I Live to Mortify

I spent a good part of Saturday out and about with XUP Jr.  I am always amazed humans survive teenagehood with the overwhelming level of self-consciousness involved.

To being with, it takes hours to get every strand of hair just right. When you go out with your mom you have to make extra sure your clothes are super-cool, yet casual. When hanging out with friends you don’t have to be quite so careful.

It’s pouring rain out, but rainboots, waterproof coats or umbrellas are out of the question. She wore canvas sneakers.

“Put on your rainboots”

“NOOOO! Do you want me to look stupid?”

“Of course. That’s my goal in life. Those sneakers are going to be soaked through in two minutes. That’s not stupid?”

I managed to get her to put on footwear that was a little more water-resistant. And she added a light jacket to the ensemble, but refused to do up the jacket. (I got a pointed look when I made that completely inane suggestion.)

Then I get inspected to make sure I’m cool enough to be seen out in public with her. (I passed first try this time! Woot!)

As we venture out into the world. I should note here that the only reason I’m usually allowed out in public with her is if there is something she needs and she thinks there’s a pretty good chance that she can talk me into paying for it.

As soon as we set foot outside the door, my every move is carefully watched in case I do or say something that might embarrass her.  The list of possibilities is long and comprehensive. 

It includes things like:

  • Walking too fast or too slow
  • Walking “weird” (I don’t even know what this means, but I get hell for it every so often)
  • Talking or laughing too loud
  • Staring off into space
  • Forgetting the name of, or incorrectly naming something (often I do this deliberately just to make her crazy)
  • Walking or standing too close or too far away from her
  • Wearing boots when it’s raining or snowing
  • Doing up my coat
  • Arguing with or even asking questions of shopkeepers
  • Trying to negotiate prices with shopkeepers (hey, 50% of the time I’ll get some sort of discount)
  • Ordering things in restaurants that aren’t clearly printed on the menu
  • Talking to strangers (if a stranger addresses you, it’s best just to roll your eyes and mutter something non-committal like “uh..ya…”)
  • Pointing out how ridiculous other teenagers look in their summer gear when it’s freezing out or when they’re pants are falling down and they have adopt a side-to-side rolling gait just to get around
  • If we run into one of her friends, there is a very,very short list of things I’m allowed to say to them (which I always completely ignore)
  • If we run into a group of two or more of her friends, I have to go away so she can pretend to be by herself. (I ignore this one too unless I’m allowed to go away for good and put an end to the shopping expedition).

On the other hand, she will occasionally tuck her arm into mine when we’re walking; she has no problems with a hug and kiss if we’re parting ways for the day or evening or something, (even if friends are around); she insists on me coming into the fitting rooms with her to tell her whether or not she looks good in something and asks my opinion at home on her hair or outfits (of course, she doesn’t always take my advice); and she’ll laugh loudly, uncontrollably and unabashedly right out in the open, no matter who’s nearby, when I’m joking around with her. That’s fun.

Anyway, I don’t take the mortification-at-my-presence personally. I know her judgment is impaired by hormones or something. It’s tough believing that the entire world is scrutinizing how you look, how you dress, what you say and how you say it, the company you keep, (how they look/dress/behave);  the music on your iPod,  your imperviousness to all weather conditions, etc., etc., etc. The world is watching and casting judgments. These judgments will be written up somewhere and tallied weekly to determine your ongoing popularity rating or something. I don’t know.

I’m sure I must have had similar issues at that age. Probably all teenagers do. Some people carry that sense of scrutiny around for most of their life – hampering them from being as assertive or outgoing or relaxed as they might want to be.

These days, there are  people whose opinions I value, but not to the extent that I would make any big compromises just to gain or keep their good opinion. It’s very liberating to realize that their opinion has more to do with them than it does with the essential you.