My only real regret is letting embarrassment about family situations rule my teen years. Granted, those are the years to suffer silently or roll your eyes when someone in your family embarrasses you, but I still regret letting the little things become so darn big.
My mom was always a bit…um…different than the other moms. She marched to the beat of a different drummer. Hell, she was in whole separate parade! I appreciate that more now as an adult, but I didn’t so much when I was a teenager.
One time during our annual vacation to a lodge in Ontario, Canada, I was playing tennis with other girls my age and a few of the moms when all of a sudden one girl said, “Who is THAT?” I turned around and saw this woman stomping up through the beautifully manicured grounds with a huge tackle box clutched in her hand, fishing lures hanging off her battered hat and her face beet-red from spending the whole day in the sun. Classic Marsha. My mom.
My heart slid to my toes, my pulse raced ten times faster, and, in answer to this girl’s question—a girl I never saw again after that two-week vacation—I…shrugged and looked away. Yes. I pretended that I didn’t know my own mother. I was mortified as only a teenage girl could be. But, no, it gets worse. My mom veered off course and headed our way, and I wished with every fiber of my being that she wouldn’t see me. She came right over to the fence separating us and told me to head back to our cottage and get ready for dinner. I numbly nodded my head, aware of the horrified looks of those girls and their mothers.
I always assumed the looks were directed at my mother and her get-up. Did I forget to mention the scruffy cut-off jean shorts and the dirty tennis shoes, with laces completely dragging behind the shoes? Well, add those details in. But, looking back to that day as an adult, I often wonder if they were more horrified that I would pretend to not know my own mother. What kind of girl DOES that?
I wish I could have a do-over for that day. When that girl whose name I can’t even recall asked her question, I wish I would have turned around and smiled and waved happily to my mom. I wish I had said, “Oh, that’s my mom! She loves to fish! As a matter of fact, last summer here at the lodge she caught the biggest fish of the entire season!”
Because when it really comes down to it, my mom deserved a better daughter than the one she had that day. And, heck, I’ll admit it, many other days as well. She has always stood beside me, proud to be my mom. And I slunk away one too many times. I don’t do that anymore, but I regret the times that I did.
Family embarrassment is a big part of practically any teen’s life. We’re embarrassed if our dad is fat or thin, a drinker or one who wears his pants two inches too short. We’re embarrassed if our mom is fat or messy or geeky looking or one who tries to act and dress like our friends. Everything is an embarrassment at that tender age.
Remember What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? How the family had to deal with embarrassing situations like an obese mom and a mentally-challenged younger brother? Or Andie in Pretty in Pink when she doesn’t want Blane to see where she lives? Or poor little Daniel LaRusso in the original Karate Kid when he has to help push his mom’s car past his girlfriend’s mansion, with her disapproving parents looking on.
We all suffer embarrassments. It’s part of growing up. But, I wish so much that I wouldn’t have let it affect me as much as I did. When it comes right down to it, our friends will come and go. Our boyfriends or girlfriends will do the same. But our family stays with us forever, for better or worse, for richer or poorer. Those are the ones who truly stick with us.
After I let go of my embarrassment about my mom, I realized that my friends all adored her. Sometimes they would call the house to talk to my mom because they couldn’t talk to their own moms. My mom never judges people. She keeps an open mind. She accepts—even embraces—the differences that divide most people.
She was the person I confided in for my whole entire life. She was the first person I called in my college dorm hallway when I lost my virginity. I don’t have a secret that my mom doesn’t know. And I love that! I hope that my kids will feel the same way about me. I’ll probably embarrass the hell out of them through the years. But, as long as they feel that open communication, I’m fine with having them slink away when their friends are on the scene.
So, tell me. Let it out. When did someone in your family do something that embarrassed you to the extreme?