In a world full of Nancy’s and Cheryl’s, the name Fanny Hinklebinder tends to stand out in a crowd. It’s the kind that, when announced, causes people to stop what they’re doing and crank their necks to put a face with such a ridiculous name.
And so it was when the petite, blonde hostess of the Blue Bay restaurant called, “Fanny Hinklebinder,” to the front to be seated, I heard several snickers, along with a few popping noises as necks whipped around the room, in search of the undoubtedly fat, homely woman in a polka dot dress. After all, what other type of woman would be named Fanny Hinklebinder?
It hadn’t been my choice to dine with Miss Hinklebinder. I mean, I’d never even met the woman. She was my husband’s sister’s husband’s aunt. Confusing, I know; let’s just say she was an in-law of sorts. For reasons he didn’t want to go into, Ron had asked my husband, Brian, if we could entertain his aunt for a couple of hours. He had assured us that she was the sweetest woman we’d ever meet and my ever kind-hearted husband couldn’t say no. But truth be told, spending the evening with a woman named Fanny Hinklebinder was not my idea of a good time.
As we made our way to the hostess stand, I linked my arm with Brian’s, focusing on the red and yellow polka dots spattered over the back of Fanny’s dress, mainly to avoid eye contact with fellow patrons.
“I hope you plan on seating us near the bathroom,” Fanny said loudly. I stole a glance at my husband, who looked as horrified as I was.
The hostess smiled politely and led us to a dimly lit table in the corner.
“I hope this isn’t the table you have for us,” Fanny objected.
“Oh, this will be fine, won’t it Brian?” I looked, helplessly, at my husband.
“Well, if Miss. Hinklebinder has a problem...”
My elbow was this close to connecting with my dear husband’s rib.
Fanny frowned and sighed deeply. “I suppose it will be alright. But I hope the service will be quicker than the wait.”
I thanked the hostess and we sat down. Brian and I fought for the menu and I won. I held it in front of my face and mouthed a few choice words to my husband.
“I hope the food is better than the last time I was here,” Fanny said, peering over her bifocals at the menu.
I took a moment to observe this unpleasant woman. I realized she was Ron’s mother and all, but “sweetest woman you’ll ever meet” was a bit much.
“I hope you’re not ordering the pasta. It’s terribly bland,” Fanny offered. “I intend on ordering the lobster. I hope it’s better than the pasta. It should be for the price.”
I hoped she was paying.
Brian and I tried our best to be polite but when Fanny voiced her hope that people didn’t mistake our waitress for a prostitute, due to her extremely bright lipstick and low-cut blouse, I lost it.
“Miss Hinklebinder,” I said through clenched teeth, “may I ask you a question?” I felt my husband’s hand tighten over my thigh but I ignored it.
“I hope it’s not too personal,” she said. “I’m a pretty private person.”
I fought the urge to roll my eyes. “Can you think of one pleasant thing to say? Just one.” I held up a finger for effect.
She squirmed in her seat for a moment, her polka dots moving to and fro. Her round face flushed and I waited for an angry outburst.
Much to my surprise, she burst into tears. I looked at my husband, the two of us at a loss for words. I handed her a napkin and waited as she dabbed at her eyes and composed herself.
“I hope you can forgive me,” she sniffed. “My boyfriend just asked me to marry him and I’m irritable. I hope you understand.”
“But that’s wonderful! Why on earth would you be upset?” I asked, reaching for her hand. I felt a strange sympathy rising up in me.
She leaned across the table and lowered her voice. “I hope you don’t laugh but...you think Fanny Hinklebinder is bad? My boyfriend’s name is Heiny Stinkovich. You figure it out.”
Six weeks later, Brian and I attended the wedding. Last we heard, they were seriously considering changing their names to Mary and Tom.
We can only hope.
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