How To Embarrass A Teenager
I don’t have kids of my own, and perhaps it takes a hell of a lot more these days to make a kid blush, but here’s the most cringe-worthy event of my teenage life (apologies to my sweet – and very manly – little brother):
I must have been about sixteen. I was on my way downtown for a little shopping. Yes, we had a downtown. No malls yet. And it was certainly a “little” shopping because I never had much more than two dollars in my pocket at any time during those years.
My little brother was about to start Little League.
My mother, always a lady, asked me to do her a big favor.
“Your brother needs something in order to play baseball. Stop in at the men’s store and buy …” she lowered her voice to a whisper, although we were alone in the kitchen…”an athletic supporter.”
I begged her not to make me do it, even a good size bribe didn’t make me feel any better, but my brother needed it for the next day, and I couldn’t make her change her mind.
So I reluctantly dragged myself to the unfamiliar store. Since they didn’t sell girly things, music, or snacks, I had rarely entered that dreary place.
I looked around. I didn’t see anything that looked like what my mother had described. I figured it came in a little box, like a Playtex bra, and I thought maybe even Playtex would be a good name for a jockstrap. But they weren’t anywhere.
I had to ask the salesman. I put on my nonchalant face.
“Excuse me,” I said to the tall gray-haired man in the ugly sportscoat. “My brother needs…” and I dropped my voice discreetly like my mother had done,… an athletic supporter.”
“Sure,” he said, and he went to a stack of drawers behind the counter. “What size?”
And I said: “I don’t know. He’s only ten. How big could he be?”
And just to make sure my humiliation was complete, I even demonstrated with a lovely little gesture!
And the tears began to flow. HIS, not mine. The old guy was crying and choking and quivering pretty much from head to toe…
As he was falling to the floor, he explained: “WAIST SIZE!”