I cannot account for the drive to swap ‘most embarrassing moments.’ Perhaps it is just a “misery loves company” sort of phenomenon, or a chance to release old baggage and laugh at ourselves in the process. I do know that it is more enjoyable if you follow certain rules. You have to pick the right sort of person with whom to share, and then make sure to speak last—just in case. Gauge the level of trust based on how heinous your friend’s story is. Personally, I have such an accumulation of humiliating moments that I like to select one that is only very slightly less mortifying than my companion’s. I was about to share a truly devastating, ego-crushing debacle with an acquaintance, but LUCKILY I made her share first. Since when does accidentally running a load of laundry twice through the wash count as embarrassing? I immediately reneged on my promised reciprocation. After that lame-ass, milquetoast non-revelation, there was no way was I going to talk about what happened to me in a port-a-potty once at a rock concert. NO WAY.
Swapping bad parenting stories follows the same principles, and it feels even more liberating to get that shit off your chest and begin to forgive yourself–especially if your friend did something even worse. That feels great.
I was once in a terribly uncomfortable situation…trapped in a station wagon with a gallery-owner I had never met, despite the fact that I had been interning at his place for months. He was driving around downtown like a maniac. My job was to run into places and pick up ridiculously valuable objects here and there, and toss them into the trunk while he double-parked and stared at me vaguely. “WHO are you, again?” he asked for the third time. I realized he would never get the hang of my name, so I changed my tactic: “I’m the fool who found out I was pregnant 3 weeks into art school and has been trying to finish ever since.” Suddenly, his vision cleared and he started talking with me like a real person, to my great relief.
We talked about everything: art, philosophy, truth, but mostly parenting. When I told him my two year old threw down her crayon and yelled “fuck it,” when she got frustrated, he just laughed and said, “That’s nothing. On his first day of kindergarten, my son turned to his neighbor at the lunch table and said—in front of the teacher and half a dozen other parents–‘Wanna toke of my cookie?’”
He won that round, but lately I’ve been working on some seriously competitive material.