When I met Jonny, it wasn’t because I wanted to get to know people or make friends. No. It was because he was dating my college friend, Jennifer, and it was time to sniff him out.
The meet went down at IHOP. A few of us from Jennifer’s college days were there. We looked him up and down with our arms crossed, making silent observations through our slitted, steely eyes. Who did he think he was, putting his arm around her like that? How did we know we could trust him? Obviously, we didn’t. Trust must be earned, and there is no more rigorous arena than the scrutiny of your girlfriend’s protective circle.
The inquisition began lightly. He seemed nice. Easy to laugh. Considerate. Didn’t talk too much. All good things — but was it an act?
I needed to establish dominance. Fortunately, the conversation turned to the subject of getting burned by spilled coffee. (All of us love coffee, and none of us claim to coordinated.)
“Yes, that would hurt, a lot. Don’t you think, Jonny?” I saw him nod his head. “Which reminds me, some of us are very protective of Jennifer. Careful with that coffee.”
His eyes widened. He understood. We were no group of simple buddies. This was war, and he was our prisoner.
The rest of the evening passed without incident. Jonny is a fun guy, and he always looked to Jennifer’s immediate needs. Not that anyone has immediate needs in IHOP, but it’s a nice gesture. I was confident that he would not take her out and order dinner before she had chosen something from the menu. Little things like that are important.
There were tattoos on his arms. Lots of them. One was an Apple logo. Odd. I have trouble trusting Apple fanboys (which he proudly admitted he was), often attributing their loyalty to a lack of proper gray matter in the frontal lobe, but I’ve learned to live alongside Apple users. I let it go.
My jaw clenched. Something was afoot.
Really. A big fan of Three’s Company?
I didn’t believe it.
Why? Because it’s popular in some dives to pretend you like something old and corny. Was Jonny a vapid hipster who got this tattoo to impress other vapid hipsters? (Who probably wore Donald’s hat from Fat Albert even though they never saw the show.) Jennifer was too good to be dating a faker who thought he could impress us by pretending to like a 70s sitcom.
Fortunately, this wasn’t my first inquisition; I knew what to do.
“So, Jonny. You’re a big fan of Three’s Company.” He nodded his head. “Then tell me. What’s the third line of the theme song?”
My friends wrinkled their foreheads and asked why I bothered to put forth such a ridiculous question. I explained: No one can ever remember the third line.
Think about it. “Come and knock on our door…we’ve been waiting for you……” What’s next? You don’t know. (This was a plot point on Full House once.)
Jonny, who had been staring at the ceiling, lowered his head to look me in the eye. “Where the kisses are hers and hers and his.”
I staggered at his nonsense words. Had he gotten caught in a studder? If he didn’t know the answer he should have just said so.
Then it hit me: those were the right words.
Jonny shrugged like it was nothing, but it wasn’t nothing. In that moment I had seen Jonny’s true self. He wore his loves on his sleeve (sort of) and wasn’t ashamed to show the world when he cared about something. And he didn’t just pretend to care, either. Jonny was the genuine article.
So I decided that he was OK with me. And now that he and Jennifer are engaged I think we can all say that we’re thankful for the inquisition of friends. Congratulations, you two.