Mario Stories

The Port Angeles Cousin

THE REQUEST: Write about a time you were awkward around girls

Okay I'm going to start off with this one, because this is the QUINTESSENTIAL story of how awkward I was as a teenager around girls. Any time someone points at me and says, hey that guy was married at twenty-three. And he's been married for nearly thirty years. ANY TIME somebody says this, you can just point to this story and say yeah but nobody ever would have predicted that when he was eighteen. Because HERE is the Mario that the kids from middle school and high school all knew.

So I have this cousin. I'm not going to use her real name, let's just say her name is, uh, Jennifer. And anyway, Jennifer and I have known each other since 1974, because we are the exact same age. Keep that in mind throughout the rest of this story. Jennifer and I are the exact same age. At the time that this story happened, we had already known each other, and been cousins, for seventeen years.

So one day, it's the summer of 1991, and my mom is driving from Bellevue back to her hometown of Port Angeles, which is the little town where she had grown up. And as usual, she is taking along me and my little brother, Dom. Dom and I always got carted along whenever mom went back to Port Angeles, that was just how it worked. Whenever mom went back to visit her relatives, we were supposed to go too.

Port Angeles. God's country.

But on THIS trip, instead of it just being Dom and me, we actually had a third member of the kid world with us. We also had my new girlfriend, Carrie.

Side note: I had JUST started dating Carrie in 1991, so this was literally the first time she had ever gone on a family trip with me. And also, if you're asking, yes the only reason we were dating was because she had asked me out first. There's no way at seventeen I EVER would have had it in me to ask a girl out on a date. And yes you probably could have predicted that if you know me.

So anyway, we're driving from Bellevue to Port Angeles. My mom and Dom in the front seat, and Carrie and me in the back seat. And at some point along the way, my mom gets the bright idea... hey you know what? Since we're going to Port Angeles anyway, let's stop in at my cousin Kuchenstrudel's house.

Side note: Kuchenstrudel wasn't his real name. But Dom and I used to always tease our mom that her relatives in Port Angeles all had weird goofy old world Danish names. So for purposes of this story, let's say the guy's name was Kuchenstrudel.

So mom goes, hey let's stop in at Kuchenstrudel and Aebleskiver's house. And then I can visit them, and you guys can hang out with your cousin, Jennifer. Wouldn't that be fun? And Dom and I both sort look at each other in the car, and we're like, Jennifer? Hang out with Jennifer? Um sure, yeah, I guess that would be fun.

And then HERE comes the story that I feel will always define me.

So we get to their house. And my mom goes in to visit her cousins. Who are all grownups. And now there's just five of us kids hanging out in the backyard. There's me, Dom, and Carrie on one side of the yard. And there's Jennifer, and her little sister Fahrvergnugen, over on the other side of the yard. And I swear to god, it was like being at a middle school dance. Jennifer and her sister hanging out waaaaaay over on one side of the yard. And Dom and me hanging out waaaaay over on the other side of the yard. Teen boys and teen girls. Who barely even knew each other. Forever separated by awkwardness.

And I have to say, thank god my girlfriend Carrie was there that day. Because if Carrie hadn't been there that day, there's NO way that Dom and I ever would have spoken to our cousins. Not that day. Not any other day. Not EVER. We just didn't know how to talk to strange girls.

So we're all standing there, awkwardly, on two sides of this giant yard. And after about ten minutes of this shit, my girlfriend gets really annoyed at me, and she starts peppering me with questions.

"Who is that girl?" she asks.

Me: "Jennifer."

"Is she nice?"

Me: "I don't know."

"What do you mean, you don't know?"

Me: "Well I've never talked to her before."

Carrie is absolutely astonished by this fact.

"So wait, she's seventeen, and she's your cousin, and you've never talked to her before?"

Me (meekly): "No."

"How long have you known her?"

Me (knowing this is absolutely the wrong answer): "Seventeen years."


I just sort of shook my head at her. Nope.

And anyway, here's why Carrie was the perfect girlfriend for me. She took my hand, and she dragged me over to my cousin Jennifer, and after seventeen years, she finally introduced us. She literally stuck out my hand for me. She said, "Hi, I'm Carrie. This is Mario, he's your cousin, and he wants to say hi to you."

Oh and P.S. funny postscript: Not only was this the first time I spoke to Jennifer, it was also the LAST time I spoke to Jennifer. Which means that if we ever get a chance to actually meet up again in the future, I sure hope a third-party intermediary is there too, as an icebreaker. :)

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