Yesterday, my wife and I attended a get together in our subdivision. Much to my subsequent regret, two people caught me making fun of my in-laws’ suspected mafia ties (suspected by me, that is). The first was my wife, who happened to be standing nearby, but out of sight, when I told my friend Ron the joke I’d recently made up: “How many Gambinos does it take to screw in a light bulb? Zero. Nobody screws with a Gambino and gets away with it, not even a light bulb!”
Naturally, Sophia seemed less than amused: “Richard, for the millionth time, my family has nothing to do with the mafia!”
I’m pretty sure Ron knew I was joking, but Sophia decided to clarify the situation for him: “Just because we’re Italians and there’s a crime family with the same last name, Richard always accuses my father of being part of the mob. But we’re not, of course, and Richard knows it. He also knows not every Italian’s involved in organized crime.”
My wife’s comments unfortunately riled up the other person who’d overheard me joking with Ron. His wife’s 90-year-old grandmother, Betsy, had been sitting with us at the kitchen table but hadn’t said a word until Sophia spoke. At the mention of Italians, Betsy interrupted our discussion using her patented catchphrase: “Wops? Fuck ’em!”
Ron felt compelled to explain Betsy’s animosity, lest my wife take offense at the slur: “Sorry Sophia. Betsy’s brother got killed fighting in Italy during World War II, and she’s hated everything Italian ever since. She won’t even eat any food ending in a vowel. When Tracy makes her spaghetti in marinara sauce, we have to call it ‘noodles with gravy’ or Betsy won’t touch it.”
Ron must’ve assumed Betsy’s observations on Italians had concluded. Frankly, I’d assumed the same, since the old lady’s catchphrase usually marked the endpoint of her commentary. But this time, Betsy hadn’t quite finished. As soon as Ron stopped talking, she volunteered one more opinion for our consumption: “Can’t stand those Guineas; they’re almost as bad as them N*%%ers!”
This time, Ron didn’t attempt an explanation. Like Sophia and I, he merely looked around to confirm that all the African-American guests were out of earshot.