Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Give Thanks for Mortification

I am still recovering from my weekend, which was spent in the company of two great friends (and talented writers in their own right): Manic Mom and Swishygirl. They recap the night better than I could, so for the nitty-gritty scoop, click on over.

I rolled into my parents’ place three hours after leaving Chicagoland to be greeted by the clean, refreshing scent of pig manure, which a local farmer had just freshly spread on some nearby fields. What an excellent remedy for my hangover!

The whole fam-damily had arrived for dinner, including my brother, my sister, my new nephew (he’s smiling now! *sigh*), my sister’s boyfriend, and his parents. My mother outdid herself with dinner, as she always does: white chicken chili, spicy butternut squash soup, garlic breadsticks, a romaine salad with homemade cranberry vinaigrette, and a cranberry fudge pudding cake. I’m starting to think she’s showing off, really.

The dinnertime conversation covered a range of topics, but eventually, it migrated to a perennial favorite: how ‘bad’ each person had been as a teenager. As soon as the conversation evolved in this ugly direction, I knew what was coming, and my father didn’t fail to deliver:

“We caught Jess sneaking out of the house one night when she was sixteen—”


“I heard the floorboards creaking and said, ‘Where do you think you’re going?’ And she said, ‘To the bathroom.’”


“I said, ‘Hurry right back then!’”

At that point, Mom chimed in. “There was an ice storm that night, and we heard this car driving back and forth in front of the house: crackle, crackle, crackle.”

The whole table was laughing by then, and I was covering my eyes with my hands, saying things like, “Okay, end of discussion. Story’s over.”

Oh, but Dad hadn’t reached the pinnacle of the tale yet. “But first, Mom caught her blow-drying her underwear in her bedroom!!”

As this sentence hung in the air, I began to look around for a hole in the space time continuum that I could evaporate into. Maybe do a little time-traveling to Ye Olde England. I also wondered how expensive it would be to change my identity and move to Sweden.

My sister’s boyfriend’s father, recovering nicely from a head injury sustained in a bicycle accident a year ago, looked perplexed. He furrowed his brow and asked, “Why were you blow-drying your underwear?”

What could I say? Here was one possible response: “Well Duncan, I’m so glad you asked. See, I had one really cute pair of underwear, but they happened to be dirty. And when you’re planning to sneak out of the house at age sixteen to meet your boyfriend, you want to be prepared for any possible underwear-revealing situations that might arise. So I quietly washed them in the bathroom sink and then tried to dry them in my room with a hairdryer. My bad, because who knew hairdryers were so loud?”

I didn’t say that, of course. Instead I covered my face with my hands some more and said, “Oh my GOD. You will NEVER stop telling this story, will you?” Then I smacked my Dad, who was laughing like a crazy person, in the arm. My sister’s boyfriend saved the day by shifting the conversation to his own terrible youth with a story about how he kicked a girl in the stomach in grade school and subsequently got suspended, and how his older brother deflected his negative parental attention by urinating publicly in a gymnasium during a school sporting event.

So this Thanksgiving, I will give thanks that one of my worst youthful indiscretions did not involve public urination or suspension from school. Just some dirty underwear, an ice storm, and a hair dryer.


  1. No offense to you Jess, cuz you know I love you, and I am sooo glad you made it home alive, and to your brother's birthday celebration on Sunday, but come on... there were MUCH, MUCH, MUCH BETTER stories told and shared and traded on SATURDAY night... yet, I understand you are a soon-to-be famous published author, and these harrowing troubling stories should not be shared on this particular blog. I understand that, and I accept that.

    One thing I do have to say though, is... WHY THE HELL DIDN'T YOU JUST GO SANS UNDIES?!?!?!?!?!!?

    : )

  2. I take it you didn't want to go out in damp panties? I am afraid to go out with all of you- I fear what stories may be told.

  3. Ha! That's funny stuff. I now have a daughter who is entering into her rebellious and sneaky years, and I can totally picture her doing something similar. God help me.

  4. Oh, goodness. And here I thought I was the only one who blow dried her panties so she could sneak off in the middle of the night with her boyfriend during an ice storm! ;-)

  5. Absolutely hilarious!

  6. Whoa - you were a precocious thing! How nice that it was brought out as dinner conversation in front of people you barely know.

    Yep, nice.

  7. You know, I did many bad, bad things as a teenager but I never snuck out even once - I missed out!

  8. Oh, man. Family. Gotta love em because you can't shoot them.

    One T-day, my older sis said "What was the name of that BF that dad really hated?" I started naming names. No, no, no.

    I had gone through about 20 names before i got to the guy that my sis was talking about. By then my nieces and nephews were looking at me like "God, what a slut!" Good times. Way to go, sis.

  9. You are a wild woman! Hilarious story.

  10. Anonymous10:45 AM

    I hope that in the intervening years since you were 16 you've acquired more cute underwear so that you never have to bow dry your underwear again.

    I did my share of sneaking out, but I made sure to be properly underweared beforehand.

  11. Anonymous8:34 PM

    So flippin' funny. Definitely more entertaining than the dinner conversation at our holiday table--which was mostly about rampant sinus infections and my current bout with pneumonia. Good times.

  12. So you're saying that if we never buy our daughter cute underwear she'll never try to sneak out at night to see boys?!!

    YES! You're a savior Jess, thank you!

  13. Uh, Earth to Jeff, sorry, gotta chime in here--she'll BUY HER OWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. The weird thing is, now that I'm a mom I find some comfort in the fact that you can still be 30-ahem and your parents can still embarrass you with tales of youthful indiscretions.

    Happy turkey day, Jess.

  15. Anonymous3:29 PM

    My dad still enjoys telling the story about my (in college) having been asked by a waiter if I'd like a cocktail before dinner and I replied that I would enjoy a Moosehead. Um....you know...beer. Of course, I knew that beer was not a cocktail, but I figured what he was really asking was if I cared for a shot of booze before dinner and seeing as the answer was a resounding "yes" I thought that I wasn't necessarily limited to something snooty served in a fragile glass. Oh...the humiliation of parents who can't get enough mileage out of our youthful stupidity.

  16. It's amazing what you think you can pull off when you're 16! "Hey," you think, "maybe mom & dad won't notice the blow dryer noise or the car outside or the floorboards squeaking. If I don't want them to hear, they can't hear, right???"

    I think you and I would have gotten along just fine in our teen years (although our friendship would have been stunted by the fact that one or both of us would be grounded most of the time).

  17. Bwahahaha!!!! That is hilarious! Love your logic.

  18. Funny stuff. If it is any consolation I so expected the stpory behind blow drying your underwear to be worse.

  19. I talked to Swishy the other night and she told me all about your crazy night out! She did mention that she was a little preoccupied with the "so called" law student though.
    That is a crazy story. I am dreading when my daughter becomes a teenager. I just remember all the stupid stuff I did at that age.