Tag Archives: memoir

Fifty Shades of Humiliation Featuring a Guy in a Gray Suit

Recently, I showed you the line-up of amazing bloggers who committed to sharing their most embarrassing moments over the course of the year. If you surf Twitter, you will be able to find the series under the hashtag #SoWrong. And a lot of other crazy shizz, too. Probably. Last week it occurred to me that it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t share one of my own heinous moments. Gulp. Here it is.

SoWrong

Click on the eyeball to see who else is participating in this series!

During high school, I worked at a department store in a local mall. At its peak, the chain had ten locations, and I spent many afternoons, weekends and vacations behind the costume jewelry counter, helping blue-haired ladies decide between faux-pearl earrings and plastic white clip-ons.

When I came home from college in the winter of 1985, I learned I’d be working in fine jewelry where black surveillance cameras hovered over the display cases.

Dude looked a little like this. Seriously. Look at those chompers. And that chin.

Seriously. Look at those chompers. And that chin.

One day, a man in an expensive gray suit leaned against the glass case where the 24k gold was kept and flashed me his whitest smile.

My heart beat loud in my chest. Gray Suit was cute. I wondered if he was single.

“Is there something you’d like to see?” I asked, hoping he would say something like: You. I’m here for you.

“Didn’t Carol tell you?” Gray Suit asked, invoking the name of my supervisor.

When I shook my head, Gray Suit frowned. My teenage heart dropped.

“Let’s start over.” Gray Suit outstretched his hand.

We shook hands the way my father always said was indicative of a person with character: firm and not too quick to release.

His lips moved. “I’m John Stevens, the gold rep. I come to swap out the inventory occasionally.” He set a hard, silver briefcase on the floor, bent over and produced several, rose-colored velvet bags, which he set on the glass countertop, careful not to leave messy fingerprints.

“I need you to get the keys from that drawer over there and put everything inside these bags.”

John flashed his dimples.

Isn’t it so sparkly and pretty?

I bit my thumb. “I think I should probably wait until Carol gets back from lunch…”

John glanced at his watch. “I still have to get to North Syracuse, Camillus and Clay.” I could feel his frustration. “Carol should have told you I was coming.” John shook his head. “I guess I’ll go see Mr. Big Boss…” He leaned over to lift the handle of his briefcase.

And I should have let him go.

Oh, I should have let him go.

But I was 18-years old.

And I didn’t want my supervisor to get in trouble with Mr. Big Boss.

And there was this small stupid part of me that hoped that John Stevens, the hot guy with the great smile, might want my phone number. Or something.

ninasophia-dY6NRHMd9Ys-original

Image courtesy of Nina Strelov via Fotopedia

So I did as I was told.

I drifted over to the drawer where the key laid waiting inside a small white cup. And somehow I was pushing the tiny tarnished key into the lock. Once the lock was off, I slid open the doors, dropped to my knees, dragging all the gold into one clunky pile.

John handed me a velvet bag, which I filled and set atop the empty display case. He smiled as he flipped open his briefcase and placed the bag inside. He tapped the top of the tall earrings tower with his fingertips.

“I’m going to bring everything out to the van, and then I’ll come back with the new inventory.”

I nodded. Of course he would.

“We don’t like to leave the cases empty for long.” John explained, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. “Every minute the case is empty, we lose potential sales.”

He promised he’d be right back.

When Carol returned from her break, I told her John had been there.

“Who?” she asked absently as she tidied up around the cash register.

“The gold rep” I said. “You just missed him. He took the old gold, but he should be back with the new stuff any minute.”

Carol looked at me with big eyes.

And then I knew.

I was a stupid girl.

My idiocy was confirmed when Carol stood in front of the empty display case and held her hand up to her throat, like something was burning there. “How long has he been gone?”

The words caught in my mouth. “About five minutes.”

Notoriously unflappable, Carol stomped her heel on the floor and swore.

I had done something really bad.

Okay the chair wasn't quite like this, but still.

photo courtesy of jeltovsky at morguefile.com

In Mr. Big Boss’s office, I sat in the naughty chair and wept. As he questioned me, I remembered something. “The cameras! He was standing in front of one of the cameras the whole time!”

I was elated. Thank goodness. We could get the footage and give it to the police. We would be able to catch the bad guy.

Mr. Big Boss rubbed his huge palm over his bald head and looked at me with soft eyes. He could probably tell I was confused. “The cameras aren’t real. They’re there to deter theft, but there’s no film inside. That guy probably knew they were fake. He seemed to know everything else.”

And, I thought, he knew how to work me.

I was sure I was going to be fired.

I braced myself for it.

Instead, Mr. Big Boss called the day “a learning experience.”

It was not the first time nor would it be the last time that a boy would trick me.

But it was a very embarrassing moment: the day I swapped nearly 10K in gold for a phony smile.

The fancy department store where I worked opened its doors in 1896. In 1992, the corporation filed for bankruptcy and four stores closed. Under pressure from creditors, Mr. Big Boss, grandson of the founder, sold the company and its remaining stores in 1994, just two years short of their 100-year anniversary.

I have always felt partially responsible.

Have you ever done something incredibly stupid at work?

tweet me @rasjacobson

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Putting My Faith in Boots That Pinch

Me in my brown Frye boots, circa 1985.

I have this freakin’ awesome pair of brown leather Frye boots.

I got them in 1985, before I went to college.

They cost $172.00.

I remember holding my breath as the cashier took all my bills and slipped them into the register.

When she handed me the bag, I thought I might throw-up.

That first semester I walked around campus with bloody heels, praying my investment would eventually pay off.

I’d dreamed of soft chocolate boots, like the couches the people I’d babysat for owned.

But my new boots were stiff and unyielding.

Those suckers took forever to break in. 

Somewhere along the way, they stopped hurting.

And when I wear them now, someone always admires my kicks and asks me where I got them.

I like to watch their faces when I say I got them in a shoe store that closed in 1989.

Ten years ago, I promised myself that if I ever found a similar pair in black, I would buy them – price-be-damned.

Recently, I was not shopping for shoes when I saw the sister pair to my old brown Fryes: tall black boots with a buckle.

I looked at the bottom of the sole to find the price tag and sucked in my breath.

It’s always been hard for me to spend money on myself. 

“You’ll have those forever,” said the well-dressed saleswomen who handed me an oversized white box.

I slipped the boots over my stockings and took a few steps.

Omigosh. They. Hurt. So. Much.

I found a chair and tugged them off.

“What do you think?” the saleswoman asked.

What did I think?

I thought only a crazy person would buy boots at that price that were that uncomfortable.

And yet.

I remembered.

My old boots had been awful, too.

It had taken years to get them to a place where I could call them comfortable.

But they have been my signature footwear for decades.

So I held my breath as the cashier scanned my credit card.

Because they cost a lot more than they did in 1985.

And I brought them home.

And while my new boots look freakin’ awesome, I’m back to bloody heels and Band-Aids.

Right now, I’m faking it.

Pretending every step doesn’t hurt.

I have to believe that eventually these boots will be right.

Because sometimes having something worthwhile means enduring a little pain.

Ask a newly published author. Or any woman who has given birth.

Have you ever made an expensive purchase that you fretted over? What was it? How’d it turn out? 

tweet this twit @rasjacobson

This week the directions were to write a piece using the idea of money as inspiration — in under 450 words. I did it in 419. 

Celebrating 13

Tech’s 13th b’day cake • Yup, Kit-Kats & M&Ms & chocolate cake!

It should have been a day for parades and singing and whooping it up and flowers.

I was sure there would be balloons.

Instead there was a vacuum extractor.

It doesn’t surprise me that my son is as cautious as he is. His introduction to the world was of rough and tumble handling, of being ripped away, and I believe that it left its mark on him – though he knows none of the details.

In a hazy dream, I saw blood fill one of those pink plastic hospital basins and wondered: Whose blood could that be?

I am told that my son stopped breathing five times after he was born.

I think he innately senses that life is fragile, unpredictable and doesn’t always turn out as planned.

It was not in the birth plan for my uterus not to contract.

{Who knew I had a feisty uterus?}

It was not in the birth plan to lose so much blood. It was not in the birth plan to be rushed to away for an emergency hysterectomy.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t have a birth plan.

But I had plans.

I’d planned to go home with my newborn and revel in his newness. I’d planned to be up and around within 24 hours. I’d planned for people to marvel at us in the grocery store: “Up and around already?” they’d say.

I’d planned long, lazy, late summer walks with our fancy-schmancy new stroller. I’d planned to bring my son outside and show him the world, let him feel the August sun on his cheeks.

On my eighth day in the hospital, my OB-GYN stood beside my hospital bed.

And while a moyel read blessings and performed my son’s circumcision, my doctor sobbed.

What is it?” I asked. “You must have seen sixty-five bazillion of these.”

My doctor wiped her eyes and her mascara smeared over her nose.

I don’t know why I remember this, but I do.

“There was a point where I thought I was going to lose you both. I’m so happy you’re leaving the hospital as a family.”

And we did leave the hospital as a family.

{And we figured out how to get the $@%&! bucket in $@%&! carseat.}

And the sun went down and it came up again.

And thirteen years later, my husband and I have this fabulous son.

And I know it sounds all braggy and everything but he is incredibly smart, so we like to tease him how much smarter he might have been if he hadn’t lost all those brain cells in the NICU.

We are fortunate to be able to laugh about these things.

Because it could have ended in another, completely devastating way.

And now, as my ever-lengthening teenager heads out each morning, he still gives me a smooch — even in front of his friends.

He still thinks I’m cool.

{Sometimes.}

He still twirls my hair and tells me I’m pretty and that he’s glad I’m his mom.

{Right before he falls asleep.}

Who could ask for more?

I believe we will keep him.

Tonight he will eat something sweet.

We will push him up against the measuring door to see how much he has grown.

You know, on the outside.

People say 13 is an unlucky number.

But I feel so dang lucky.

And balloons or not, we celebrate his life every day.

Because why wouldn’t we?

What was the last thing you celebrated? Anyone else have a feisty uterus? Or a tough delivery?

The 8-Year Old Chimney Sweep: A #LessonLearned by Franky Jebb

This personal narrative was written by Franky Jebb, one of my students from Monroe Community College who was enrolled in my Comp-101 class during the Fall 2011 semester.

I’m pleased to share his words here.

• • •

Click on the teacher lady

The Eight-Year Old Chimney Sweep

One summer day, my older sister, Michaela, convinced me to slide down a chimney. This isn’t as traumatic as it may at first sound. It wasn’t a roof chimney, just a stubby 7-foot chimney used for backyard bonfires and barbecues. At age eight, the thought of slipping down a chimney sounded positively intriguing. With Santa Claus as my main inspiration, you can imagine how a child might see shimmying down a chimney as the experience of a lifetime.

And it was.

I went in feet first: my arms reached up to the sky, my head just barely visible.

But part way down, I got stuck.

This is not the chimney in which Franky got stuck. It just seemed like a really good image.

Which was pretty much when I realized there wasn’t going to be an easy way out.

After a few feeble attempts to free me, Michaela scampered inside the house to get my mother. Soon, it seemed the whole neighborhood had congregated in front of my chimney.

Stuck in my tight spot for close to an hour, I started to panic. People shouted muffled instructions and tugged on my hands. I didn’t think I would ever get out of there. I could hear people mumbling but could see nothing except the body of my neighbor kneeling over me and — occasionally — the summer sky.

Finally, thanks to the combined efforts of neighbors – some of whom slithered inside the chimney where the coals would normally be and pushed on the soles of my bare feet, and other neighbors who yanked my arms from the atop — I was rescued. Applause filled my ears and I was surrounded by a large group of friends, families, and neighbors who were relieved to see me back on the ground once again. With my skin sooty and the smell of charcoal in my nostrils, I climbed off the cement stone monument and slunk into my house feeling like Pig Pen from Charlie Brown.

My father lectured me sternly about the dangers of putting myself into places not designed for people. Later, from the living room, I heard my father giving Michaela a lecture similar to the one I had received.

So I have learned to avoid tight places, yes.

And I learned about the dangers when one acts without considering the consequences.

But the real lesson that I learned from getting stuck in the chimney was an unforeseen one: I developed a humorous outlook on things. What I mean by that is if a serious situation occurs, I do my best to make a little joke out of it. Obviously, some things need to be treated seriously, but after the event had passed, my family proceeded to tease me. They poked fun at my “pleasantly plump” figure and wondered how I ever fit down that narrow passage. Ten years later, they still enjoy telling my friends about my most embarrassing moment. I learned that sometimes instead of making a big deal over everything, it’s better to go with it with a little self-deprecating humor.

When something has been bothering me, I simply remember getting pulled out of a chimney by my neighbors, being covered in ash and soot, and smelling of charcoal and burnt wood: it had to be hilarious.

Being the neighborhood chimney sweep is not something I share with everyone I meet, but when it comes to giving myself a reality check, it helps to look back on my most embarrassing moment, and remember my sense of humor. I truly believe that because I was more wedged than a slice of Gouda that day, I became more optimistic and fun-loving than other people. Finding the positive in things can be hard to do, especially in depressing scenarios but if you can, it often creates a better situation for everyone involved.

What do you remember getting in trouble for doing when you were little? Would you do it again?

Lessons From Eight Junes

Photo from dalesmith @ flickr.com

June is definitely a time for endings and beginnings. Proms. Graduations. Weddings. New jobs. June has got me thinking about all the Junes in my life. My parents started their married life together on June 23, 1963. My son will become a bar-mitzvah next June. One of my grandmothers died in June. And one of my friends, too. I tried to think about some significant Junes in my life, and this is what was born:

• • •

Once upon a time, a November baby learned that she loved June. She played with bubbles and chased butterflies, rode her bicycle, played kick the can, and stayed out until the fireflies guided her home.

One June, the girl snapped her well-packed trunk and clipped her khaki duffel bag ready to spend seven weeks at overnight camp.

One June, the girl went to a prom in a ridiculous dress with ridiculous hair.

Four Junes later, the girl was no longer a girl. She graduated from the college she’d loved and, as she drove west in her beat-up Plymouth Volaré to live with a man she loved – prepared to insert herself into his house and into his life – she was terrified that everything was going to be different. And it was.

One terrible June, the girl sat in a room staring at a casket, and no matter how many people told her that the air conditioning wasn’t on too high, it felt like winter in that place.

One June, the girl found herself in New Orleans. She had finished her first year of teaching in a city that smelled like magnolias and crawfish. It was the hottest summer of her life and it lasted until November.

In a blink, it was June again. This time, she looked in the mirror and saw she was no longer a girl. She was seven months pregnant; her hands and ankles had swelled in the heat. As she fanned herself, she daydreamed about the future. Also, she ate a lot of watermelon.

One June, the November girl moved – along with her husband and her son – into a home nestled in a neighborhood with flowers and trees and children. And as she hung up her summer sundresses, she remembered bubbles and bicycles and butterflies, and she knew she was home.

This June, the woman knows there are wrinkles around her eyes – but she is less focused on herself. She sits at the computer and listens to her son, now almost 12, as he practices for his last piano lesson. The music is familiar. The clothes in the dryer bump around noisily in the background, everyone’s stuff mingled together. Hopefully, for many, many more Junes.

Can you share one particular memory from one particular June?

Prom Gen iY: Same Thing, Just Better Dresses

Photo from jepoycamboy @ flickr.com

Recently, my family was chomping on chunks of bread at Outback Steakhouse, a place we often go after I announce that I didn’t make it to the grocery store.

As I sat in my old jeans, the thick, pine doors parted and in paraded boys wearing tuxedos with cummerbunds flanked by girls in fancy dresses with sparkles and sequins. I was bedazzled…

…and instantly transported back in time. To the mid-1980s. To my own school formals.

TB and me. Junior Prom, 1984.

I went to Junior Prom with TB, a boy I had spent most of middle school trying to get to fall in love with notice me. Lord knows, we spent many afternoons in detention together as a result of misbehaving in French class. Before he moved to Philadelphia, however, I realized we were always going to be “just friends,” which was good enough for me. I sort of figured I’d never see him again, but he magically materialized to take me to prom.

Here’s what I remember about that prom. First, let’s just establish TB looked awesome in his tux. Done. Okay, now let’s talk about my dress. Featured in Seventeen Magazine, my dress was a gauzy, white Gunne Sax for Jessica McClintock that covered me from chin to ankle; it had three layers of crinoline and 10,000 buttons up the back. I was hermetically sealed inside my dress. All I knew was that I felt like Madonna in that dress. Seriously, from the neck down, I totally looked like Madonna.

Shut up, I did.

Sadly, we must address things from the neck up. Just a few months prior, I had butchered my long mane and had not yet figured out quite what to do with what was – tragically – a long brush-cut. Or a lady-mullet. The in-between stage lasted for years. In an effort to try to make people not notice my heinous hair, I stuck an over-sized silver safety-pin through the extra hole in my left ear lobe. Because I was that stupid cool.

JMo and me. Senior Ball, 1985.

For Senior Ball, I was slightly better prepared. First, let us establish that JMo looked awesome in his tux. Done. Now, about my dress.  As it turned out, my big poofy dress from the year before was really uncomfortable. The crinkly crinolines had filled the entire backseat; it had been hard to walk, and did I mention that I was decidedly not hot? Senior year, I decided to tone down my attire and wear a really simple yellow dress. Alas, there was no teenaged version of “Say Yes To The Dress” because somehow I ended up looking like I had been dipped first in a vat of French’s mustard and then into a second vat of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Seriously, I had no business wearing pastel yellow. I know you can’t tell from the pictures, but I looked jaundiced. Luckily, most people were blinded by my like totally radical Sun-In highlights and my tan, both of which I had been cultivating after school for weeks while simultaneously ignoring my upcoming Trigonometry final. (That proved to be a big mistake.)

I did not do a lot of primping for either prom.

I mean, I showered. I was clean.

Not too long ago, I went on Twitter to see what people were saying about prom. Here is a sampling:

and

and

People were freaking out. About shoes, about fingernails, about limos, about dress fittings. Dress fittings?

Whaaaaat? I bought a dress and I put it on. As you can see, it fit.

(Okay, so there was a little extra room up top. What’s your point?)

Unlike the tweeps, I did not worry about prom for days in advance.

Time spent preparing my hair for Junior Prom: zero minutes.

For Senior Ball, I actually had hair, so I did use a little mousse which, thankfully, had been invented earlier that year.

I do remember some mental anguish at both dances. Even though I wasn’t dating either guy, I still wanted the romance of the evening. I still wanted my dates to ask me to slow dance.

I mean I was scared, but I still wanted to be asked.

Ask me. No don’t ask me.

Please ask me. Wait, I don’t know what I’m doing.

One year, I remember the band playing Foreigner and mouthing the words: “I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me.”

Because, really, I had no idea.

But I so wanted to know.

Somewhere between 1986 and 2011, dress designers realized that high school girls did not want to look like Victorian dolls in ginormous hoop skirts nor did they want to look like mothers-of-the-bride. Thus, the prom dress industry was born. That night at Outback Steakhouse, the girls looked so beautiful; their dresses complemented their body shapes and each dress represented a stripe of the rainbow. Each young woman looked like a contestant from America’s Next Top Model. Each had a signature walk. Each looked so confident.

For a minute, I felt envy. I mean, I was decidedly un-hot at junior prom and kind of potato-sacky at senior ball. But then I realized, to the outside world, I probably looked confident, too. Even with the bad hair. I found myself wondering about the girls at Outback – and all the girls who go to formal dances these days. They are so well-put together, so styled, so prepped. Outwardly, they appeared so mature. I wondered if they would be able to look back at themselves in 30 years with a sense of humor and recognize that they were also at a tipping point. Or had they already passed it?

I imagine some things will never change about formal dances: the grown up feeling of getting dressed up and “going out on the town” without one’s parents; the freaky-deaky feeling a girl gets in her stomach as she sees her prom date pull into the driveway; those awkward posed moments where parents hover, taking zillions of photographs from every possible angle; the worry that a zit could erupt at any moment (and often did).

I think of prom as that awkward place, a threshold between adolescence and adulthood where no one really knows what to do, so we just hold onto each other in our fancy clothes and spin around in circles for a little while.

And so we did.

And it was good.

You know, up until I learned I had failed the Trig final.

Because that sucked.

What did you wear to prom? Did you think you were hot? Were you? Really?