktail dress I currently hate the least.
The last thing I did was grab a pair of contact lenses, rip open the bubble packets, and stick them on my eyeballs. The left one was fine, but the right one clearly had something on it. (How do single-wear contact lenses end up being packaged with lint in the plastic? Don’t they have a lint-free factory line for this stuff??) I removed it, swished it around in the saline for a second, and stuck it back into my eye. Better. (This is called foreshadowing.) Off we went.
We arrived, we obtained the obligatory glasses of wine, and commenced standing around awkwardly. Eventually we found some people Otto knows, but then they flashed the lights to signal that it was time to be seated, and somehow in the sea of people finding tables, we lost everyone we knew, because we’re smooth like that. We ended up—surprise!—at a table with complete strangers.
Now. I had a Special Card. Do you remember what happened the last time I had a special card to make sure I didn’t get served any gluten? Basically any dietary restriction, if reported ahead of time, means that they will happily make you up a Special Card which you then give to your server so that you get the right food. Except that the last time I had a Special Card the server was completely baffled by it. Needless to say, I put my Special Card on my plate and waited for the hilarity to ensue.
I didn’t have to wait long! Salads were already on the table, and according to the description, this was a delicious Mediterranean salad featuring kalamata olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, and orzo. Otto and I participated in introductions around the table and then everyone started eating. Well, except for me. Orzo is pasta, made with wheat. So the ONE THING I can usually eat without a problem, I couldn’t. (Who puts pasta in a dinner salad??) We waited for our server to appear, but of course it took a while, because supposedly everyone had salads and didn’t need anything right away.
Finally, two women with wine came around, and Otto gave them my Special Card and asked if I could possibly get a salad without the orzo. They said of course, no problem, and then proceeded to continue pouring wine for the next table. And the one after that.
Don’t worry, though! About ten minutes after everyone else had finished their salad, they brought me an enormous pile of lettuce and cabbage. Otto and I couldn’t stop laughing. The other people at our table were mystified, so I explained how the words “gluten free” have the power to scramble the brains of even the brightest people; I also shared the story of how my last Special Card got me about three pounds of beef but precluded the salmon, somehow, due to this problem.
My lettuce and cabbage was very… ummm… shredded. And… vegetable-y. I wished for cucumber and tomato and (my favorite!) kalamata olives like everyone else, but apparently whoever was in charge in the kitchen felt they might be too WHEATY for me.
When it was time for the main course, we were delighted to see that the standard slab-o-steak-slab-o-salmon entree has been slightly updated; now it’s a few slabs of steak and a crab-stuffed halibut. (Way to mix it up!) I was served a beautiful plate that was identical to the one served to Otto, and then the server pretty much ran away before we could say anything. Eventually she came back and we explained that this plate had gravy and also, it appeared, some sort of béchamel sauce, both of which likely contained wheat. Could she maybe find me the gluten-free entree I was supposed to receive? She apologized and took my plate.
A few minutes later she returned and placed a vegetarian plate in front of me with a flourish, announcing that this entree was completely gluten-free and I should enjoy. Otto and I blinked at it. While the roasted vegetables looked delicious, 1) I am not a vegetarian and 2) it was served around a large mold of couscous. WHICH IS WHEAT. We attempted to explain this to the server. She removed the second plate.
As I sat there with no food, encouraging our tablemates to go ahead and eat before their dinner was cold, another server stopped by to ask what the problem was. We explained. She apologized and said she’d get me a plate right away. To her credit, she was gone and back in under 30 seconds.
Unfortunately, she brought me another vegetarian plate. I’m not gonna lie; at this point, I would’ve just eaten it despite my love of all things carnivore just to END THE MADNESS, but… the couscous.
We explained, again, why this was not a gluten-free plate. She apologized again, and took away the plate.
A few minutes later, our original server returned with a—cue the angel chorus—gluten-free plate. It was the same thing everyone else was eating, but without the sauces. Perfect! Hooray! I thanked her and began to eat.
A minute later, the second server appeared with another gluten-free plate. (I’m thinking communication amongst the kitchen staff is not fantastic. Just sayin’.) When she saw I already had food, she rolled her eyes and stomped off.
Before dessert, the server came over to me and said, “Dessert is cheesecake, and I’m guessing you can’t have that?” I thought it was nice that she’d finally figured out that it might matter, but here’s the thing: I love cheesecake more than almost anything. I will happily take a slice of cheesecake and carefully scoop out a few bites from the middle (avoiding the crust) and call it good. So I told her that was fine, and she seemed completely confused, but left.
The kicker? Dessert was a CRUSTLESS cheesecake. Had I agreed to the bullshit fruit plate or whatever it was she wanted to bring me, I would’ve missed it entirely. Heh.
Once dinner was over, we all turned to the podium to listen to the presentations, sipping our coffee and surreptitiously checking our phones during the boring parts. (Spoiler: They’re almost all boring parts. Sorry, Otto. I love you and I’m proud of you, but you know it’s true.)
This was when my right contact lens began bothering me again. Because I’m suave and classy, I commenced a quiet frenzy of rapid blinking, shifting my eyes up and down and side to side, and tugging on the corners of my eyelids to try to fix it. It felt just like it had when I’d put it in, earlier, so it seemed like there must be a little piece of something trapped underneath it, somehow, but that seemed weird. How does a piece of flotsam get under your lens while you’re wearing it? Oh, well… I just kept messing with my eye and hoping no on would notice. After a while it kind of settled down.
After six hours (kidding! it only felt that long!), the awards concluded and we all said our “nice to meet you”s and goodbyes and headed back home.
After establishing that the children hadn’t burned the house down and the dog had missed us very much, I went to go get undressed and scrub my face. Except my lens was really bothering me again, so I decided I better take my contacts out, first.
My right contact lens was ripped almost entirely in half. And while I was doing a bit of horrified chuckling over that, I removed the left one, which was ripped as well (that one hadn’t bothered me at all).
Truth: I’ve never seen my daughter’s face light up QUITE the way it did when I went to her and said, “Remember that time you swore your lens ripped on your eye and I told you you were crazy? I’m sorry.”
My eyes seem fine, now, so all’s well that ends well, I guess. But the next time Otto tries to make me go to one of these things I’m going to be all, “Remember what happens? The many plates of ‘gluten-free’ food? The not knowing anyone? The RIPPED EYEBALL COVERS?” It probably won’t get me out of it, but I feel I’ve earned the right to whine a little, anyway.