jeanine fritz

M aybe 10 years ago, I drove to Jackson Hole from Boulder.

It was summer, I'd driven all that beautiful road, alone and happy, and now I was gonna meet my boyfriend's parents for the first time. Things were good.

He met me at the hotel, grabbed my suitcase, led me upstairs and opened the door. There were two beds and three suitcases in there already. Smothering the panic bubbling up, I played it cool.

"Oh. Are we all staying the same room?"

"Yeah," he said. "It'll be fine."

I looked around the room, scanning the towels and sweatshirts slung over chairs, the books that'd been tossed aside the night before, as a terrifying new thought entered my mind.

"Which bed are you and I in?"

He frowned.

"Well, I'm in that one," he said pointing to the bed by the bathroom facing the television that had a pair of socks on it. "And you're in that one," he said, gesturing towards the bed closer to the door, the one with the book on the nightstand and a pink bathrobe carefully draped along the edge.

"I'm sleeping with your mother?!"

"It'll be fine," he said.

I was pretty sure it was not gonna be fine.

Hours later, trying to find that alcoholic sweet spot between drinking my feelings and ensuring I wasn't so hammered I'd grope his mother in my sleep, my best friend called. She was in Los Angeles with her brother, on a trip I'd ditched in favor of traveling nine hours by car to sleep with my boyfriend's mother.

"We're at a sushi bar in L.A. Jeff Bridges is here. He said hi."

The Dude. His Dudeness. Duder. El Duderino. I could have been sitting there chatting about league bowling with my hero, Jeffrey Lebowski, but instead I'd be snuggling with a woman I'd just met.

I burst into tears. That night, tortured with jealousy and fearful I'd try to spoon Momma, I didn't sleep a wink.

Last weekend, I went to a bachelorette party outside Vail. That drive, at night in a snowstorm, was far less pleasant than the drive to Jackson Hole -- but as I've done now for years, I remembered I wouldn't be sharing a bed with someone's mom and smiled.

Now this party was three days long, in a condo, with a dozen women. Predictably, the place was littered with gin and wiener paraphernalia, and I was handed a martini as big as my head the moment I set down my bags.

The next night, after dinner in town, some of the girls went straight to bed, while some of the girls went to a bar, met some beefcakes, and got a ride back with them. While there was zero question these guys worked out like it was their job, they turned out not to be strippers.

The next morning, the girls who'd stayed up and the girls who gone to sleep exchanged stories. Sleepy Jenn, in her New Orleans Saints pajamas, asked what all the ruckus had been.

She'd nearly come downstairs in the early hours to tell them to shut their pieholes. Instead, she crabbily flopped around in bed, trying to stuff an entire pillow into each ear while the other girls attempted to get the men to reenact "Magic Mike" in the kitchen.

"One of the dudes plays soccer. Or football. I dunno. Jeremy somebody. Jeremy Shocking."

Jen's heart stopped. She pulled out her phone, located the picture she needed and passed the image of the Super Bowl-winning tight end, Jeremy Shockey, around the room.

One by one, the girls nodded.

"Yeah, that was the guy."

And the only girl in the condo who would've cut off a pinkie to meet him, the one who'd narrowly missed meeting one of her heroes because she was busy pouting in bed, burst into tears.

I understood. Long ago, I'd missed The Dude.