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Ann paused to look up from the jigsaw puzzle in which she had suddenly become engrossed, scanned me from head to toe and back again with a stare I was now convinced could slice through a tin can like a Ginzu knife, and said, "I don't eat cake."

I had to invoke the spirit of Gandhi to keep myself from saying, "Well, you must be eating something , because a belly like that doesn't just appear." Instead, I forced my face into a tight, plastic grin and said, "Alrighty then. Dana, David and I will pick something out, and we'll have it at the house by the time you arrive."

"Sounds great," said Dana.

When Katie returned home with the girls, she and her parents retreated to the jigsaw puzzle without a word to either David or me, so we took refuge with Dana and his daughters. A few hours later, when it was time for us to leave, Ann stood with her back against the sliding glass door, her arms firmly at her side.

I'm a hugger. I also have a habit of thinking out loud. So, as I approached Ann, my arms outstretched in anticipation of giving this clearly unhappy woman the hug of her lifetime, I said, "Look, this is killing you, isn't it, you're like 'I'm British, I don't want to be touched, how do I handle this woman rushing me with her arms open wide?' Well, I'm a hugger, so you'll have to deal." She remained stiff as I gave her a brief squeeze.

"I am not British ," she hissed when I stepped back. Her face became a satisfied smirk and I knew enough from the past few hours that she was about to launch another snide broadside. "I'm from New Zealand . That's even farther south than you live." I had known that would come back to bite me. If I had detected any semblance of humor in her voice, I would have played along and said, "Wow, then you must be really stupid." But the boring truth is that I was rendered speechless. Eventually, when the shock of her scalding tone and blatant, almost comical spitefulness wore off, I muttered, "New Zealand, huh? Oh." Then I took David's hand in mine, and left.

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