What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon
The Mysterious Explaining Disease
[p.111]Ken and I once ended up with a pair of truly great tickets to a Utah Jazz basketball game. They were VIP tickets which basically meant we could (a) mingle and (b) hobnob with other VIP ticket holders in a big buffet room before the game, eating Swedish meatballs and so forth, after which we would take our courtside seats right behind the basketball standard. We had these tickets because someone gave them to someone else who gave them to someone else who finally gave them to us at the very last possible minute.
So, in other words, the tickets weren’t really ours.
At least that’s how I perceived it. I felt, in fact, exactly like an underaged kid with phony ID. I just knew the moment we tried to pass those VIP tickets off as our own, the person at the gate would look at us and say, “Hold on. These tickets can’t possibly belong to the likes of you!” Then he would shout, “Guards, seize them,” after which Ken and I would be dragged from the Delta Center by Jazz goons in green coats.
As we approached the ticket taker, I could feel my heart begin to race. When he actually took the tickets from our hands, my upper lip started to sweat. I freely admit it—I couldn’t stand up to the pressure.
“Those tickets aren’t really ours,” I blurted out as Ken’s jaw went slack with surprise. And then I launched into the entire explanation of how we had ended up with them.
The ticket taker gave me a tremendously bored look as he shuffled us on our way to the Inner Sanctum of the VIP to the next ticket taker who was also subjected to the entire explanation of why we had such great tickets.
By the time I had told no less than five people we didn’t know and would never meet again the true story of The Tickets and How We Got Them, Ken finally said, “Listen to me, Ann. No one cares why we have these tickets. Do you understand me? NO ONE CARES.”
It was then I felt the pain one feels when one finally realizes one has been busy embarrassing oneself in public again.
“Actually, you’ve engaged in this kind of behavior before,” Ken [p.112]later said on our way home from the game. “Remember that time you parked our big family car parallel to the library curb, thereby taking up five spaces? When you realized what you’d done, you personally apologized to every single person in the checkout line for taking up so much room, then explained you’d only done it because you were new in town and didn’t yet know all the rules for parking at local libraries?”
“And then there was the time I bought ten copies of the National Enquirer for my English students to evaluate in class the next day,” I remembered ruefully. “I wanted the clerk to know I was buying them for a legitimate academic purpose, so I explained to her I didn’t for a moment really believe that Orrin Hatch is an alien and so forth, and that I was only buying them because I had to.”
‘‘I’m sure she believed you,” Ken said.
I sighed. “It’s a disease all the women in my family suffer from. We have these overactive glands which secrete the hormone responsible for (a) making you feel guilty and (b) wanting to explain yourself to everyone.”
There is a very famous story in my family about the time my own mother forgot to wear her glasses on an errand to the bank. While standing in line to cash a check, she saw a man she thought was the family doctor because he appeared to be wearing a white lab coat.
“He kept looking at me,” my mother said, “so naturally I started to feel guilty. After awhile I caved in. I marched up to him and told him I was very sorry we hadn’t paid our bill yet but that I would certainly take care of it first thing in the morning.”
As it turned out, the man wasn’t the family doctor.
“Can you imagine how embarrassed I was?” she asked.
In fact, what he said to my mother was (and I quote), “Hey, lady, I’m just a barber.”
“Well, it was all his fault,” I soothed, “for wearing white in the first place, don’t you know.”
“So you really think it’s a gland thing with you and your mother?” Ken asked.
I nodded vigorously.
“Guys don’t have that gland,” he said. “I’m pretty sure we learned that in the sixth grade maturation program.”
Which may be true. Now that I think about it, I know a lot of women who explain themselves in ways that men would never dream [p.113]of. One friend, for example, told me that if anyone ever compliments her on an outfit she immediately feels compelled to say, “I bought it on sale at the Rack for $19.99.” I’m certain a bunch of guys would never say this sort of thing to one another.
Still, I suspect my mother and I are worse than most women. Like I say, it’s a disease—a disease with a long and interesting history.
If you have a minute, I’d just love to tell you all about it.