A classic situation

that we all have been in.

A classic situation
Photo: Max Griss

We’ve all been in this classic situation. You’re in the kitchen, working diligently to recreate Grandma’s famous spaghetti and meatballs recipe for a romantic interest. A key part of the recipe is the tomato sauce, made from scratch, of course. If Grandma caught you using that shit out of a jar she’d smack you with a wooden spoon. (Which isn’t to say that you don’t use Prego or Rao’s Homemade or Barilla or any of the other major tomato sauce brands, it’s just that you would never use tomato sauce from a jar for this romantic situation, which again, I must stress, is a classic situation we’ve all been in.)

You’ve been in the kitchen for what feels like days, juggling pots, pans, knives, tomatoes, noodles, ground beef, onions, eggs, bread crumbs, butter, olive oil, herbs, cutting boards, small bowls, large bowls, a colander, spoons, and a ladle that you use to bring a bit of the sauce up to your nose to take a comically large whiff, confirming each time that you’ll never live up to Grandma’s cooking and maybe you should just give up. Meanwhile, the dog won’t shut the fuck up about going outside, but you can’t risk leaving the stove on and burning the whole house down now, can you? So the dog will just have to hold it, especially since the last time you let him out unsupervised he dug a hole under the fence and into the neighbor’s yard, stealing a bit of undercooked chicken out of their bins. You apologized in the neighborhood WhatsApp group but haven’t filled in the hole yet so for now the dog has to stay on the leash in the backyard.

It’s your parents’ house, anyway, so why should you be responsible for filling in holes? They’re off building their dream home on some oceanfront property that will be underwater in 10 years and are letting you live in this one, rent-free, while you get your shit together. To be frank, you’re having a bit of a rough time. Your partner of 6 years broke up with you one day a few months ago for no real reason, in your book. You thought things were just starting to get comfortable, finally getting into a proper rhythm, when one day out of the blue they tell you that they’re just not happy anymore, haven’t been happy for a long time, and aren’t quite sure if they’ve ever been happy, if they’re really being honest with themselves. You thought you took it pretty well at the time but the next day you started uncontrollably sobbing during a work meeting, which made everyone so uncomfortable that they asked you to take some time off, without pay and without a return date. Very relatable, right? Given that this is a situation that each of us has experienced once or twice at some point in time.

Anyway, now things are getting back on track. After a few months of hanging out in graveyards back at home (and I mean this quite literally—it’s the only place you feel you can go to be truly alone, because no one will bother you if just sit in front of a random grave [though one time, an old man did come up to you and strike up a conversation; it was only when he asked you how you knew the deceased that you realized it was his wife’s grave]), you’re starting to feel like yourself again.

So when you met your love interest at the dog park, it almost seemed like fate. After all, you never went to the dog park—you were only there because of the hole under the fence and you felt a bit odd about letting your dog piss in the cemetery. You almost couldn’t believe yourself when you invited them to dinner, let alone at your place (you didn’t mention the thing about living at home). Your parents’ house is nice, really nice, actually, more contemporary than what you probably imagined when I told you lived at your parents’ house. But you’ve been bad about maintaining it, keeping it clean. You’ll have to do a mad dash through the house, a load of laundry or two, a load of dishes or three.

Let’s skip that part and jump back to the beginning of the story. You’re in the kitchen, making the pasta, making the sauce, making the meatballs, the dog’s fucking barking, and the doorbell rings. It’s your love interest. Dinner’s almost done, you tell them, as you show them to the dining room, helpfully adjacent to the kitchen (though it’s not a full open concept kitchen/dining/living room–that’ll be part of the beach house). Just one small snag: you don’t have any plates. They’re all in the dishwasher, and as far as you can tell, it’ll be another 45 minutes until the cycle is complete and Grandma’s sauce is ready now. Your date is ready now. You can’t stall for 45 excruciating minutes making small talk about hanging out all day with dead people.

Though stressful, this is a classic situation that the vast majority—if not all—of us have experienced, and you’re prepared. You pull a few store brand paper plates out of the cupboard. You hate to do this, but you’re out of options, and better to eat off of a paper plate than no plate at all. You load up the plates with noodles, sauce, and meatballs. You garnish with herbs. You pick up a plate with two hands. You walk out towards your date, eagerly awaiting dinner. They smile, you smile. You’re actually happy for the first time in months. You do a little dance with your shoulders, a “We’re eating, we’re sexy, who knows what this could turn into?” kind of dance. You both laugh. You’re losing yourself to the moment, truly existing in the present, something your ex actually said you never did, seemed incapable of, actually. You let go of the plate with your left hand.

The plate completely collapses under the weight of the dish—it’s a massive portion, just like Grandma used to serve—and the noodles, sauce, and meatballs splatter all over your date’s pants and shoes. They look at you. You look at them. You don’t even know what kind of face you’re making in this moment, but you hope it’s appropriately horrified. You try to form your lips into a smile. Maybe this isn’t so bad. Maybe you can salvage this. The dog eats a meatball off your date’s shoe.

Here’s the thing: this classic situation could’ve been almost completely avoided if you had a package of Dixie Ultra® Deep Dish plates, perfect for serving your heaviest, messiest, and sauciest meals. Instead, you bought the leading store brand paper plates and ruined your last chance at finding love.

Now, an hour after this disaster, it’s just you and the dog again. You take out your frustration on the leading store brand’s website, where you can leave a review. “RUINED OUR MEAL” you write, in all caps so they know you’re serious. You look over to the dog, still covered in Grandma’s tomato sauce, and give him a knowing look. This will make you feel better, right? This will make you feel less alone. You leave a single star.

We’ve all been there, in this, the most classic of situations!