The other day, Bryan and I were walking up to this restaurant, and there was this little kid standing outside--maybe 8 years old--with chin-length hair and wearing really baggy cargo shorts, a big T-shirt and black flip flops. Bryan and I were talking as we approached the door and I wasn't paying much attention. As the kid opened the door for me, I said "Thank you, sir."
BIG mistake. Turns out it was a little girl. I knew it as soon as I said it: her eyes got wide and she looked kind of alarmed and hurt. I wanted to apologize, but that would have just made it worse. I hope she doesn't remember it for the rest of her life.
Because some things that embarrassed me as a kid haunted me for years. Like the time I impulsively screamed ""Mommy!" and hugged the flight attendant my dad was flirting with on the airplane because I thought she was going to be my new mom. (Not that I particularly wanted a new mom or anything, but I thought, "well, if this is how it's going to be, I guess I better at least make this lady feel welcome."). It doesn't seems so bad now, but at the time, it was completely mortifying.
But tonight, our friends David and Kerry were over for dinner, and we were talking about all the things that made us scared or uncomfortable or embarrassed when we were little, and I remembered the Worst Moment of The Nineteen-Eighties:
When I was in 3rd grade (1987?), I decided I was kind of into cutting edge fashion. So one day when my parents weren't paying attention, I wore nothing but an overly-large sweatshirt, underpants, socks and my pink Reebok hightops onto the school bus. It was kind of a last-minute decision. Now, when I say "overly-large," I mean it was baggy, but not minidress large. I repeat: it was not a minidress. So, I got off the bus and walked into school, and became more and more uncomfortable as I made it to my classroom. Kids were staring, and not in a "wow--she looks just like Debbie Gibson" sort of way. For a while I held out hope that I would just get used to it, but then I tried to sit in my desk in my sweatshirt-minidress, and there was this moment that I'll never forget when the romantic fashion fog burned off my brain all at once, and there I was sitting in my desk in school wearing just a sweatshirt, and my brain was like, "Yhfw9hD6ycbwq8*CB#R*!!! WE'RE NOT WEARING ANY PANTS!" It was just like one of those dreams where you're just minding your own business, and all of a sudden you're naked at the mall. So, I guess you could say I've actually lived the dream.
Anyway, after my "Thank You, Sir" gaffe, Bryan gave me a long lecture about gender stereotyping in the 21st century, blah blah blah. But you know what? Wardrobe provides context clues. That little girl was dressed just like a little boy, so I assumed she was a little boy. I once wore NO PANTS to school and looked totally insane, and so the teacher called my dad, and he had to come bring me some pants, and yes, that was embarrassing. But the next day I wore pants, because I didn't like the experience of not wearing any pants. If that little girl is emotionally scarred, the next time I see her, she better be wearing a Justin Bieber T-shirt. I am so serious.