It was hard to single people out for “bad” parenting when I was a kid. There was no such thing…you were a parent or you weren’t…and if you weren’t that didn’t mean you didn’t have kids.
When I grew up parents could be counted on for three very distinct things. One, drinking. Good Christ, it was an era that makes todays wine soaked soccer moms seem like the giant sissies that they are. Ohhhh, you drank some Chardonnay? You wanna impress me, toss back a half of a handle of Popov (of Bukov, it’s a dollar cheaper) and cook dinner for four, remain upright and MAYBE you’re in the same league as parents of a certain generation.
Two, smoke. Smoking wasn’t a recreational activity when I grew up, it was an Olympic event. Ashtrays were the size of satellite dishes and they were emptied twice nightly. People went through lighters per day, not packs.
And three, parents were not negotiators. It wasn’t the toggling of “go ask your father” to “go ask your mother” or any sort of reward based program. You asked one of them and if the answer was “no”, that was that (more often than not, that simply meant whatever the hell you were gonna end up doing wasn’t sanctioned).
Also popular back then was sewing. In my house, sewing also manifested itself in my mothers compulsive need to hem my pants.
My mother insisted on my brother and I buying our pants long because we were still growing (I guess that was the logic) and she could simply “hem them” and then let them out later (a long forgotten look…these were the kids with the weird creases around their ankles that would appear after they have been “let out” or unhemmed).
Now in all fairness my mom was a pretty good seamstress and she was adamant about hemming our pants because “the pants would last longer”. Despite being a pretty good seamstress, my mom didn’t like to do her sewing on the weekends or during the day. Unfortunately, she liked to do it at night. After dinner.
She’d yell at me to go put on my pants “so I can hem them tonight”. Despite my protests, I would eventually acquiesce and watch, with her Virginia Slim dangling from her mouth, as she pinned them to an appropriate length.
I’ve only recently discovered that negotiating a sewing machine after a few vodka’s must be pretty challenging. Years of therapy (not a new-found interest in sewing) and I just unearthed that gem. Nice to see therapy is really paying off on finding the trouble spots.
For most of my pre-teen years I would walk around with pants that were uneven. I’d be forced to walk around with one side of my pants high on my hips and the other low or walk around like some 11-year-old that needed a hip replacement.
In my mind, it was the pants because I mean, how could my mother, the seamstress, deliberately sew one leg shorter than the other. While she did have a strange and sarcastic sense of humor, socially ostracizing her children by making their legs seem uneven was not part of her cannon.
Some pants were always worse than others and it seemed like she just couldn’t get corduroys figured out, it must’ve been the vertical lines that fucked with her vision after all the Popov. Either that or it was the periodic distraction of Remington Steele.
In true teen rebellion manner, once in high school I simply stopped being concerned with the length of my pants (which in turn would drive my mother crazy but on a subconscious level I must’ve known I couldn’t have her hem my pants).
The trait of purchasing pants a little long has stayed with me to this day. So now, if you see me and my pants are a little frayed at the bottom from being too long, rest assured it’s less a fashion statement and more of a residual scar from childhood.
And if you see me walking around like I need a hip replacement, I’ve reached an age where that may not be out of the realm of possibility.