I’m a grownup. That means I can eat frosting right out of the can if I want to. (Yes, I said the CAN. Is there anyone who still makes homemade frosting? Okay, then, you probably aren’t a parent with a job. And if you ARE a parent with a job, and you still make homemade frosting, and get everything else done you’re supposed to do, then you must be my very nice, but gobmackingly perfect sister. Please forward a package of your frosting in one of your gazillion extra organizing tubs.)
I have a vehicle. I can drive to the mall anytime I please. I’ve got a cell phone, too, complete with a butterfly charm from the Icing at the Galleria. How cool am I? I have a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, and I rock with it. I even perform onstage. With a real wireless headset mike. (Testing. 1, 2, 3…) I am SOOOO AWESOME.
Oh, wait, I forgot – I’m the Dork of the Universe.
I’m someone’s mom.
Please do NOT TALK TO MY FRIENDS, MOM.
Please do NOT KISS ME, MOM.
Please DO NOT EMBARRASS ME, MOM.
Now: I, my own self, am nearly impossible to embarrass, being a rather outspoken, outgoing sort. (Anyone who sings in public doesn’t exactly have a low embarrassment threshold.) But one does have to remember what it’s like to NOT be a grownup.
We were in McDonald’s, happily enjoying our happy meals.
“Mom!” Urgency crept into my daughters’ voices – an alarm so deep I wondered for a moment if an armed gunman had entered the establishment.
I bent my head, the better to hear their agonized whispers.
“Ourfriendfromschooljustwalkedin. PLEASE DON’T EMBARRASS US.”
Okay. I don’t mind being considered a dork by my kids, even though in reality, I’m fairly cool. They’re supposed to think I’m a dork. I’m the one teaching them right from wrong, sending them to bed, etc. If they DID think I was cool, I’d be messing up.
But there I was, sitting quietly in McDonalds – a restaurant I don’t even like all that much – minding my business, not doing any of the things they generally hate, like talking to their teachers, or their friends’ parents, or performing.
I’ll admit my baser instincts got the better of me. C’mon, we all – a little bit – hate it that our kids don’t know how cool we really are, don’t we? Don’t we all wish, deep down in our black hearts, that our kids could have seen just how awesome we really are?
“You would have WANTED to be my friend when I was your age!”
Isn’t that sometimes what you want to shout? “You would have thought I was cool THEN!”
So, more than a little peeved about accusations before actions, I stood up.
“You mean, embarrass you by doing something like… dancing to no music at all?”
I began to dance. Slowly, deliberately… embarrassingly.
“Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, Mom, pleasepleaseplease sit down, I’m begging you!”
“Something like this? Is THIS what you’re afraid I might do? Or maybe…”
I sat down with a smirk. “Eat your dinner. She didn’t see.” She didn’t. Naturally I was watching. I DO take care not to embarrass them. Whenever possible.
I do recall that feeling when you’re a kid. Grownups realize everyone else in the universe is so wrapped up in themselves that they’re not paying anywhere NEAR the amount of attention you once thought they were. But kids are still the center of their own universes – the heroes of their own movies, and everyone else is a cameo player.
Extreme self-consciousness is so vivid, so much a part of your life, that any hair out of place, any fold in the cloth of your shirt, any label that’s not up-to-the-minute current makes you feel like a pariah.
You know you’re a real grownup when you realize the “pariahs” – the ones who dance to their own music – are who make the world so very, very interesting.
Kids love McDonald’s because it’s predictable; it’s always exactly the same chicken nuggets, precisely four, precisely cookie-cuttered into the same eerie, unnatural shape.
We grow when we peek beyond the predictable, to investigate: who that is dancing around the corner?
Look: no, really. Look.
(photo credit: © 2006 Tom Bushey)