9 Moments my Character Grew Because my Parents Humiliated Me in Public

1. Mom insists on sitting in front row of church every Sunday and decides to make the open area in front of the congregation her one-woman dance platform

During the worship part of church services, sometimes people sway and lift their hands enthusiastically out of passionate reverence. I completely support that, but that was not the situation. Every Sunday, my mother insisted on marching my brother, dad, and me to the front row, no matter how late we were and no matter how much-unwanted attention this drew to us. The second that bass drum started thumping, between the pews and band became her stage, and the congregation became her unwilling audience.

This wasn’t a wholesome expression of self and worship to God; This was the rapid-fire gyration of an unruly demon inside her that refused to give her peace and needed to bust a move and destroy. People wouldn’t sneak uncomfortable looks at her, they would openly stare, jaws on the ground, pulling their smaller children closer to their bodies like protective and uncomfortable wolves in the wild.

2. Mom makes multiple underpaid sales people cry

My mother is an avid couponer. Our basement has always been full of cases and cases of products bought only for the 15% off 60 bargain. She’s the type of person that insists on returning things to the dollar store if they didn’t work out, brings a three-year-old thermostat back to Costco because she “decided she didn’t actually like it,” and refuses to take no for an answer if she thinks she’s found herself a good deal.

One of my most vivid memories was circa 2008, when an innocent Sears employee woke up one morning with no idea his will to live would be dramatically reduced by the time he returned to his bed that day.

I remember entering the customer services department with my mom and seeing a bright-eyed, kind-looking young man greeting us and asking how he could help. I don’t remember the reason why my mom wasn’t able to return her used drying machine or the 45 minutes of escalation, but I will never forget the look of sheer terror in another human’s eyes as my petite mother stood over him screaming:

“Young man I will embarrass YOU and I will embarrass SEARS,”

followed by a nice group of employees carrying out a discounted dryer to our car while nervously avoiding eye contact.

3. Family almost gets kicked out of US National Capital for “suspicious activity” when Mother hides PB&J sandwiches behind a dumpster instead of paying for lunch.

4. Mom gets talked to by multiple soccer coaches due to unwarranted one-person cheerleading routines performed on the sidelines

My mother was a cheerleader in high school. She is very proud of that. Apparently, something that they don’t tell you during tryouts, is that you develop a gaping void of despair after your time screaming encouragement at strangers is over.

My mother refused this fate.

She didn’t just channel this into wholesome and animated cheers aimed to rally 8-year-old soccer players like a normal person. Instead, at every soccer game my brother and I ever had, she would get out of her little folding chair and execute incredibly vivacious, ridiculously complex one-woman cheer routines. They were personally choreographed with improvised, illogical cheers, that in many ways, could be interpreted as malevolent threats.

5. Mom goes to every college campus and forces random students to tell us about college life - including attractive groups of young, eligible men
6. Dad proceeds to let out a soul-shaking fart in front of the aforementioned young, eligible men.

As if this wasn’t a humbling enough situation for an innocent young woman who was simply trying to seek a higher education, when one of the unassuming victim was mid-sentence, my dad interjected with a hostile, boisterous breaking of wind. This wasn’t a “was that a human or a cell phone buzzing?” type of afair. This was a “Middle-schooler-playing-Taps-on-the-trumpet-at-the-Veterans-day-assembly” situation. I’m not just talking about the starting note of this song. I’m referring to the one-minute twenty-second melody in its entirety that gave my dad’s entire body the kickback of a 50 gauge shotgun.

It was so belligerent, so disheartening, that the poor guy literally stopped in the middle of his sentence, shaken to his very core for a second, not knowing how to proceed. Like the entire group, he tried his very best to keep talking with a straight face, holding his composure together by a small, withering thread.

But the mortification wouldn’t stop. A WHOLE MINUTE after the incident, when we all finally seemed to have a slight rein on our composure enough to make it through the interaction, my dad interrupted the gentleman again and screamed out: “EXCUSE ME.”

I will never forgive him.

7. Mother insists on referring to all familiar and unfamiliar individuals as “sexy____” no matter the social context

8. Showed up to my first prom to discover mother and father as surprise chaperones, tearing apart the dance floor and scarring underage children

In my junior year of high school, I fancied a witty older senior and somehow tricked him into taking me to the senior-exclusive prom. Wanting to impress him, I managed to spend 5 hours getting ready and was looking fine as wine, had practiced dancing in my room alone for weeks to develop moves like a tigress, and was overall fully prepared to razzle-dazzle my love interest.

Or so my young, naive self thought.

When I handed my high heels to my history teacher at the shoe check table, she said to me, “Oh, Michelle, your parents are...so enthusiastic.” Curious as to when she had met my parents, I turned to look at the dance floor to see only one couple dancing. But oh boy, did they manage to fill the whole floor. Grinding like banshees to the unexpected tune of “The YMCA,” the two people that birthed, nurtured, and raised me locked their eyes with mine and gave me a wave.

9. Mom and dad make progressive, sex-positive decision to be incredibly open about their sex lives to friends, teachers, boyfriends, and potential employers

I actually don’t care to elaborate on this one, please just know that I have deep psychological issues.