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I Vow to Never Embarrass My Daughter – at Least Not on Purpose

Except the dogs...

Except the dogs…

Long before I took on the burden of humiliating myself on a regular basis, my step-father was more than happy to perform the job himself.  It wasn’t a difficult task.  Unfortunately, I cared way too much about what other people thought of me, and my step-father was good at leveraging this weakness.

One Saturday, when I was about 11 or 12, the doorbell rang.  It was early afternoon, but I was still in my pajamas, my hair tousled, my teeth unbrushed.  There were four people in the house at the time, three of whom were actually dressed.  I was told to look out the peephole to see who it was. I did, and reeled back quickly from the door.

“It’s John Doodah*!” I whispered frantically.

John Doodah was our paperboy.  He was also the cutest boy in my class and I had a wild crush on him.

“Well, answer the door,” my step-father said.

I was horrified.  “No, please don’t make me answer it,” I begged.

“Answer it,” he said sternly.

And I did, mentally rehearsing what I would say that Monday when I got to school, “Oh, John.  I hear you met my cousin.  Isn’t she a mess?”

I never said that to him, mostly because I could never get up the courage to speak to him.  To this day, I am convinced that my ascent to the Peak of Popularity was effectively derailed that Saturday morning, and as soon as John told all of his friends about my disheveled appearance, they took out the tracks and the ski-lift and anything else that could get me up to the Peak.

Fast forward thirty-four years to today.  I am taking one of my infrequent Days of No Obligation.  This is when I give myself permission to lay around all day, reading books, in my pajamas.  At around 1:00, I decided to eat lunch.  My 10-year-old daughter, who was also in pajamas because I did not feel the obligation to tell her to change, was watching T.V. in the living room.

The doorbell rang.  The dogs leapt from their resting places and barked frantically.

We looked at each other.  My daughter snuck over to where I was.  We peeked out to the living room window, where we could see the caller standing on the front porch.

“Who is it?” I said.

“It’s the boy across the street.”  (Who happens to be in her grade level.  At her school.  Which also happens to be the school where I teach.)

“Go answer it,” I said.

“No!” she said, horrified.  “You go answer it!”

“I’m in my pajamas!”

“So am I!”

I thought back to the John Doodah Fiasco.  How it had essentially ruined my life.  How this was one of those decisive moments when I could teach my child about character, how appearances shouldn’t be so important, how parents are in control and can make their kids do whatever they say.

“Let’s keep hiding back here,” I said.

And we cowered in the kitchen until the coast was clear.

I think I made the right decision.

*This name has been changed to protect me from being further embarrassed in case John Doodah ever reads this post  the innocent.

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