When my kids were little, there was a constant mantra in our house—Don’t Embarrass Me. Mind your manners when you go to school, your friend’s house, out in public, because you don’t know who you will run into who will know that you are my child, and I don’t want your behavior to embarrass me. Don’t get your name in the newspaper for anything unseemly—Don’t Embarrass Me.
Now the shoe is on the other foot. David and I got to be the first in the family to meet my nephew, Nate’s future in-laws. We knew this was a big deal. We knew we had to be on our best behavior. We knew Nate was telling us without verbally telling us—Don’t Embarrass Me!
We met at a restaurant. I actually wore a dress. For those who know me—close your mouths—I do own dresses. David dressed in slacks and, if I do say so myself, we cleaned up quite nicely. We had been packing my in-laws’ house in Western Springs all day so we were really looking forward to a nice relaxing evening with Nate and Roxann. To tell the truth I was very nervous. After years of drilling it into my kids’ heads that their behavior was a direct reflection on me and the family, I realized that now my behavior was a direct reflection on Nate and the rest of our family. This is a lot of pressure! The last thing I would ever want to do is accidentally embarrass one of the kids but frankly I do suffer horribly from “hoof–IN-mouth” disease so there is always a chance that I will say something embarrassing. In an effort to put our family’s best foot forward, I have chosen to wear a dress which means there is a 50/50 shot that someone will get an unwanted peek at my underpants before the night is over. For some reason every time I put on a dress the scene from Designing Women where Dixie Carter struts her stuff down the runway in a fashion show only to turn at the end of the runway and have her dress tucked up in her underwear comes flooding to my mind. Yep, that is the kind of thing Kae Allen could actually do in real life– hence the reason I am sitting in the front seat of the suburban babbling like a brook all the way to the restauran,t realizing that babbling is the first symptom of hoof-in-mouth but somehow not being able to make it stop.
Ron and Agnes were wonderful. Within minutes after we slid into our booth I realized with great relief that they adored Nate as much as we adore Roxann. Our evening was filled with easy get-to-know-you banter. Unfortunately after a long discussion of various temperatures of steak (I like mine basically still mooing and Ron and Agnes like theirs cooked until all semblance of flesh has been removed) the waiter sits down a well done filet mignon in front of me. As soon as I cut into it a debate started running in my mind, do I choke down this overdone piece of horse hide and pay $30 for the pleasure so I don’t potentially embarrass Nate or do I send it back to the kitchen and have them bring out a fresh cow. Before I can decide what to do, the waiter must have read the less than thrilled look on my face and realized something was wrong. The horribly overdone piece of meat was whisked away from the table with promises of a new one to come. All was fine and we continued with our banter while I nibbled my fries and everyone went on with their meals. That is until the Manager decided he needed to come over and “apologize” for the kitchen error. I assured him everything was fine and, no, I didn’t need any complimentary appetizers or other various sundry offerings. I really just wanted him to leave because I felt like every time this ever well-meaning attendant drew attention to me it opened the giant door for me to embarrass Nate. Then the waiter came by making the same apologies and offers of complimentary appeasements—Geeze just run along and leave me to drink my beer in peace—Now I’m getting embarrassed. I do not like to be fawned over.
The third time the manager came by, Ron seemed to understand that I was beginning to be uncomfortable with the attention. When asked again if there was anything I needed — “something to nibble on perhaps” — while I waited, Ron spoke right up and said “No, but she does need another Heineken.” I knew right then and there, we were going to get along just fine and dandy. Walking back to our cars after dinner I was elated when Nate graciously conceded that we did not embarrass him. Even though I know that he would have said that even if we had, it made me feel better to hear him say it. I never would have thought all those years ago when I set the bar so high for my kids’ behavior, that when they became adults, it would boomerang back to me but it has loud and clear—DO NOT EMBARRASS ME!