1. Traveler’s checks.
Deep in the recesses of your parents’ sock drawer lies a pile of papers. Pick them up, leaf through them, study them, and you’ll be at a loss. You’ve never met these slips of paper before, but this is what we call traveler’s checks. And your parents love them.
For those of you who have always had the option of a TV remote or have never tried Quaaludes, let me explain. The purpose of traveler’s checks is contingent on a dearth in any other form of withdrawing money. Once debit cards and checks were invented, traveler’s checks were invariably rendered obsolete.
I can’t speak for any of your mothers, but my mother loves to use the term “loaded” instead of “drunk,” “wasted” or “fucked up.” And frankly — yes, I do take issue with it. It implies something much more lethal — something that can only be administered by syringe — than the marijuana-riddled reality of my brain. The word, when merely uttered, carries so many presumptions and judgments. In fact, my mom has never said it without a forceful and accusatory inflection, emphasizing the “L,” as in, “God you’re so LLLLLLOADED, aren’t you?”
If you’re going to point fingers, at least do it accurately. Personally, I prefer the term “blazed,” or “smashed,” followed by some sort of cookie.
3. Downward Debbie.
It’s not unlikely for a parent to attempt a contemporary phrase or idiom (we’re all human, as they say!) and to then fail at that attempt victoriously. And probably the most creative confluence of words I’ve witnessed was the “downward Debbie” uttered by my best friend’s very German mother. You would be right to assume that she was taking a stab at the “Debbie downer” — trying to use it in a sentence. But where she erred was in her unchecked devotion to yoga. Hence the Downward Debbie was born, and ever since, I’ve had this strong hankering to see Rachel Dratch in an Up Dog.
4. “Did you Twitter me?”
It’s a question that stumps me every time. When spoken from my parents, I’ll tell it like it is: Twitter is not a verb, but a proper noun. COME ON NOW. The verb form of Twitter is “to tweet.” But when it’s said by someone I’m not as comfortable setting straight, it becomes rather difficult to tackle. Your best bet is saying “yes,” and then walking away.
5. Very odd gift ideas.
Are men born as poor gift-givers? Or is it that they just lose their flair after 20+ years of marriage? Whatever the reason, I’ve really got to hand it to my dad: the gifts he’s brought home for me, my sister, and my mother wouldn’t even be accepted by a homeless shelter. When we were younger it was dried, edible tadpoles and see-through, cropped halter tops. I find it marvelous(ly entertaining) that he’s still trying. Talking to my dad the other night about what to get my mom for her birthday, he seemed to be trying to one-up himself in the mediocre gifts department. “Oh! You know what she’d love? One of those wearable technology bracelets that measures how many steps you take every day.” A long silence ensued.
“What are you…loaded on grass?” It’s a question that I’ve no doubt been met face-to-face with, but one that I’ve never quite figured out how to answer. As children, we want to say “no” — we want to “nope” right out of there, confidently and in a straight line, when you ask us this question, but you’ve used two very outdated and silly-sounding words and herein lies our issue. You’re making it very hard for us to take you seriously. I mean, come on, look at me. LOOK AT MY EYES. Does the red-ness and lack of eye contact scream “sober”? No, it doesn’t, and you know that. So why do you tempt us with these nonsense words?
7. Anything in the third person.
My dad loves the third person. He used to just use it when being introduced to my friends; as in, “Hello…I’m Rachel’s father…Mr. Hodin…,” but now he even pulls this trick on me. My phone is overrun with voicemails that begin with “Rachel…it’s your father…” I used to think it was his way of asserting himself and his role, but now i’m starting to think he just has no confidence in my ability to read caller ID.
The funny thing about queer is that parents use it to genuinely point out something or someone they find to be bizarre, with no trace of irony. And yet it is they who are bizarre for using this word in the first place. The word “queer” had its heyday and is now fully over. We stopped using it in place of “weird” by around 2003, when Queer Eye For The Straight Guy came on TV, but now it’s not even used as a substitute for gay. It’s over. To get an idea of what I’m talking about…
9. “OK, just make sure to wait a year until you wear it.”
So you need a pair of boots. So you go out and you buy yourself a pair of boots. Except, wait: you have a naysayer. Who would possibly naysay this? you ask yourself. Your mom — that’s who. Spill ketchup on a white blouse and who does this hurt the most? You? The bride whose bridal party you’re currently in and taking photos for? Your dry cleaners? No, the person this hurts the most is your mom — and it will always be your mom, even when she’s 5,000 miles away. Which is why, if she can, she’ll make you wait as long as possible before wearing and invariably destroying another piece of clothing.