There’s a new TV show airing this Spring on CBS titled “Sh*t My Dad Says.” While the name is a bit shocking, the plot is not. In fact, I’m frustrated that I didn’t pitch my own sitcom called “Trouble My Mom Started.”
My mother was strict and stern, possibly because she had a baby later in life. Nine months before I arrived, my father was considering retirement; my mother menopause. That wasn’t to be the case for either one.
I grew up with old-fashioned values, which were beneficial until I reached the age of 25. Just like the “bleeped” title of a modern day television show, I was slowly learning that times had changed.
One of the first indicators that I shouldn’t have listened to my mother occurred in 1998. I was a participant in Leadership Charleston and invited to tour an army base near Richmond, Virginia, (this in and of itself is worthy of a separate blog). When I told my mother that we were going to visit the officer’s club, she snapped to attention.
“Oh, honey, that’s white glove! The officer’s club? Why, you’ll have to dress for that!”
So, I did. After a grueling day of being yelled at by drill sergeants (to give us a dose of military reality), I changed into a cashmere sweater set, an “Hermes” scarf, cuffed trousers, and crocodile loafers. When we reached the officer’s club (by bus), I noticed a wooden sign on the front of the building.
The club resembled The Boar’s Nest in “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Cigarette smoke clouded the ceiling and country music bounced off the walls. I scanned the room, feeling completely out of place, wishing I had asked our guide for clarification before donning my finery. When I excused myself to the latrine (to hide), I passed a female officer who zeroed in on my tasseled shoes and worked her way up to my flushed cheeks.
“Who’s that? The general’s wife?” she sneered.
No, but I was proud to be a sergeant major’s daughter.
As military officers and future business leaders hydrated themselves, people actually paid less attention to how I was dressed. I escaped with a minimal amount of teasing (that’s not true of my hair), and headed straight for a pay phone to call my mother.
“Mom!” I wailed. “The officer’s club must have changed its dress code, because I was the only one not in sweatpants!”
Throughout my adult life, there were similar rules of mother-daughter engagement. One statute was to call when I arrived at the destination of an out-of-town business meeting (co-workers and supervisors loved this one). Another was to keep abreast of traffic accidents and weather concerns while driving beyond city limits with the help of a professional CB radio and antenna kit (which my mother purchased for my Audi A4).
Since the embarrassment has passed, I can look back on the “Trouble My Mom Started” with gratitude. She loved me more than anyone else in this world, and no one tried harder to keep me safe — beyond childhood. It was not always an easy form of basic training, but her protective nature served me well… particularly now that I have recruits of my own.