I don’t know if I know exactly what a McMansion is, but I know the term is disparaging. I heard a podcast about McMansions once, and it wasn’t very nice. The way these houses were described makes me wonder if I’m standing in one right now. Or, outside one. But inside, as I’m on a covered porch, open on three sides, the fourth side connected to the rest of the house with eight-foot doors so wide, I have to look for them to be before I’m assured these people don’t wear bulky coats indoors all winter. Then again, there are directional heaters installed in the roof of this porch. And skylights. There are skylights in this porch roof.
I hesitate to describe why I’m here (lest someone read this and recognize who I’m talking about) because, as I said, I’ve already been disparaging and I shouldn’t be. We’re at a party for a friend, and the people who own this house have very graciously offered up their home to host. I mean, I’ve already had a beer, and will soon have another. To say anything even bordering on judgmental about people who invite you in and give you beer is not just bad manners, it’s downright shitty.
And yet, I can’t help but judge. I’m a judgmental prick. But that’s no excuse- just because I call myself an asshole, doesn’t excuse such behavior. In fact, that makes it worse. So I’ll focus on other things. Other generosities. That table overloaded with homemade food. A house like this, they could have easily afforded caterers replete with black bow-tie servers. But it’s all home-cooked, and although I over indulged with some leftover Chinese for lunch, my wife insists I eat something. I’m holding the baby, so she stabs food with a plastic fork and shoves in my face. It’s fucking delicious.
Some kind of music is trickling out of the overhead speakers. This damned porch ceiling is festooned with speakers, heaters, and skylights. The baby is my arms, let’s be clear, is a 25-pound toddler. He feels good in my arms. His weight anchors me, keeps me from drifting around the party. I don’t know anyone here, not the hosts certainly. I suppose I know the guest of honor and her husband, but I haven’t seen them in, literally, two years. They look great, by the way. They’re beautiful people.
My wife takes my anchor away to go find said guest of honor and talk about women things. I don’t say that disparagingly. I say that as a good excuse to not describe further what they’re going to talk about. It’s utterly alien to me. So now I’m weightless, and I drift around, off the porch, into the sun. On their perfect green grass. I end up chatting with a fellow about his impending child. Another guy joins us, they’re old friends, he also has a child looming. Another guy joins us. A fifth. No, a fourth, because they’re all old friends, and their conversation drifts to memories and such. I manage to get a few jokes in:
“I’m the only one who married a shiksa,” one guys says.
“Well, I married shiksa too,” I say.
They all look at me. A different guy says “Are you Jewish?”
I smile. “No.”
It feels like their laughter is genuine. One guy gives me a high five. Then their conversation returns to old memories, and the sun is in my eyes, and my beer is empty, so I drift away again. Making people laugh, or at least trying too, is another anchor of mine. But I don’t want to try too hard. I go find the beers. They’re on the porch.
It feels like coming home. Not really, but it’s familiar. It’s starting to get crowded at this party. These beautiful people sure do know a lot of fairly beautiful people. Maybe that’s where my wife fits in. She’s a beautiful people too, and so is my son, and the jokes my wife brings back from the guest of honor about her daughter eventually marrying our son. A good old Bollywood wedding. How we’ll go dutch on the dowry. A Jap and shegetz. It’s not disparaging if you belong to one of the ethnic groups being made fun of, right?
Let’s face it: I’m a middle-aged middle-class white guy originally from the Midwest. My very existence is racist.
You know what? Fuck that podcast. Fuck the whole idea of “McMansions.” This place is lovely and I would love to live here. I would love to throw a party here for my kid and his gori fiancee, invite all these people back, drink my own beer, drift around, peer up through the skylight as the night comes on and look at the stars and when some says to me “penny for your thoughts” I’d say, “My son’s a Guju getting married to a Jew, so I’m going to maybe have to bargain with you on that price you’re offering me.”
But that’s years in the future. For now, little man needs to get home and get to bed. We say our goodbyes, get to our Subaru, strap him in his car seat, drive home. He’s feisty because it’s past his bed-time, but once we get him settled he’s out, snoring, in no time. Yeah, my toddler snores. Loud. It’s god damned adorable.
We do chores, my wife and I, in our own house. if I had stepped into our house when I was teenager still living in Wichita, I would have called it a McMansion, easily. Talk about judgmental pricks.
We turn in, and as we’re drifting off to sleep, my wife does this thing she always does. You know how some people have that last, pre-sleep jerk-spasm; my wife sometimes has a last, pre-sleep blurt, something that’s on her mind that needs to be said. “They had two laundry rooms,” she says.
“That house. They had two full laundry rooms.”
“I don’t know.”
“What, like, one upstairs, one downstairs?”
“Oh. I guess that makes sense.”