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.


23 responses to “I Live to Mortify

  1. And may you weather the storm known as Hurricane Teenager with great aplomb! Many of us do, and end up with really personable, interesting offspring who actually appreciate us and choose to spend time with us despite their busy young adult lives. Sounds like you and XUP Jr are well on the way to that kind of relationship in the all-too-near future. Keep up the good work (and try to respect the “rules” once in a while)!

  2. Rainboots are CUTE! You helped her. Don’t tell her though.

    Being a teenager is insane from the outside and inside. So much confusion and emotion and the CLOTHES! Sometime I think it is a miracle that anyone makes it through.

  3. The only things my parents did that embarrassed me as a teenager was hold hands in public…and even (gag) kiss each other goodbye if they split up at the mall. Ew, gross. 😉

  4. The near dozen years that I lived with a teenage daughter(s) were memorable and important for all of us. The hugs and kisses that went on even at the most turbulent times were the sweetest. The most needed.

    We’ll skip the part where they asked for opinions on hair, clothes or make-up; there isn’t a human on the planet who would come to me for that advice and having three with such wildly different opinions made it clear that their own vision was the one that mattered.

    Your final paragragh is a gem.

  5. You know what cures being a teenager?

    Leaving home for university or college, and having to pay bills, cook and do laundry by yourself, for the first time.

    Do that for a couple of years, and suddenly, the parents dont’ seem so lame anymore. 🙂

  6. my dad would cheerfully drive me and my punk rock friends to punk rock shows and refer to every band as “the stinky socks”. he would wait until the gigs were over to drive me safely home again. then, mortifying. now? the most wonderful, touching memory. sounds like you are creating some of your own with jr.

  7. I really enjoyed this post. I think you are a great mom, you seem to really understand your daughter and the stage that she’s at. She’s lucky. Also, I think it’s awesome that she still hugs and kisses you in public or that she laughs at your humour. Sounds like you have a great relationship. Good work Mom.

  8. It’s very liberating to realize that their opinion has more to do with them than it does with the essential you. Amen. Teenagers should have to repeat this throughout the day as their mantra. Gosh, those were tough years. You’re such a classy, awesome mom.

    My almost-14-year-old boy doesn’t care so much about what I wear or how I look. But, I did learn recently that I am not allowed under any circumstance whatsoever to discuss Runescape out in public. Or guffawing, also off limits.

    (giggling over your walking “weird”)

  9. I have never noticed that you walk weird. I’ll have to check next time.

    My girls are still at the ages that they want me with them all the time. I’ll be sad when that changes. And I’ll work on learning to walk normally. 🙂

  10. This is a great post. Such excruciating detail!
    I have been re-living some [painful?] memories of having to endure my mother dressing so wrong. And no, none of it has to make sense when you are a teenager but somehow, to a teen, it all does.

  11. I wonder what does it mean if you were not mortified by your parents? Granted I only hit puberty when I was 14 and left home when I was 17, so there wasn’t a lot of time in there for that. I have a photo of my parents when they were in their early 40s that I will send you, which may explain why the lack of mortification. Plus, my Dad was inherently cool because of his rank.

    I thought your last sentence was bang on!
    “It’s very liberating to realize that their opinion has more to do with them than it does with the essential you.”

    But I fear you made a word booboo when you said “they’re pants” instead of “their pants.” Sorry!

  12. My parents still embarrass me. I’m thirty years old. However, I’m way too cool to ever embarrass my own kids.

    Not if they want me to buy something, anyway.

    What is it with the saggy pants?? Shouldn’t this have gone out of style years ago? How could a style that repellant still be working after nearly twenty years? A few months back I saw a guy with a pick stuck in his ‘fro. Whaa? Dude, that went out of style with big shoulder pads.

  13. Zoom – Thanks. I hope so. I’m just winging it and hoping for the best.

    Pinklea – You’re my mentor in this field and you keep telling me it will all be roses and sunshine one day, so I’m really hanging on to that promise. Although I’m having some fun at this stage, too.

    Missy – I’m not all that fond of rainboots myself. They’re clumsy and very difficult to walk in, but it’s still better than spending the day in wet feet.

    Louise – You’re right – ewwwww- your parents were really gross. Old people shouldn’t even be thinking about smoochy stuff anymore let alone doing it. Yucky.

    Dr. Monkey – And now you ARE one. How did that happen?

    Grace – Thanks. Every stage has its ups and downs and I’m trying to enjoy them all because they’re all over so quickly.

    Sky – It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on for free!!

    Julie – Thanks

    Friar – It’s not exactly a disease and I’m afraid mine shows no signs of wanting to find out that I’m not so lame.

    Meanie – Aw, what a cool dad. My dad would never drive me anywhere.

    Betsy Mae – You wouldn’t think that if you happened to drop in when she’s screaming at me about something and I’m trying my best not to laugh at the dramatics.

    OTC – I don’t even know what she means by walking weird. Maybe when sometimes I really get going I get into a rhythm and go really fast.And ya, boys don’t care so much what the mom wears as long as her womanly bits are well covered. I think he might have something to say if you pranced around in a micro mini and expansive cleavage. Try it and report back why don’t you? Especially when he has a bunch of male friends over.

    Alison – I don’t walk weird. I told you – opinions are more about the people giving them. And really, you’ll be kind of happy when you have the freedom to go off by yourself without the kids. It feels sad now, but by the time they get to where they want to be off with their friends instead of you, you’ll be totally cool with it. It’s odd how that works out.

    Violetsky – Teenagehood is a strange, strange time. So many high highs and so many low lows.

    Julia – Sorry about the typo. I really do know the difference between there/their/they’re. Poor proofreading. Like I told you on FB there is something wrong with you if you were never mortified by your parents. No matter how cool they were in reality, your teenage perception should have viewed them as the dumbest, most ridiculous creatures on the planet – at least out loud. Secretly, in the depths of your heart it was okay to think of them fondly.

    Wendy – Everything old is new again. The big shoulder pads are back, too. So are stirrup pants and they should never have been invented in the first place. It’s all 80s among the young folk.

  14. Ha, I just misread what Wendy wrote as “…I saw a guy with a puck stuck in his ‘fro” and thought to myself, “Canadians and their hockey.” Pick, pick, pick.

  15. OTC – Ya, we have pucks shoved everywhere just in case a hockey game breaks out. Today I saw a guy with a sharpie stuck in his ear though — as an earring thingy. Useful AND decorative.

    LoLa – I’m glad you’re laughing over my blog instead of gagging for a change

  16. My biggest worry for my children is how they will handle being teenagers.

    Ok, and I’ve read all of two posts of yours and you are my new favorite blogger. I really enjoy how you capture these thoughts from your life. Yeah you.

    And your freaky walk.