My family likes to go to Outback Steakhouse.
I think every family has one, that go-to restaurant for celebratory circumstances, like when your brother graduates high school or it’s your mom’s birthday or you just got your braces off and it’s all, NO MORE METAL MOUTH, heck yes, let’s eat steak and a fried onion shaped like a flower!
So my family believes what better way to celebrate any occasion—even if that occasion is basic hunger—then at a restaurant amongst boomerangs and entrees with Australian names? We will totally put a shrimp on that Barbie.
It was at the Outback Steakhouse where a conversation of Massive Miscommunication proportions occurred between my parents and I. We’re talking Total widening of the Age Gap between Parent and Daughter. One of those moments where you truly believe your parents should have been on a sitcom or something.
The Incident occurred last summer. My mom deemed the day Too Hot and decided a family trip to our go-to steakhouse would do us all some good. The booths were sticky on the backs of my legs and the air conditioning felt cool on my face. The restaurant had dimmed the lights—I always love when they do that, like it’s this collective mood-changer signaling customers to begin their whispers and stolen glances. The server had just delivered our Bloomin’ Onion appetizer. No seasoning, though. Too spicy.
I took a bite of the onion, drenching the fried greasy splendor into the horseradish-y sauce of goodness.
“Sis,” my dad said, spreading a giant glob of butter on a piece of bread. “Let’s touch ‘er off.” He held up his tan forearm, horizontally even with the table. Grinning, he nodded towards me.
When I went through a let’s-go-to-the-tanning-bed-tons phase in high school, my dad found it amusing that he was still tanner than me. Now he plays this “Who’s arm is more tan?” game all the time. He always “wins”, I always “lose” and it doesn’t really matter anyway. Unless one of us gets skin cancer.
“Oh, come on, Dad,” I said, rolling my eyes. But I held up my own arm next to his, as I always did, my skin literally paling in comparison to his deep brown hue, like milk next to honey.
“Beat you,” he grinned.
“Whatever, Dad,” I said, using sarcasm to hide my smile. “ Just roll up your T-Shirt sleeve a little higher and let that farmer’s tan poke through. Let’s compare shoulders. Or calves. Then there’ll be a different winner.”
“Lillllyyy,” Dad sung, ignoring me. “Lillllyyyy whiitteeeee.”
Mom and I laughed.
“Mom, do you want to go shopping with me this weekend?” I said. The server stood by the table, passing out side salads.
“I don’t know, honey,” she said, spearing her lettuce. “Maybe. What do you need to go shopping for?”
“I’m going to buy some new summer clothes at TJ Maxx,” I said. “I don’t have anything to keep me cool in this dang heat. Thought you’d want to come. Mother/Daughter shopping day-kinda thing.” I took a sip of my Coke.
“Sure, if I don’t have to work,” Mom said. “I’ll have to check.”
My dad, who had been focused on eating his salad covered in Tangy Tomato dressing, chewed, then paused.
“Thongs are on sale at Old Navy,” he said.
I sputtered on my drink. Did he just say what I think he said?
We weren’t that kind of family, as in, my dad was not the kind of dad that bought my tampons or talked to me about my girl issues. Let along thong purchases. It just wasn’t a topic of discussion, and it felt even more silly to hear the word “THONG” come out of my blue-collared, tough guy-father’s mouth.
“What?” I asked.
“Thongs,” Dad said, taking another bite of salad. “On sale. Old Navy.” He chewed.
I looked over at Mom, my eyebrows raised in confusion. Sensing this, my mom turned to my dad, as if she was a translator.
“Jim, honey,” she said. “You have to call them FLIP FLOPS. Not thongs.”
My dad swallowed. I stared.
“But thongs, that’s what we used to call them,” he said.
“I know, but that’s not what the kids call them now. You have to say flip flops. Or sandals.”
“Well, thongs, flip flops, whatever,” Dad said.
“Wait a second,” I said, processing what my mom said. “Dad, you mean flip flops? FLIP FLOPS are on sale at Old Navy?” I started to smile, realizing what he meant, what I thought he meant, and the giant gap of misunderstanding that felt as large as Australia itself. I started to laugh.
“Yeah, what the heck did you think I meant?”
Now I was really laughing. “Oh my God. “THONGS. I thought you mean, like, you know. THONGS.”
“She thought you meant underwear,” my mom said in a matter-of-fact tone. Always the bridge between us troubled waters.
“Oh geez, no,” Dad said. “Those things are like floss.”
“So there are no undergarments on sale at Old Navy,” I clarified, still laughing.
“I already told ya,” my dad said, now re-buttering another piece of bread. “Thongs—flip flops, whatever the dang things are called—they’re going to be on sale.”
“Ok, Dad,” I laughed. “Okay.”
Consequently, thongs were also on sale at Victoria’s Secret that weekend. So it was a twofer, win-win, thong/flip-flop type of weekend. And I guess my dad was right. Technically.
Happy summer, all.