I'm always nervous when people meet certain members of my family. I especially nervous when people meet my oldest brother. He has a propensity for saying and doing things that offend people without knowing he's doing it. I don't mean that he's a malicious person; that couldn't be further from the truth. He just doesn’t think about what he's doing sometimes. He's the type of person who will remark on how tired a friend looks. But he doesn't say, "You look like you need some time to relax, are you doing okay?" Instead, he says, "Wow, you look awful. Did you get in a wreck without a seatbelt on or something?" Again, there's no malice at all. He's just calling it like he sees it.
Anyway, because of his history, I'm wary to allow him to meet people who haven't been forewarned of his antics. But sometimes that's unavoidable. On one such occasion, he was meeting my fiancée's extended family for the first time before the wedding. It was a bridal shower for the ladies and an afternoon of hanging out for the men. I pleaded with him not to cross anyone and to think about what his words would sound like on the receiving end. And I have to admit, he controlled his tongue perfectly. He didn't mistakenly call anyone pregnant, point out an obvious toupee, or make light of anyone's physical appearance in any way. The problem was not his words, for once. What I failed to take into account was that there would be home-cooked food there. So I'd forgotten to forbid him from having any.
You see, my oldest brother has the same problem I've struggled for years to overcome: It's really hard for him not to take food that's offered freely to him. So even if there's a meal coming up or he's just eaten, he'll say yes to any offer. Well on this day, we had come straight from lunch to visit my future in-laws during the women's bridal shower. So we turned up at the family's camphouse where my fiancée's uncle was frying some fish he'd just caught in the adjacent lake. He offered some to my oldest brother on a doubled-over paper towel. We'd just eaten lunch an hour earlier, but he went ahead and tucked into the fish. And if it had ended there, I could have dealt with it. But it did not, of course, end there. He asked for more, rolled it up into the same paper towel, and pocketed it... in full view of every person in the room. He then muttered something about needing to save some for my mother.
I was absolutely mortified. My future in-laws just kinda stared at him for a second and then shook their heads quickly as if what they saw couldn't have just happened. They were a little standoffish after that. And I couldn't blame them. Seriously, who sneaks food into their pockets to give to someone else?! Oliver Twist, maybe, but not a grown man who never misses a meal!
But the worst part was after the bridal shower down the street was over. We spent the rest of the afternoon introducing the families further and just exchanging pleasantries. We finally decided we'd all go to the local fish buffet restaurant in town. It's a pretty hopping place on a Saturday evening, so we had to stand in line. I'd pushed the incident out of my mind, but it came roaring right back. As we were standing in line to eat some freshly fried fish, my brother starting pulling a wadded-up paper towel out of his pocket. He then started to eat the four-hour old fried fish that he'd saved. Only my brother can be standing in line for a fish buffet and be so impatient that he's willing to eat cold, leftover fish from earlier in the day from his pocket! I looked down and noticed that he had a giant grease stain on his left leg that made him look like he’d had an accident. It was at that point that I crossed over from "fiancé with an embarrassing family" to "fiancé who desperately needs a new family." At the wedding reception, my older brother was not allowed food... or pockets.