My Parents Kept Worrying about My Personal Life, So I Came up with a Smart Plan to Stop Them Fretting

Tired of my parents’ constant nagging about my nonexistent love life, I cooked up a scheme to bring a fake girlfriend to their big anniversary bash. Helen, my childhood buddy, was game to play the part, but what started as a joke suddenly felt all too real. I listened to my parents my entire life, nailing every subject in school, getting into a good college, and excelling in my chosen field. I traveled. I was cultured, and in my 30s, I had a big house already when the rest of the world could barely afford rent.

My life was practically perfect because of my efforts and finances, yet my parents decided they were worried about me. Out of the blue, they said I was living half a life because—gasp—I was single. Every chat with them turned into something like: “Mom, I closed another deal and bought a house!” I would announce proudly. “That’s nice, honey. But why do you even need that empty house?

With no family to live there and no baby’s feet stomping on the floor…” Mom would reply, dismissing me entirely.No achievement mattered to them unless I had someone to share it with. And my parents weren’t the only ones. Every family gathering was the same. I would get ambushed by aunts and uncles just so they could ask when I was getting married. Other common comments included: Have you found someone yet? You aren’t getting any younger, Richard. Why are you wasting your life?

And so on, so on… For the most part, I could take all that criticism and forget about it, but something that arrived in the mail gave me a brilliant idea. My parents’ 40th anniversary was around the corner, and of course, they included a +1 on my invitation. I dreaded the thought of another night of sympathetic glances and matchmaking attempts. However, I could show up with a girlfriend. She didn’t need to be real, though. So, I called Helen, my old childhood friend, who was also close to the family.

I figured she’d be down for a bit of play-acting. I met her at a bar, and after buying us some beers, I started, “Hey, so I have this crazy idea…” Helen was down for the plan before I could even finish. Except, she had one rule: “I’m totally your fake date, but you owe me a dance. And not just some half-assed sway. I mean an actual dance.” “Deal,” I said, clinking our glasses. The anniversary party was in full swing when we showed up, holding hands. I saw my parents as soon as we walked in. They must have been waiting for me. “Is this some kind of joke?” Mom asked, confusion written all over her face. “Nope, Helen and I are a thing now,” I said, shrugging. And the rest of the night was a huge blast. Helen was funnier and more interesting than I remembered from our younger days. I kept my promise, twirling her around the dance floor. But things changed between us when a “couple’s challenge” was announced.

I didn’t want to play, but Mom pushed us to. Atfirst, it was all fun and games just to test how couples could work together. But the trust exercise was different. I had to put on a blindfold and let Helen guide me through an obstacle course. I tripped at one point, so she wrapped her arm around my waist, and I put mine over her shoulders for support. Suddenly, the moment was electric.

Her voice sounded different—breathier? Or was that me? Was the darkness tricking us? Well, it wasn’t dark for her, so maybe I was the only one feeling this way. But when I tripped again, Helen tightened her hold some more and all I felt were…butterflies. We finished the obstacle course in second place, and when I saw her smile after removing my blindfold. I couldn’t focus on anything else but her face and how my heart was beating faster than ever. After the party, we took a walk on a nearby beach, which used to be our old hangout spot.

The atmosphere was different with the moon, the waves, and our easy conversation. Helen wasn’t the little girl from my childhood anymore. She was so much more. A woman who could bring any man to his knees. I certainly felt weak walking next to her, so I stopped and faced her.

It felt almost natural for our faces to close the distance in that moment. Long story short, we started seeing each other for real, and almost a year later, I walked into my family’s house without my fake girlfriend—she was my very real fiancée now. Helen and I got married in a big ceremony. But you know what my mom said in my ear during our mother-son dance? “You better give me a grandchild soon. Who knows how long I have left?”I shook my head and laughed, knowing that she and Dad would always push for more. But between you and me, I had already told Helen we were going to start trying for a baby that same night.

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