Claim: Young man tries to distract his date's parents from his dinnertime faux pas by inadvertently calling their attention to an even more embarrassing situation.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2000]
- Why the young man needs to fabricate a distraction varies from telling to telling. In the example noted above, he's faced with a dropped food dilemma. In other versions of the basic tale, his fiancée notices that his fly is unzipped and communicates this dire situation to him. Whatever the problem, it's one that needs be addressed while he's still seated, but any efforts to do so will draw the attention of the girl's parents, hence the need for a bit of misdirection.
His efforts to momentarily distract the family lead to a greater social gaffe; he inadvertently points them to the sight of two dogs going at it right where they have no choice but to look. Adding to the inappropriateness of directing anyone's attention to such a sight is his unique position with this family. He's about to marry their treasured daughter, after all, and that marriage will involve getting biblical with her. Even if her parents understand his "Wow! Look at that!" action as a poor joke and forgive him for it, they're left with a too vivid image of copulation, the one element of their daughter's future they'd much rather not have to contemplate.
In some "open fly" versions, the young man further compounds his embarrassment by hastily zipping the edge of the tablecloth into his pants while his future inlaws are gaping at the spectacle taking place on the front lawn. The end of the meal sees him stripping the covering from the table and sending the dishes flying when he nonchalantly stands and attempts to walk away.
As always, the theme is embarrassment, with the future groom's awful moment heightened by the additional importance ascribed to this particular evening. These are not, after all, the understanding parents of his wife of many years; these are the anxious mother and father he's soon to snatch their baby girl from. But of course his attempts to prove that he's no piker and will indeed know how to take care of her will founder on the rocks of social disaster.
A related legend working the same theme goes as follows:
On his best behaviour, the lad turned up at their salubrious address in good time and, despite his apprehension, the evening was pleasant, if a little strained.
Until, that is, the guest felt strangely frail, gripped by a bad case of flatulence. He leapt up from the table and, making his excuses, headed off to find the toilet. But the internal combustion was insistent and when he spotted a small open window out of the parents' earshot, he thrust his rear through and gave vent.
Much relieved, he rejoined the subdued diners and carried off the rest of the evening without further trouble.
As they bid the parents goodbye and set off down the drive in the car, the satisfied bloke beamed to his new love.
"Well, that didn't go too badly," he smarmed. "What d'you reckon, darling?"
"Well," she replied surprisingly curtly, "it was going fine till you farted through the serving
Sightings: Look for a brief mention of this legend in the "Wife of Bath" episode of the BBC's Canterbury Tales (original air date
Last updated: 29 July 2013
Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Vanishing Hitchhiker. New York: W. W. Norton, 1981. ISBN 0-393-95169-3 (pp. 138-139). Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill. "Urban Myths." The Guardian. 30 September 1995 (p. 67).