Making People Cringe

It never fails.  Inevitably, I end up in a group setting where people are exchanging stories about their childhood, stories of mom’s cookies, Santa Claus, and sunny bike rides through picket-fenced neighborhoods.  It’s usually a group of nice, normal people.

One woman, smiling as if chocolate has no calories, says something like, “At Christmas, my Uncle Jack would dress like Santa and fill our stockings.” Everyone laughs that warm, sort of fake chuckle of agreement.

Someone adds, “My grandmother made the best gingerbread men.” The people around her nod in agreement because they understand what grandma-made gingerbread men taste like.

People tend to become uncomfortable when it is my turn to share because I offer things like, “I remember one Christmas when my mother knocked over our plastic Christmas tree and screamed, ‘MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS!’ There were glass fragments and tinsel everywhere.”  Everyone gives me the sideways dog look of confusion.  So, I just take a sip of wine and give a little smile.

At this point, I should just be quiet.  But no.  I go on.  “Yeah, and then she stole her boyfriend’s credit card because she found out he was married.  We Christmas shopped the heck out of that Eckerd Drug Store.” I take a gulp or three of my wine and look down.

Usually, some smart person changes the subject.  Someone in the group might mention a recent trip to Disney World. Someone else chimes in with, “We took the twins there over the summer.  The humidity about choked us, but the girls really loved meeting all of the princesses.”  Some people nod and smile.

Hearing the words “Disney” and “Princesses” brings up another childhood memory.  EVERYONE takes a drink as soon as they see my lips move. “I shit my pants on Main Street when I was 4.” I stop, and take a big gulp of wine, noting that I am almost out. “Yeah. I was on antibiotics or something, and we all know what they do to your bowels.” I go on.  “My mom cleaned me up in the bathroom.  She was able to get most of it off of me.  Then, she brought me back outside and Snow White was there.  Snow White gave me a hug even though I probably smelled shitty. Those Disney princesses are great.”

I can almost hear people thinking, “Oh dear lord, she is talking about pooping herself in Mickey land. Can she just shut up?”  People begin looking away, hoping if they avoid eye contact I will stop sharing my 1970’s afterschool special memories. Others leave.  This is my gift – making people cringe.  It will go on my tombstone along with “She did laundry.”




12 thoughts on “Making People Cringe

  1. I absolutely loved this! Too bad I wasn’t on the judging panel or you would have won. You’re my favorite humorist. I was very sad when I finished Petty Thoughts, because reading it was like hanging out with a funny friend who was so much like me it was astounding! I entered the Erma contest as Emma Beasley and didn’t win anything either. Oh well. I can’t wait for your new book. Consider your first preorder copy sold!

    1. Thanks, Linda! Where can I read your Erma entry. I bet it’s great. And Emma Beasley is a super pen name. Are you going to the conference?

      1. No. I’ve never been to a writing conference in my life. I rarely travel because it requires me to leave my house. You?

        I don’t have a website, so I could send you my entry if you’d like to see it. Also, I hope you’re enjoying Diary of a Bad Housewife.

      2. I haven’t started reading it yet, but I will soon. I’ve been doing reading for the day job. 😦 I’m going to Erma because it is 90 minutes from home. So, I’m less stressed about it. 🙂

  2. Yep, I can relate. The year father dear was hammered and tossed the Christmas tree out the front door…after it had been decorated. I’m sure that lives on in the neighbors memories as it does in mine. I have loads of those cringe worthy moments.

    1. Cathy, I can just see that Christmas tree flying. I hope you are writing down your memories. I think there are a lot of people with memories like this out there.

  3. I have a special knack for telling cringeworthy stories too. Ask me about the time I headed for Trenton and ended up pumping gas in Harlem. Good times.
    Loved this, Lisa. Hey, somebody’s gotta spruce up a dull party, right? All perfection and no dysfunction makes us dull girls. 😉

    1. And this is why I love you! I can’t wait to be awkward with you in a couple of weeks. Though, I think there might be more awkward folks there. 🙂 I’m going to ask about the Harlem story, too.

  4. My mother was famous for her witty yearly Christmas letters. She worked on it for weeks. She’d save anecdotes all year to relate. She’d draw cartoons in the margins. She’d start or end with a haiku. (When she died my aunt said she had 35 years of these letters saved.) But the only one I remember is the first year I was married. The letter arrived. I told my husband about his new MIL’s propensity for creative writing. And then we realized she had misspelled ‘penis.’ Because who DOESNT tell an anecdote in your yearly Christmas letter that mentions a penis? And then not proofread for spelling?

  5. When I was younger I went to
    Disneyland with my parents and barfed all over the bathroom, a few minutes after we walked in. Rather than leave my parents took me out to the van and left me there at 9 years old to sleep, while they spent the day at the happiest place on earth!

    1. Holy crap! Your parents are lucky that this didn’t happen any time post 1994. They would have been arrested. You poor thing. I just went to Disneyland for the first time in December. I loved it. I pooped in Disney World, my childhood vacation place.

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