“If you’re a young Mafia gangster out on your first date, I bet it’s real embarrassing if someone tries to kill you.” (Jack Handy)
Who can forget their first date?
My mom fondly recalled her first date many times over the course of my life: she was 5 years old, and went to a movie at a movie theater with a boy and his parents. She was a friendly gal, and dated a lot during her childhood and early teens, and then it was recommended by L.D.S. church leaders that dating be delayed until the age of 16 so she stopped dating–until she turned 16 years old!
I remember my first date: Derek.
It was late August 1983 after I had turned 16 years old. The boy I’d had a crush on since the moment I first laid eyes on him (at 14 years old) had asked me out and my friend, Carrie, had come over to help me get ready. I talked and hung out with her while I did my hair and makeup and decided what to wear–and she gave me a pedicure, which I promptly covered up when I put my Topsiders on! It was the 1980s, so of course my hair was something to behold, and accented by the skinny tie (anyone remember wearing those?) that completed my ensemble. We saw the movie, “Strange Brew,” and had a great time. It was a first date with no regrets, or embarrassing moments, that I can recall.
My daughter’s first date was an entirely different experience: Eric.
She went to a school dance with the boy she sits by in Chemistry class, a fun and casual friend. Watching my daughter get ready, and helping her, was a total flashback to the 1980s as she was headed to a decades-themed dance and she and her date had chosen 1980s exercise wear. I helped her find a Jelly belt, tear her sweatshirt to hang off the shoulder, find neon-colored tank tops to layer, get her hair in THE high side ponytail, with her green eyeshadow (what can I say, we couldn’t find any blue eyeshadow in the house!) and with her hot pink headband (just like Olivia Newton John’s in “Lets Get Physical.”) It wasn’t in the original plan that my daughter drive on the date, but due to car troubles of other parties involved, she ended up driving her car. And accidentally, while slowly backing up, she backed into a friend’s car.
It was dark. Neither she nor her date saw the other car. Thankfully, she backs up really slowly. Thankfully, no damage occurred to either car or to any living being. In fact, the driver of the other car got out, hugged my daughter and told her it was no big deal. I was very relieved there was no damage to people or automobiles; but my daughter was so mortified about the whole thing she wasn’t even dwelling on that. That event overshadowed every other aspect of her first date. That event was what she talked about when she got home. Even late the NEXT evening she was still worrying about it, alone in her bedroom, so I went to check on her.
She was absolutely humiliated, mortified, and didn’t want to show her face anywhere, ever, again. I tried to help her put it into perspective so I said, “Sarah, you can survive this. Just think of other hugely embarrassing things you’ve overcome.”
“Like what?” she asked.
I was stunned. Had the events of 2009 faded that fast in her teenage mind? I clarified, “Like discovering a family member stole millions of dollars, was heading to prison, it was all over the national media, we lost everything and had to watch the government come into our home and take our possessions, some people were mean to us, other people were kind to us yet we had to rely on the charity of others…ALL of those embarrassing moments we endured. If you can survive that humiliation, you can get through anything! This is nothing compared to that.”
Adding that last sentence reminded me that embarrassment and humiliation is all in your perspective. It was also a mistake; add it to the many that continually stream from my mouth, far too often, as I say what I think pretty much as soon as I think it. Call it one of my many weaknesses.
My daughter countered that her experience was far more embarrassing than the one I referenced. I was stunned! I couldn’t believe she really thought that, but she did. She drove her point home (no pun intended, lol!) when she added, “And Mom, if you think criminals, Ponzi schemes, publicity, divorce, prison, crime, government seizure and everything else is more embarrassing than backing into another car on a date…you don’t know ANYTHING about teenage girls!”
Wow. How could I have gotten so old and so far removed from being a teenage girl? And how could I have failed my daughter like that?
You see, one of the great things about being my mother’s daughter is that no matter my embarrassing moment, when I returned home mortified about something that had happened to me, my mom could totally commiserate and share an embarrassing moment from her life that absolutely outdid mine, made me laugh and made me feel so much better about my humiliation! In fact, she survived such mortification that as an adult, friends would call after something embarrassing and ask, “Tell me a story about your mom to make me feel better so I can get through this most recent humiliation.” I thought that’s what mothers are for–and I wasn’t able to do that for mine! (Although I must be blinded by my past, because I could swear 2009 is the ultimate in humiliation. I can’t see myself ever being embarrassed about anything again, after that one!)
So I quit trying to reason with my daughter, stopped attempting to help her put embarrassment into perspective and just empathized with her. I promised that someday, we will look back on her first date…and laugh; we’ll even be the better for it, and we’ll be strong.
“But I learned that there’s a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. If you can sit happy with embarrassment, there’s not much else that can really get to ya.” (Christian Bale)
Now if we can only be totally hot when we have as much character, strength and wisdom as Batman, we’ll be absolutely set for…The Unexpected Life.