For my daughter's seventh birthday, she and her friends had a little dance party at our house. I made a move to join in, but my husband held onto my shirttail.
"What's the problem?" I asked.
"You can't go in there. You'll embarrass her."
"No I won't! She'll think it's cool if I dance with them!" I insisted. Then I remembered the week before, when I was with my kids at the liquor store.
You heard that right. Liquor store. One of the charms of Massachusetts is that not many grocery stores carry alcohol. You often have to go to a special package liquor store, a.k.a. a "packy." So if I want wine, I have to lug my three children through historically smoke-permeated aisles lined with Beefeater and Jagermeister. The upshot being that it's perfectly acceptable to buy alcohol in Massachusetts, as long as you feel ashamed about it.
The best moment was when I bought a bottle of scotch for a housewarming gift. Nothing says "hearth and home" more than a woman on a New England winter night, pushing a stroller with a fifth under her arm. Why Norman Rockwell didn't paint that scene, I'll never know. (Actually, at the Louisa May Alcott museum, there is a once-lost Little Women lithograph of Marmee and her daughters tapping a keg).
At the packy, "Silver Bells" was playing on the loudspeakers. I sang along as I pushed aside some Mad Dog 20/20 in the wine fridge. My 7-year-old said, "MOM. Stop singing."
"But I like singing," I said.
"Am I embarrassing you?" I asked.
"Yes," she said.
I couldn't believe that, at age 39, I was going to have to worry about what people will think so as not to cause my child crippling mortification and shame. I love being older and not giving a crap. I don't want to be sucked back into a time where I had to worry if my perm looked enough like Debbie Gibson's in"Electric Youth" or if I was wearing my floral jeans and white high tops too many times per week.
And my clothes are another issue which causes my child embarrassment.
"Why don't you ever dresssss uuuup?" she groans. She'll take out my sassy patent leather Mary Jane three-inch heels and say, "Why don't you put these on?"
I do wonder if I should dress up more often, just for me. But then I think of a mom I knew growing up. Whenever I went to the house, she answered the door dressed to the nines. High heels, immaculately pressed suits, full jewelry, perfect hair and makeup. One day I asked my friend, "Where does your mom work?"
"She doesn't work," she answered.
"Why does she dress like that?" I asked.
"She says you never know when someone will come over and you'll need to make a good first impression."
I'm all for feeling good and being your best. But the only person who's come to my door unexpectedly in the past five months is the plumber, who has a toupee and looks exactly like Milton from Office Space. I think my ripped Michigan t-shirt and jeans were appropriate attire for such a mid-day gentleman caller.
So, who in the heck did that woman think was coming to her house? Why was she sitting around in full regalia, wasting perfectly good pantyhose? The only way I think of it without feeling sad is to imagine she was waiting for her long-lost ex-lover to come find her again, like some midwestern Miss Havisham. Terribly romantic. But I'll stick with my jeans.
Still, in the interest of not traumatizing my daughters further than my clothes already do, I have come up with a list. A pledge. A non-embarrassment covenant, if you will:
1. I promise not to wear my fuzzy pink sleep socks and flannel pajama pants under my coat when I walk her to the bus stop. This sounds like a pathetic non-goal, but I have 30 minutes to pack lunches and get myself and three kids fed and dressed and down a main road in the morning. Changing my socks and pants wastes precious seconds I could more wisely spend splashing coffee on my face.
2. I promise not to yell, "So, which one's the boy you think is cute?" in the middle of the school parking lot.
3. I promise not to bellow, "ARE THEY TOO TIGHT IN THE CROTCH?" from outside the store dressing room when she is trying on pants.
4. I promise not to flop onto her bed when her friends are over, fan out a bunch of Tiger Beat magazines and ask, "So who do you guys think is cuter? Zack from Saved by the Bell, or Ricky from Silver Spoons?"*
5. I promise not to holler, "C'mere! I found the acne cream!" from two aisles away in Target.
But I won't promise to stop belting out Christmas carols in the packy. Some sacrifices are just too great.