Every kid thinks their parents are embarrassing, but I’m fairly sure that mine actually were the most embarrassing parents in the world during my childhood. Here are my reasons:
The bottle of wee
When I was about 11, my mum decided she would start fertilising her allotment with urine. There was therefore a bottle of urine in the tiny upstairs toilet that we were meant to wee into instead of weeing into the loo.
(The actual loo was for poos only, and thank heavens my mum didn’t decide to fertilise the allotment with human excrement too, though I wouldn’t have put it past her. Instead, she made my dad and I go to the local riding stables at the weekends to shovel horse poo into bags, which she then fertilised the allotment with instead. What fun!)
Anyhow, I didn’t really mind giving a urine sample every time I needed to pee. In the long list of my parents’ parenting fails, it was pretty near the bottom.
What I did mind was that, one of the few times I got someone from school to agree to come round, my mother asked the girl pleasantly, ‘If you go to the toilet, please could you pee into the plastic bottle provided?’
Of course, the girl promptly went back to school and informed everyone she’d been made to wee into a bottle at mine. This got translated into ‘Don’t go round Ariane’s house – her mum’s taking the piss!’
As if I hadn’t already been bullied enough…
The clapped-out old banger
My parents owned a filthy white 1960s Peugeot 404 that didn’t so much glide as bounce, wheeze and sputter down the road. It was the sort of dirty where people would write ‘Clean Me’ with their finger in the grime.
The car was basically half-dead and would always refuse to start, so each time my mum collected me from primary school, she would have to open the bonnet, then whack the fan with an ancient wooden tennis racket in order to get the engine going.
Cue snotty small children boasting ‘My dad has a Mercedes-Benz. Your dad can’t even afford a proper car! Or a proper tennis racket.’
When the second-hand (or more like tenth-hand) Peugeot finally packed up for good, my dad bought another second-hand car: a Saab 900. It was so long, it was impossible to park, and my dad would go round trying and failing to reverse into parking spaces while swearing under his breath in German. (He used to live in Germany, and possibly thought it was more acceptable to swear in front of small children in a language we couldn’t understand.)
[A Peugeot 404, though ours was much dirtier.]
Then there’s the small matter of the Nazi jeep my dad built in our garage, though I’ll save that for the memoir.
The terrible clothes
Looking back, my dad’s clothes really weren’t that bad. The main cringe factor for me was that he always, always wore a black or navy corduroy Lenin cap. I have no idea why, because he had hair up until the very end.
The kids at school would tease me because he wore the cap, and call him a ‘gippo’ (though not to his face, because he was 6’4″ and prone to violence and would have ended them).
He also always wore a white vest. He had the slightly excruciating habit of scratching his skin until it bled, so his white vests were always covered in faded brown bloodstains.
Oh, and in the late 1980s he went through a phase of wearing bright fluorescent trainers… with a dark suit jacket and black trousers. It was not the best look.
My dad’s Unmanageable Penis Syndrome (and other embarrassing habits)
I don’t think my dad actually ever wore deodorant. I certainly never saw him apply any. He always smelt of soap, so he did wash under his arms, but the soapy smell was mingled with a kind of musky body odour. I’m not sure he ever showered either.
I didn’t mind my dad’s body odour – it was at least fresh, and I thought he smelt quite nice, certainly better than the overpowering aftershave of some dads – but I did mind his other personal hygiene habits.
At home, I was always walking in on him washing his willy in the bathroom sink (there was no lock on the bathroom door). I would back out apologising as he swore and muttered. I reckon he used the sink for all his washing – no idea why.
When driving on the school run, with three other girls from school sitting in the back of the car, my dad would fuss with his willy through his trousers. He wouldn’t actually take it out, thank the good Lord, but he would prod it around and have a good old rummage.
My parents would walk around naked occasionally (they were in their teens and twenties in the 1960s) so I have the unfortunate knowledge that my dad was rather well-endowed (bit of sick in my mouth here), and I guess his trousers were always too tight for this reason.
I would sit there cringing as he manhandled himself in front of the girls from school. He was presumably shunting his willy into a less constricted position (my best male friend refers to this euphemistically as ‘comfort issues’).
I think perhaps my dad should have claimed Scottish heritage, invested in a kilt and gone commando. I would genuinely have rather he’d done that than foraged in his crotch all morning, as it was the bane of my life – and that’s before we get to him proudly letting out loud farts in the street.
And the rest…
This blog post would be very long if I listed all my parents’ cringeworthy habits, so I’ll leave it there. If your parents did anything that can rival mine, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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