April 28, 2015
So it turns out that one of the many intangible benefits of working in higher education is the coolness factor. I mean, let’s face it, I was definitely, totally, and completely uncool as a high-school student, but my late-bloomer self hit my stride in college. Yes, this was my element. I was hip, joined a sorority, liked to hang with the cool kids and party…I had it going on!! Okay, true confessions – I really LOVED the library, scheduled 8 am’s on purpose and went to bed at 11 pm much too often, but be that as it may, I was still cool (and young). It then came of no surprise that I decided to pursue career on a college campus (I mean who wouldn’t?) and my coolness factor just increased. As a young professional close to the students’ age I watched the same shows they watched, listened to the same music and knew all the jargon that came with twenty-somethings of the early nineties. Yes, back in the early part of my career I could still very much identify with those I was advising and they thought of me as a big sister.
Years passed. I got married. I had a baby. Things changed. It seemed like all of a sudden I didn’t watch the same television shows as my students did and Beverly Hills 90210 was just a place to me. Lists of possible bands for the yearly big concert looked like alphabet soup and I realized that I looked more forward to talking to the parents of students at orientation rather than the soon to be first-years. I became aware that my kid’s age was now closer to my students’ age than mine was. Whoa! How did this happen? Convinced I could still be cool in spite of this growing age gap, I kept on “keeping on”, occasionally “dropping it like its hot” and always “keeping it real”, ya feel me? I went from an older sister, to a “cool aunt” to a “yeah, my mom really likes 30 Rock too”!
However, today I had an experience that made me realize that I might just have lost enough cool points that I have to leave the cool kid table and saddle up with the grown ups. I was sharing a story with some of my students about life with a teenager in the house and how suddenly everything I do is “so embarrassing”. For example, the immediate response to my greeting to Zach in the morning of “Good morning, how are you?” is “Stop asking so many questions!”
The most recent example of my master plan to completely and totally embarrass my kid unfolded at the local ice cream store after Zach’s band concert last night. Outside the store and seeing other band members (easy to spot – black pants/skirt and white shirt) already celebrating with their families, Zach announces to me, “Oh, great, I know like 4 people in there. Let the awkwardness begin.” I was like, “what the what, dog? (all the cool parents say it), but he just shot me a look and told me to be quiet. We quietly and politely got our ice cream and of course I got chastised with an eyeroll for telling Zach to ease up on the ice cream when it was almost overflowing the bowl. So, we sat in silence in the restaurant eating our ice cream. There was a woman and her son like almost right next to me and so I whispered to Zach, “do you know that boy right there?” This brought on a “Mom, just be quiet!” response which had me puzzled. I didn’t get it. Why is this embarrassing? We all know that we were all just at the same event, that was very good, by the way, as highlighted by the black and white dress theme going on in the restaurant. Why do we have to pretend we have never met in our lives?
I felt vindicated a bit when one family left and the mom exclaimed to the entire restaurant, “congratulations on the concert everyone!!”. Okay, who is the cool mom now, yo?
On the car ride home I reminded Zach that at least I didn’t give a speech to the restaurant like that mom. What was her deal, bra? He proceeded to tell me that he was waiting for me to meet another band family, and in 5 minutes be friends on Facebook with the mom and set up a playdate. Okay, that’s ridiculous! That would NOT happen…this year. I still was puzzled at why our ice cream trip had to suddenly become a covert operation.
I figured out the answer to this question during my conversation with my students today. I explained this whole little ice cream drama to them hoping to get some sympathy, but what I got instead was heads shaking and nods of agreement as they all agreed what a horribly awkward and embarrassing situation that is and proceeded to share flashbacks to when they experienced similar kinds of shame with their parental units. I was stunned. Huh? What? Wait, this was awkward for Zach simply because I’m the mom and I’m not cool? Just simply being with me and having to admit that he belongs with us is a crying shame?? Well, the feeling is mutual buddy!!! Don’t think I’ve never been embarrassed by the choice unmatched wardrobe you have put on to go in public. Or the wave of Axe cologne that seems to follow you out the door every morning. Or don’t forget about the times you have “forgotten” to brush your teeth!! This can go both ways, sonny-Jim!
So, I guess I’ll gladly take that card for that uncool adult now. This could be fun! But just don’t make me talk about aluminum siding.