Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Time Traveler--Pants Are NOT Optional, and Other Awkward Encounters

I was talking to someone the other day about "most embarrassing moments".  While I have a few that happened while I was a teen or adult (and some that can't even be told--yes, they're THAT bad), the one that stands out as my first "most embarrassing moment" will always be there for me.  Like so many other awkward childhood memories…and a couple of examples of WHY I could have forgotten to wear pants.

Me, Christmas 1979, in long johns, which apparently qualified as "pants", even when visiting my aunt

Here I am, Christmas 1978 at home, with my matching 'mini me'.  Did we EVER wear pants?

To fully appreciate this particular story, here is some background:  You should know that I grew up in the hippied-out 70s and early 80s, and we lived all back to nature, Mother-Earth-News style, for most of my childhood, so I didn’t have a lot of stuff that regular (or as I called them--"city") kids had.  Like running water or indoor plumbing.  Or electricity.  Or a car with any working gauges or seat belts.  Speak n' Spell.  Sidewalks.  TV.  Kraft mac n' cheese…*sigh*   Oh, sure…we were way more uptown than, say, my friends who lived in teepees and school buses (yes, really…), but still way, way beneath the other neighbors, who had TV, a real bathtub, skateboards (with cement to ride them on), a waterbed (be still, my heart), and 3-wheelers!  It was like lifestyles of the rich and famous over there.
They had things that looked like this
and ...
THIS.  Seriously.  I was in awe.
Those particular neighbors also had two sons slightly older than me.  We all went to the same church and, since they lived in our neck of the woods (yes, we called it that), we did a lot of social stuff together, like truly magical midnight sledding parties on New Years' Eve, Bible studies, and fireworks picnics on the 4th, (with actual explosives provided by another neighbor, a crazy Viet Nam vet who was a demolitions expert.)  Yeah… good times.

Anyway, we seemed to be at their house a lot, and their youngest son was my first official grade-school crush (and also my first real kiss, later on), which meant there was all that related angst going on for me, whenever we were there.

Their two boys and I weren't close enough to actually be friends, and I always felt painfully shy and awkward around them, because they just seemed like super-lucky rich kids to me.  I mean…skateboards?  TV?  Paved parking area?  I felt like a wild aborigine hairball from the back woods, whenever I was at their house.

Judging from the photos above, I wasn't really that far off, was I?

Of course our parents must have just figured, we're all kids, right?--so we must automatically be all fine hanging out together.  So we'd get there, and the moms would be all "OK..You kids go play…" and I'd be standing there like, "What? I don't even know these boys.  Why am I even HERE?" 
Their kitchen had THESE doors, so I couldn't even hide behind them
Also, dear readers, bear in mind than when I use the term "neighbors"…for that neighborhood, a "neighbor" was anyone within 2 miles.  This family was one mile away, so it wasn't like I could just walk home in a huff.

This particular family also were kind (or condescending?...or imposed-on?) enough to also allow us to use their bathtub every so often.  Yes…their bathtub.  And no, we didn't really know them well enough for this situation to be comfortable (for me, anyway).  But, you know, little hippie kids who live in houses without walls or water or lights tend to get pretty dirty, I imagine--so every week or so, I'd find my 9-year-old self sitting in this clean, beautiful, modern bathroom  (door securely locked), with the bathtub full of hot water right out of the faucet, wondering how I could possibly be casual about coming out of their bathroom with a towel on my head.  Like I could somehow manage to NOT look like I just used their tub. 
This kind of thing seemed SO fancy at the time
It was sort of surreal…like, wonderful to have that whole beautiful white bathtub to myself (instead of an outdoor shower), but at the same time, it was also super embarrassing to be 9 and still know that somehow you're being treated like some kind of charity case.  Or at least, that's how it felt to me…

All this to say that, you can imagine how much I struggled to maintain any dignity around those boys.  I didn't like them knowing I had used their bathtub.  I hated them for having TV to watch after school, and white bread for lunch.  I didn't know how to ride a skateboard, but I fooled them with that old childhood standby:  "Oh, I know how to ride a skateboard.  I just don't feel like it, right now."
Is is time to go home yet?
Which brings me to my First Most Embarrassing Moment. 

It was winter, and I don't know what the occasion was, but it was a gathering of a bunch of people at their house, so I'm thinking it was the Christmas or New Year's sledding party or something.   Mom was hurrying us to get ready, and everyone who lives where it's winter as a kid knows that you dress in layers if you're going to be outside sledding at night.  So, we dressed and piled in the van and went over there, with me already feeling anxious about going.  Any group of strangers (even neighbors), always made me feel like a shy, homely, little out-of-place freak (which I totally was).  Plus, I felt like they were all "There's that girl who uses our bathtub."

We walked in, and I took off my coat, and it must have seemed colder than I expected or something, because I remember looking down at my legs and seeing…JUST TIGHTS.  OH MY GOSH, WHERE ARE MY PANTS???  

I forgot... my... pants.  What the actual heck? What kind of hurry were we IN?

So, there I was, standing  in front of a whole holiday party of grownups and assorted kids who were all (I was sure) socially superior to me, wearing a shirt, my winter boots, and just…tights?!?  I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me, or the power to go out.  Anything.  I can't remember if anyone laughed, but I was sure they were. 
Guys.  Maybe I was just AHEAD OF MY TIME, right?
Yeah.  Well, back in my day day, that outfit was unheard of.

What I do remember is my mom and the hostess saying, "Oh, this is no big deal at all, honey.  You're about the same age as Daniel (their younger son).  We'll just get some of HIS pants for you to wear."  Yes.  Do that.  That will definitely make me feel better about this situation.  I can't remember what was worse, the idea of being there without pants (which felt only slightly less embarrassing  than standing there in front of everyone in just my flowery little-girl underwear), or the thought of borrowing this boy's jeans.  

They overruled my mortified and strenuous objections and got me a pair of this kid's jeans.  I remember having it made clear to me that of course a mile was too far to drive me back home to get my own pants. Why??  I don't even know, but I remember wondering what the heck, guys?? Just take me home, for the love of God.  You can just leave me there…But, no…I didn't get to go home.  Maybe it was a short party? Maybe I didn't make it clear how traumatic it was.  Maybe they seriously thought it wasn't that big of a deal…but it got worse.

The pants they brought me were huge on me.  I was built like a twig back then, so this boy's jeans seemed about one thousand sizes too big.  The grownups solved that problem by having someone handily fashion me a "belt", probably out of baling twine.  Seriously.  I reallyreallyreally remember it being rope of some kind, cinched up in a BIG, ATTRACTIVE KNOT.

So, there I was, with my best Christmas shirt and winter tights on, wearing what looked like Huck Finn's blue jeans, cinched up with a rope belt…all bunchy and baggy…ready to part-ay.

Like this, only not smiling.  And without the fun props.  Also, a GIRL

I was so embarrassed that I fled to their (fortunately somehow empty) TV room for the entire evening and hid myself by curling up on the corner of the couch in there for the whole evening, hoping no one would come in that room.  I don't think I moved from that spot all night. 

I survived it, of course, and now it seems funny, but this still stands out as my first public feeling of total humiliation, with the added embarrassment of being forced to wear my crush's pants.  I don't even remember the rest of the evening, what the party was about, or whether I wore his pants home--I bet I did.

Who knows if he ever got them back...

Something just occurred to me while writing this, which is that I have spent pretty much the rest of my life living in leggings and big t-shirts.  So, maybe I started a trend or something...(but please, learn how to wear them).

Isn't it strange how a couple of hours on one evening of one winter when you're 9 can stay with you forever? Ever show up somewhere TOTALLY dressed wrong?


  1. Ohhh sweetheart...I am both amused and can appreciate your pain. Although I never went without pants. Unless I blocked that memory.

    1. LOL, Thanks! And the time, it was definitely not funny.

  2. Thank you for sharing this and making me laugh yet again! My worst clothing nightmare was the repeating problem of my grandparents buying me jeans for Christmas that had elastic in the waistband. I too was a rail when I was young and when I was growing up elastic waistband = fat kid. I was sooo embarrassed, but my mom made me wear them anyway because we were not well off and they were a gift.

    1. Oh gosh...elastic waist. Lol. Yeah, try tucking your shirt IN those and see how cool ya feel, right?

    2. Oh Stef! This is so awful! I feel better now. I thought I was the only one who had such terrible embarrassing moments as a child and teen. Of my many embarrassing moments, the one that stands out as the worst involves the same crowd, a water slide park and a group of boys behind me saying, "You tell her." "No, you tell her." "I'm not going to tell her, you tell her!"
      By the time I showed up when you were 12, I thought of you as first class and me as the complete socially awkward misfit. Part of that having to do with my upbringing and the other to having been in the 3rd poorest country in the world for the previous 5 years. I'm not sure my social skills every caught up!

    3. Ruth, that's so funny; you guys were "city" to me, because hello-- you lived in TOWN and had a house with...light switches and everything. And I envied your beautiful hair so much!

      Ahhh, I do remember your water slide moment that day. Yeah. That's a bad one, too. I had another truly most embarrassing moment at school in about 8th grade with that group, but I can't even write it out loud.

      Maybe everyone grows up thinking they're misfits. Have you ever met anyone who says, "I was AWEsome when I was a kid." lol

      (But seriously...I KNOW I was odd). ;)

    4. Like I mentioned before, I didn't even remember that you didn't have electricity -- probably because it seemed normal from living in the countryside of the 3rd world. We didn't have a TV for the first few years in BF. You had a horse and parents who let you be yourself, which I envied.
      I was just talking to my kids the other night about how intelligent, quirky people find each other and become friends. That's still the kind of person I feel most comfortable with. I married one and now I have 5 intelligent, quirky kids to hang out with. We get into animated discussions about things like whether or not it was hard for Leonardo da Vinci to write in mirror image or whether their was a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy. Our dictionary is in constant use as we discuss the finer nuances of words and there are encyclopedias scattered around the house. But we're not very athletic. . .
      I don't remember you ever doing anything embarrassing, but I was at school that year, too.

    5. Funny--I had quirky intelligent and hilarious kids myself. Lucky me, because they're who I hang out with the most, too. It's not uncommon for us to have discussions about stuff like, whether it'd be that great to go back and LIVE in the 1400s, or just VISIT there. And if so--with, or without knowing what we know now? etc. etc.

      And horse was my other best friend, growing up. I will do a post about my horses and the horse shows someday.

  3. Oh, Stef -- parents have the worst way of being oblivious to the mortification their kids are going through. My first (and one of the most) humiliating moments also had to do with being a little girl in a public place with no pants on -- "The Ocean Hates Me". Here is the link if you want to feel better by knowing you weren't the only one

    I have also posted about the most embarrassing thing that happened to me, called "It's Snot my Finest Moment" (so you can kind of figure out what THAT was about). However, I can't blame my parents for that one :)

    1. Oh my dear, I can't believe you had to go in a RESTaurant with just a coat... yikes. Glad I wasn't the only one, though.

      I have a similar experience with...rivers. They hate me too. :)