Monday, January 15, 2007

Embarrassing Our Offspring

by Julie Butler Evans

Kids have been “embarrassed” by their parents forever, especially teenagers. I know for a fact that my daughter will feel completely humiliated by this column, for instance, although let me reassure you, Janet, that is not my intent. And your brothers will not be spared by my examples, so, you’re in good company.

From the time I hit age 11 I was prone to the whiny-phrased, “Daaaadddy! You’re embarrassing me!”
He would shimmy and shake in public to the music of the Supremes and Crystal Gale and an assortment of other 1960’s-1970’s recording industry artists. He was also prone to calling me “Baby Julie” in front of my friends. There was an array of other awkward moments, some real and most in all probability, imagined.

Here’s an example of both. The other night I took
Janet up to Hartford to attend the popular phenomenon “High School Musical” in concert. As the first song burst into life a mere four rows in front of us, I began to sway my arms back and forth with the rest of the audience. In a flash she was slapping my arms down. “You are NOT allowed to do that, mom. No!” Anytime I began to clap or try to move my body to the infectious rhythms I was met with a determined and deadly look that clearly translated to “Do not embarrass me.”

It’s fun though.

When Kenny and Blake were in middle school I apparently mortified them as they played in basketball games by shouting their names, followed by the supportive words “Yay!”, “Go!” and “Alright!” They told me in no uncertain terms that I was to sit on my hands and zip my lip; mostly I applied their edict, but occasionally I would let the enthusiasm fly if for no other reason than to watch them wince or squirm. Jack has taken over where they left off, yet since he’s only 10 he seems to be cutting me some slack.

My sense of fashion now and again is a deep well of embarrassment for not only my daughter but also for my sons. And I love it. “What are you wearing?!” can leap from all four of their lips. Of course, their sense of fashion has embarrassed ME on occasion. Take the mid-to-late ‘90s when Blake and Kenny insisted on wearing these baggy jeans half way across their nether regions so that one could eyeball the tops to the midway of their boxers. Even when wearing dress shirts their khakis would sit casually at their hips, the hint of undergarments peaking from atop their waistband.

I wear my ability to embarrass like a badge of honor. To me, it means I am doing my job. My biggest “stunt” to date? Last Christmas, for our annual holiday party, I came downstairs wearing the following get-up: A “Sexy Santa” costume. It was a low-cut short red dress trimmed in white fur, black fish net stockings, boots and accessorized with red stain gloves also with white trim. Not only did my husband have a coronary (and not in a good, “va-va-vavoom” way), but my kids either screamed in horror (Janet), laughed (Jack) or shook their heads, turned pink and denied I was their mother (Blake and Kenny). All five members of my family requested that I change my attire.

No way. I was 49 years old at the time and I reserved the right to do as I pleased; I’d earned it. And guess what? All the men at the party appreciated the look, the women laughed in a good way and I am hoping that my husband felt more embarrassed for not cherishing the look more.

There’s nothing embarrassing about realizing one can still turn a male head or two, four decades and four children later.

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