Embarrassment — a legacy?

A number of years ago, a local classic rock radio station advised, “Turn the volume up and sing along loudly. Embarrass your kids.”

It’s probably in the nature of the job for parents occasionally to do or say something that their offspring find embarrassing. Some may do so more often than others. Usually, it is unintentional. Sometimes the purpose may not be to embarrass the son or daughter, but there’s no thought given to avoiding the embarrassment. I’ve been on both sides of this, as you likely have also.

Sometimes the embarrassment is delayed.

There were two times etched in my memory in which I was laughed at — to the point of mild embarrassment — for doing something I had learned from my parents.
They fixed fried eggs sunny-side up. They cooked them in bacon grease. To get the top sufficiently done before the bottom overcooked, they used the frying pan spatula to splash the hot grease up on the egg. It was a rapid, continuing motion for a few moments.

I was using this method, as I always did, one morning at their house. A visiting member of the extended family observed and said bemusedly, “You’re going to beat that egg to death.” Now, aside from the fact that I was not touching the egg at all, I was blindsided by a critique of my following what seemed a perfectly good way to get my eggs just so.

When my father stirred sugar into his coffee or tea, he rapidly moved the spoon back and forth, making a not-unpleasant ringing sound as the spoon rhythmically hit the sides of the cup or glass. I adopted this same method, it never occurring to me to stir any other way. Until . . . .

Late in my college years, I was about to enjoy a glass of iced tea with a couple of other people. I put in some sugar and stirred as I always had. I had never noticed any reaction from anyone up to that point. This time, however, a peer smirked as he watched (and listened).

After those two incidences, I never again fried an egg or sweetened a beverage using those methods. There have been times when I’ve repeated something my parents said or did something I learned from them that caused me embarrassment, and I’d wished they’d set a different example. Yet, in these instances, I didn’t, and still don’t blame my parents, from whom I picked up the techniques, for my embarrassment in these situations. My resentment is reserved for those who chose to react as they did.

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