Friday, February 2, 2018

Tips for humiliating the next generation


HALLIE EPHRON: I remember Erma Bombeck once said that she and her husband had outfits made in the same fabric as their
sofa's slipcovers, so they'd be properly camouflaged when their children walked through with their friends. 

What a parent wears can be excruciating. My daughter wrote a college essay about her father's artichoke T-shirt (from Castroville, CA, the artichoke center of the universe; Marilyn Monroe was their Artichoke Queen in 1947) worn with sandals and socks, a camera and binoculars hanging from his neck, and a bird guide wedged into his pants pocket. Can you say: "DORKY!"

I confess, I was a pro at humiliating my children, too. Here are just a few of my many weapons:

  • Singing in the car
  • Skipping in the mall
  • Dancing (anywhere)
  • Talking to other customers in the supermarket
  • Wearing fringe
  • Using the words hook up in a sentence
  • Suggesting the possibility that I have ever had s-e-x
  • Not shaving my underarms

"Moth-errr" was the sound they made just before they put as many miles between us as they could. 

Did your parents love to make you squirm? Or maybe you have a few tricks for humiliating the younger members of your family?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Not having kids, I'll offer a corollary: realizing that YOU are doing exactly the same things your mom did. The things that drove you nuts. 

Like--my mother always chatted with the cashier at the grocery checkout line. MU-ther, I'd whine, NObody cares what you think. Now I always chat.  

Whenever she heard a snippet of a sentence that happened to coincide with song lyrics, she'd ALWAYS sing the song. MU-THER! Now, when someone says, for instance, 'That's what friends are for!" You guessed it.  I sing.  

OH, and digging in the bottom of my purse for the exact proper change. Drove me bananas. Now, yeah, I do it.

LUCY BURDEETTE: Hank, exactly! My mother used to embarrass us by wearing the same outfit over and over – I can picture it, a sleeveless white blouse, gingham checked shorts, white socks and probably hush puppies. We called it her uniform. Check check check. 

She also was big on costumes – luckily our kids were old enough not to feel humiliated by me wearing a hotdog hat with Tonka in a full hotdog costume, marching in the annual dachshund New Year’s eve parade.

I do so remember the days when everything we did was met with a scornful lip curl. At one point John turned to me and said: “something terrible has happened to Andrew. His father has become an idiot!”

INGRID THOFT: I don’t remember being particularly embarrassed by my parents, but one incident does stick out in my memory.  We were on a college tour—at Tufts, I think—and it started to rain.  My father had brought along one of those huge golf umbrellas that featured alternating green and white triangles of fabric and proceeded to open it up.  I don’t understand why, but somehow, I just could not deal with the fact that my parents were the dorky-looking (dry!) ones with the huge umbrella.  In fact, once the tour concluded, I crossed the street to put some distance between us.  I must have been feeling particularly adolescent that day!

And Hallie, I recently skipped through an aisle at Target, holding a “purse” of grapes in my hand (the grapes come in a bag with a nifty handle.)  Luckily, my hubby thought it was hilarious!  I'll skip with you anytime!

RHYS BOWEN: When my kids were in middle school I was writing YA novels. I went to speak to Jane's class and she spent the entire period with her jacket over her head! 

John was really good at embarrassing them. He wore a tailored white bush jacket to their swim meets! Don't let Dad come, they'd plead! And I have to say he drives me crazy when he has to fish for the correct change! 

Funnily enough I don't remember my parents embarrassing me. I thought they were quite cool.  

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: With three children, I have had many, many opportunities to embarrass my offspring, including breathing, looking at someone, wearing clothing and walking down a sidewalk

I recall one time when I was singing along to the radio while driving with the windows down and the sunroof open. I had to drive past the local bridge where kids jump off into the Saco River, and - oh, no! - there were some students from The Sailor's high school! He literally unbuckled and laid down on the seat so as not to be associated with the horror of a 48-year-old woman singing with the Black Eyed Peas.

My absolute favorite, though, was an episode I wasn't around for. The Smithie, then in high school, went to a sleepover with some other girls at her best friend's house. Said friend - let's call her Rose - had read my books, unlike the Smithie. At the party, Rose popped open my oeuvre and proceeded to read aloud every erotically-charged and actual sex scene in the series.

The Smithie later told me she wanted to gouge her ears out with a spoon, and then bleach her brain. 
;-)

JENN McKINLAY: My parents, bless their hearts, never did anything to embarrass me on purpose, but OMG!!! 

Dad, why do you have to wear the white T-shirt with the paint stains in public? And, Mom, can you please just drop me off at the curb so no one sees me in a (gasp) station wagon? Let's just pretend I was spawned by a pine cone. M'Kay? 

For the Hooligans, we have a completely different dynamic going. It's the pranking, oh, the endless pranking. My personal favorite was when I pulled up in the pick up lane at their school, wearing the rubber horse head mask one of them had bought for Halloween. They both walked past the car, pretending they didn't see me even though I was clearly waving my rubber hoof at them. 

Of course, revenge is a dish best served cold and while I was doing a frantic shopping trip at Target, I lost them, only to have them come rolling by with one pushing a cart and the other riding inside (they were in middle school at the time) completely decked out in princess tiaras and tutus over Batman and Deadpool face masks. I've never been more proud. 

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Jenn, that is hysterical! 

I don't think it ever would have occurred to my parents that they were humiliating me! But with my mom, bless her, it was not so much the things she did (although she would chat with anybody, anywhere,) but her voice. She had the most awful Texas twang, with earsplitting volume, and a certain indescribable grating quality.  The first time I realized I could hear her from the other side of the supermarket, I tried to sink through the floor. Now, whenever I catch the merest hint of that sound in my voice, I think, "No, no, I can't possibly sound like my mother!"

I'm sure I humiliate my daughter on a daily basis. Just the other week she caught me wearing sandals over socks (at home!!!) and said, rolling her eyes, "Please tell me you're not wearing that."

HALLIE: WELL DONE!! So what are your memories of being embarrassed by your parents or tips about how to mortify the youngsters in your family?

Tuesday's winner of Keenan Powell's DEADLY SOLUTIONS, congratulations Pam Christie! 

58 comments:

  1. Thanks for the chuckles!
    Mostly I remember being embarrassed whenever my father made some inane “twin” comment or joke in public . . . I mean, wasn’t it obvious that Jean and I were twins? I particularly remember a commercial on television with twins named Jean and Joan, so, of course, lots of teasing occurred whenever that commercial came on . . . I was ecstatic when it was finally retired!

    Although I’m certain I’ve managed to embarrass the girls on more than one occasion, they’ve kept it to themselves [so far]. Consequently, I lack any delightfully humiliating stories to share . . . .

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    1. But how lovely it must have been to be a twin... did you love or hate that Haley Mills show about "identical cousins" (seems so bizarre now)?

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    2. Definitely lovely to be a twin . . . while I’m not always a fan of the “identical twin” movies and television shows, I did enjoy the original “Parent Trap” movie . . . .

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    3. The identical cousins show was Patty Duke's, Hallie.

      Which defied credulity, I must say.

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    4. Love The Parent Trap! Must be the shenanigans!

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  2. Both of my parents were teachers, so they had lots of opportunities to humiliate me in front of my peers, but I don't remember them doing it much on purpose. My mom was the "cool" teacher in my high school, so mostly the other kids envied me on that front. My dad, however, did manage to gum up the works of my love life from time to time, simply by passing his looks on to me. Stick the two of us in a room with strangers, and it won't take you long to figure out whose daughter I am. Since Dad was the "hard" or even the "mean" teacher, not the "cool" one, this worked against me any time a cute young engineering student started to hit on me. He'd be telling me all about his studies, and somewhere in there my resemblance to his least favorite teacher would hit home. I could watch his mind leap from OMG, to some fear-laden scenario about meeting my family, and then the spark would die as he uttered the fatal words, "Wait. Are you Dr. Sherrell's daughter?"

    The absolute best "humiliate the teen" story I've heard lately, though, came from a friend who is the stand-in mother figure to her late sister's teenage son. When she noticed that her nephew had been using her account to stream movies, she waited until she was in the car with him, his father, and her own mother. Then she asked, in the chattiest possible way, "So, Marshall. 'Hot Girls?' Is that a documentary? How would you rate it? Do you think we should all watch it as a family?" Marshall is no longer using her account to stream porn, but he did sign her up for e-mail from an objectionable political newsfeed, so she reckons they're even.

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    1. Poor Marshall... and with his grandmother in the car.

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    2. That is an amazing story Gigi! Maybe Jenn can use that with her hooligans if it comes up...

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    3. Gigi, I recall the time when the Boy was 12 and the library director (who is also one of my besties) called to let me know he had unleashed a virus on the patron computer (it's a small library - there's only one!) The malicious site? Boobies.com.

      To add injury to insult, I had to pay the $65 fee for the computer guy to drive over and clean it up!

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    4. Brilliant move by your friend, Gigi! That's much more effective than yelling at the kid and grounding him.

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  3. I never had to worry about my parents trying to humiliate me (or thinking that they were trying to).

    My dad did like to mess with people though. If anyone said "Oh my god" around him, he would always answer "Yes?". When I was in Boy Scouts it happened so often that at summer camp, he had Scouts from other troops from all over the region simply addressing him as god.

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    1. Brilliant! I am totally doing that to the Hooligans.

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    2. Jenn, let me know how it goes.

      By the way, I'm kind of keeping that bit alive in a way. My twitter handle is a bit of a claim to deity: TheOneTrueJay

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  4. I love these! Once my ex and I were singing along to sixties songs and adolescent son in the back seat said, "Did you guys always love dorky music?" I told him it wasn't dorky when we were his age. Other embarassments: waving to other parents in the school drop off line, wearing what was my semi-uniform at one stage - one of my apparently dreaded vests. My father, who taught driving training (in-car) to high school students early on Saturday mornings, would wear an orange clown wig (the kind with the white bald head attached). He said it was to keep them awake. I was just glad he taught at a different high school than mine!

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    1. OMG Edith, cannot believe the clown wig!

      And Jenn, the horse head complete with hooves is brilliant:)

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    2. Edith, your dad wrote the BOOK on humiliating his kids.

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    3. He was awesome - and truly, I didn't know those students (I was in Temple City and he taught in Monrovia, two towns away). He was quirky and smart and gave us unconditional support - as well as a house full of books. I still miss him.

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  5. My parents didn't embarrass me in public, but, wow, did I make up for it with my nephews: be PRESENT (always) at sporting events, but NEVER do anything (like cheer) that would draw attention to myself. Do not drive away quickly from the drop-off zone--someone (WHO????) will notice. Efface myself in the background and do not speak UNLESS spoken to first, if they should see anyone they know while we are out in public. Like Julia, sometimes I think even breathing got me 'in trouble.'

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    1. I got in trouble for shouting GOOD HUSTLE from the sidelines.

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    2. I wish all the parents I encountered while I coached were as tame as both Flora and Hallie.

      Little Johnny trips over the paint marks on the floor yet mom and dad think he's NBA bound.

      And oh the horror when the kid would start listening to the parent instead of me, the coach. Nipped that right in the bud let me tell you.

      Flat out told the kids that practice and games were the only time before they became adults that they could ignore their parents without truly getting in trouble. Told them only four voices mattered (2 coaches, 2 refs) and none of them were their parents.

      The stories I could tell. Some were horrific, some were hilarious.

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  6. I don't think anything will top Jenn in the pick up lane disguised as Mr. Ed. I only wish I had thought of it first.

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    1. I don’t know - the Hooligans will pay it forward I am sure!

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  7. People, threatening to humiliate your children is wonderful leverage for getting the kitchen cleaned or the living room vacuumed. But sometimes I'd sing or do my happy dance in front of their friends for the sheer joy of it. I'd made up a little rap song for my daughter's 16th birthday party. I couldn't do the rhythm effects so I got a kazoo. Man, I had one clean kitchen that month.

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  8. Something I recall, humiliating at the time but fondly remembered now, is my father, the German professor, joining a conversation I was having with college friends. We were all in our second year, and we were having a deep philosophical discussion on the existence of God. My father then proceeded to explain to us the definition of sophomoric, sophomores that we were.

    I was appalled to be called, and to have my friends called, wise fools. But Daddy certained nailed it. I still cringe at the things we put forth as arguments, for and against.

    Ah youth, never was I so smart or confident.

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  9. My parents were pros at embarrassing me in public, especially my alcoholic father.

    But I'm saving those scenes for my novel.

    My kids, though, hated that I chat with everyone, especially on a family trip to NYC. We were on the subway and I was having a conversation, and the daughters were cringing that we'd be stalked by some kind of serial killer who targeted all the women in a single family. And of course, they used to holler if I sang in the car. Which I do, constantly. Now it's almost an obligation. :-)

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  10. Love these stories! Although I think Jenn wins the prize with the horse head. We must make it our mission to continue the generational humiliation! Just last night, I was SINGING to my very tired and cranky granddaughter in a restaurant (worst service EVER!!!!) the words from a little book we read called "La." La. La La. La la la. La la LAAAA. La." I could see my poor daughter wanting to disown me....

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    1. There's nothing worse than lousy service when you're in a restaurant with a two-year-old.

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    2. With four kids!!! A five year-old, a two-year-old, a year-old, and a seven month baby.

      Never ever going back to that one.

      And you would think they would have been in a hurry to get rid of us, lol!

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  11. Julia's first sentence applies to me! But my girls also had to suffer through having their mother teach at their school! Imagine how they felt when I belted out "Everything's Coming Up Roses" as part of the faculty spoof.

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  12. I have no particular memories of my parents embarrassing me, although I'm sure they did. They were parents.

    Me, I'm in the same category as Julia. I can embarrass my kids by existing. =) The Girl gets particularly wigged out by PDAs that I instigate (it's okay if she gives the hug/kiss). At church one day, we had a visiting priest who said, "If you have teenagers, give them a big hug and a sloppy kiss!" Oh, the horror. Evern teen in the church stiffened up, I swear.

    I embarrass The Boy by driving (gasp!) a Prius. "Mom, can you drop me off here? I don't want my friends to see me in this car."

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Does The Boy think you are hiding the red Ferrari for when he's in school?

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    2. Jay Roberts, you made me laugh out loud! And I really enjoyed today's blog and comments altogether. Oh,yes. My dad, actually the sweetest man ever, had no sense of clothes and thought it was funny to mismatch. Believe me, his teen daughters did not! He used a truck for work, when/where trucks were not cool, and sometimes drove us to school in it. I thought it was funny ( yes,I was a dork) but my cooler sister was deeply embarrassed. My own kids? Ah, yes, the days when our mere existence humiliated them. They are more tolerant now that they are grown, but I steel myself for the "Mom, you're not wearing that?" I can't even get started on their feelings about their father's (once cool, back in the old days) dancing style. All in all? Thanks for this morning's laughs.Love the Reds!

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    3. Glad I made you laugh Triss.

      I'm like your dad when it comes to sense of clothes. None of that stuff impresses me in the least. T-shirts and pants in the colder months with a sweatshirt over it. T-shirts and shorts from May to Nov. 1st. The body is covered and that's enough for me.

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    4. My dad saw no reason not to wear a plaid shirt with striped pants! He did dress up for special occasions, but at leisure? Yikes.

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    5. Jay, I don't know. He might!

      Mary/Liz

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    6. Mary, if you are, I hope you have the theme to Magnum, PI. playing in the car while you are driving.

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  14. I'm sure my parents embarrassed the heck out of me from time to time, especially in high school, but I don't remember anything specific. I do remember being absolutely mortified on family car trips when we stopped at a gas station. Mom would lead my two younger sisters and my little brother to the restroom while I waited for the circus to leave town. Big brother didn't have to put up with any of that. So unfair. When our son was young and we were living in Ohio we would drive east on the turnpike to PA to spend an occasional weekend with friends at their cabin. When we approached the Barkeyville exit we would start barking and howling for our son's benefit. I think he still hates us for that.

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  15. Jenn, the horse head mask made my day. In my hometown in MA, that would have made the police report!

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  16. My younger sister and I used to torment our oldest sister when she started dating. We would stay up until she came home and then do whatever we could to embarass her. The best was when we dressed up as nuns, opened the door when we saw them coming, and said, "Welcome children, we are Cathy's sisters." We thought it was great, she's just recently forgiven us ~

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  17. I don't remember being especially embarrassed by my parents. And I'm not just saying that since they've been here for a couple of weeks taking care of me.

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  18. Embarrassing my children was one of the joys of raising them. Now, they don't embarrass so easily, which is unfortunate. When they were growing up though, it was fun. I remember showing up to my son's middle school English class in a witch's hat one Halloween season. (Sure wish I'd had a horse's head, Jenn.) Then, when my daughter was in high school and running cross-country, I pulled along side of her team running down the street in practice with a song on in the car and sang the verse containing the words run to them. My daughter was much easier to embarrass. My son more or less just attributed it to my being crazy. With my granddaughters, the eight-year-old loves my quirkiness, but the teenager does the eye roll.

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  19. OMG, I can't stop laughing! Julia, as painful as that experience was for your daughter, she's going to tell that story for the rest of her life. You are, too. LOL

    Jenn, I wish you were my neighbor so I had a front-row seat for your family pranks. The horse mask and hoof gloves are priceless!

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  20. My story is about my sister humiliating her kids, and she isn't even here to defend herself!(sorry Trishie).
    She went to pick up my niece and nephew after a middle school dance and the parking lot when the dance ended was packed with parents doing the same. When she spotted her kids in the distance, she opened the car door and stood on the running board yelling YOO HOO YOO HOO at the top of her lungs while waving her arms madly to get their attention. When they climbed in the car.....Two stormy faces.....said to her "Auntie Helen would NEVER do that Mom!!! To this day, my sisters both still tease me...."oh, that's right, you are the "cool" sister!

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    1. This is what we call making a spectacle off ourselves.

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  21. Last year my youngest (a NOLA resident) herded us through the French Quarter. I photographed every scenic balcony and item of architectural interest, and my husband stopped to read every historic plaque. We moved at a snail's pace. Could we have been any less cool?

    And when we visited our older daughter in DC, I was accosted by a young woman collecting petition signatures outside the National Portrait Gallery. "Are you friendly?" she asked. NO, I replied. My daughter wanted to sink through the sidewalk with embarrassment.

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    1. That's like when someone says to you, "Smile!" To which I usually SNARL. Why is it so annoying?

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    2. Because no one's the boss of you, Hallie!

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  22. Dunno why but quipping with store clerks, wait staff and almost anyone we'd encounter in a service situation seemed to enshrine me with the immortal words "Gheez Dad cut it out you're embarrassing me" Now a days. I'vs toned it down abit but when the opportunity arises watch out....

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