Dear Miss Lonely Hearts,
Have you ever vomited in front of your extended family? Me neither. . . . until Christmas. My family has a tradition of eating Thai food on Christmas Eve (don’t ask me why). I ate too quickly — the pad thai was the G.O.A.T* — and I vomited at the dinner table all over the garlic chicken. My whole family saw me. My stepfather shook his head. My brother laughed. My grandmother cried. I did all three at the same time.
— Happy New Year’s
Dear New Year’s,
I’ve never spewed in front of my extended family, but one time I did totally barf in front of a dinner party full of French strangers. It was the summer of my junior year of high school, and I’d been spending the days babysitting for the three children of a French family who lived in our neighborhood. Things were going pretty well with the family; they liked me all right and enjoyed feeding me things that they thought an uncultured American like me wouldn’t know how to handle — so I had a free hookup all summer for delicious stinky cheese and strange savory jams.
Then one day, they decided to have an escargot party. For context, this was not just any day. This was one of the hottest days that July; this was also a day that I’d spent chasing my charming French charges around the park, once following one of them into a concrete pool of stagnant green water to make sure that he didn’t drink it. It had been a day of sweat and frustration, constant movement and dehydration. The last thing I wanted to put into my mouth were a bunch of salty snails that I had to pick out of their shells and dip in melted butter; I didn’t care that adorable tiny snail-forks were to be used. I wanted a big glass of water and a nap more than anything else. Hospitality, however, is not something to turn one’s nose up at. I slurped down ten or twenty slimy salty snails with the best of them.
I thought I was going to make it, until my eldest charge mentioned the travelling carnival that had set up in the park. I hadn’t really paid attention to the carnies that morning, as I’d been too busy wading through goose poop to collect a toddler out of an ornamental lake.
This carnival was one of those I’m-sure-I’m-going-to-get-whiplash, why-haven’t-they-banned-these-things-in-the-United-States-yet kind of carnivals. On any other day I would’ve been all about this carnival, but I was already feeling weak and woozy, and this whole “when they get tired you can just bring them back to the party,” thing didn’t sound great to me.
We went on the bumper cars. We went on the spinning cups. We went on the “wacky railway,” which really just spun you around in a circle as fast as possible. We went on the tower of terror and the flying swings. By the time I rounded up the kids, even the flashing lights that decorated the rides were making me nauseated. I spent the entire car ride home taking deep breaths, trying not to barf right then and there.
Getting out of the car, I thought I was going to make it. The cool night air was doing me good, especially as it no longer smelled like cotton candy and carnival ride grease. The kids ran around the house, excited to see everyone at the party. I followed and as soon as I stepped foot in the backyard and came face to face with twenty Frenchmen and a mountain of escargot. . . I puked all over the grass.
They laughed, thinking it was my delicate American stomach reacting to the snails I’d eaten. I was too busy barfing to tell them any differently.
Never eating snails again,
Miss Lonely Hearts