January 18, 2011

One of the Most Embarrassing Things Ever to Happen to Me

During my first marriage, when I was 20 years old, my in-laws came to visit us for the first time. One day while they were there, the mail came with four letters, each notifying us of one or more bounced checks, with huge scary fees on each one. I'd NEVER bounced a check before. Instead of putting the letters aside and dealing with them later, I was all upset and I explained why. So my father-in-law tried to figure out what happened, by GOING THROUGH OUR CHECKBOOK. Furthermore, he kept saying things like, "$5 for a mail-away crockpot cookbook? Did you even verify if this company EXISTS? You'll never see THAT check again," and "$70 at Target?? What FOR??"

He finally did find the error, and it was a stupid and simple math error (adding rather than subtracting) that had made me think we had a thousand dollars more than we did have. And I would have been more grateful to him for finding it if he hadn't completely laid bare for humiliation every single purchase we'd made, as if the things we'd spent money on were to blame for the error. And if he hadn't made me feel utterly and eternally incompetent for having made a stupid and simple mistake.

I have been known to over-assume a "one strike and you're out" policy in relationships: one mistake and I can assume someone else will never let my non-mistakes outweigh it; one point of disagreement and I can assume the other person won't want to be friends anymore (and the internet, with its "YOU SAID ONE THING I DON'T LIKE AND SO NOW I'M DONE READING YOUR BLOG!!!" does nothing to make me think I'm over-assuming it, either). But whether or not it's generally true and whether or not I'm usually right, I did think in this situation that my father-in-law would now never think of me as a competent adult. It was one of the many sources of relief I felt at the divorce: now I could start over, with a clean slate and a balanced checkbook, with no one in my new life knowing I'd made a math error.

(The actual error, as I know now, was that I let him take the checkbook and fix the error.)

20 comments:

Erin said...

I have these moments. Quite a few of them actually, mostly at work where I've screwed up or done something in an entirelly illogical way. And I cannot get over my own incompetance and feel like that person who witness it is always thinking about it. I really relate to this.

Mrs. Irritation said...

You poor thing. I think that would be horribly scarring. & I can picture myself forever uncomfortable at every family gathering. Was your (then) husband present too?

Clarabella said...

Oh dear, are you compelling us to confess an embarrassing moment (P.S. the one that shames me the most is inappropriate for sharing at large) or how we deal with relationship impressions? Anyhow, I generally give people a second chance, but rarely a third, whether the awkwardness/embarrassment/uncomfortability is my fault OR theirs. However, my "in-laws" have been here most of the week, so immediately I was all "what has my father-in-law done to annoy me"? The list is not very long, nor does it involve embarrassing me immensely. So...you win.

Lisa said...

I have an incredibly embarrassing moment that happened seven years ago (which I still shudder at frequently), which involved my boss, an entire office staff, and the repeated use of the phrase "you are a horrible person."
My boss had many valid points, but the manner of delivery has stuck with me far longer than the points themselves.

Jess said...

If your ex was anything like his father then it's no wonder you got divorced. Your former father-in-law should have been IMPRESSED that you only spent $70 at Target. That store seems to have a way of making you spend three figures even when you were only planning to buy a bar of soap.

Amy said...

Ew, he sounds like a jerk. I agree with Jess, $70 at Target is a huge accomplishment. Isn't it interesting that moments like that stick with you FOREVER? It sucks.

Swistle said...

AND, we were recently married and living for the first time in an apartment instead of a dorm, so that $70 at Target was probably for things like a toilet brush, dish soap, a trash can, and some non-extra-long-twin-sized sheets!

d e v a n said...

ha! Oh, how I hated trying to find those extra long twin sheets in college. hehe

I have moments like this too. A lot. BUT, i have to confess that with certain people in certain situations, I have been guilty of the one strike thing. Generally, I'm very open minded and forgiving, but not ALWAYS.

may said...

Dude, I'm totally not unfriending you for sending your Christmas card to the wrong address! But thanks for writing this post to reach me. ; ) No, but seriously, I TOTALLY KNOW what you're talking about. In a completely lame example, we played euchre tonight with some friends, and I made this massive error (throwing out a card I shouldn't have) and felt like a complete moron, and immediately began to worry that my partner would never want to play euchre with me ever again. So yeah, I get it. But on the other hand, it probably wasn't true. And for the record, your ex-father-in-law sounds like a piece of work. Ugh, I hate that "called to the principal's office" feeling.

Superjules said...

I've had that feeling of relief after breakups, even times I was sad about them. That CLEAN SLATE really helps.

Heather said...

If it makes you feel any better, for the first 7 years of my relationship with my husband (we were living together/married during that time), my mother-in-law and sister-in-law got my mail from my mailbox, opened and analysed the credit card bills and delivered the bills to me with snide comments on my spending. EVERY MONTH. EVERY FREAKING MONTH! And if his aunty was there, she used to open my PRIVATE SAVINGS ACCOUNT statement and read that so she'd know how much money I had (money from inheritance/savings before I met hubby). Remarkably I'm still on good terms with them all but it used to make my blood boil and I eventually asked if they'd like me to start opening their mail and reading it...and they suddenly stopped opening mine lol.

Shelly said...

I totally relate to this. I always think people think I'm a moron because I can't do math in my head quickly. I CAN do math, but I have to write it down. And I think those few extra seconds make people think I'm stupid.

Becky said...

I HATE feeling stupid in front of people; even if it's a simple, easy-to-make mistake like your checkbook one, or like Shelly said - it just takes me longer than I think they think it should take me (wow...that was confusing). Ugh. I'm getting worked up just thinking about it.
I have too many instances of feeling like an idiot to recount just one.

Nik-Nak said...

Is it odd that while you are being completely realistic and trying to should some of the blame by letting him even look at your checkbook I was thinking to myself the whole time, "Stupid in-laws, good for nothing, pieces of..." Yes, I obviously have in-law issues.

Lawyerish said...

Oh my gosh, I TOTALLY have the "one strike and I'm out" mentality! I've had it since I was little, and it persists to this day, this fear that people will dislike me or believe I'm dumb/incompetent/horrible or I'll get fired or un-friended for some extremely minor thing. You articulated it so well. I usually think of it as an unending fear of getting in trouble. As if I am forever in peril of being scolded and sent to the principal's office.

SIL Anna said...

Reading this post made ME uncomfortable. Plus, $70 at Target? Pffffft.

Kira said...

See now, I admire you for being all real and stuff when you were upset! In front of your in-laws! I would have been forced to stand at the mailbox and eat the letters out of fear that someone would see them, then spend the rest of the evening saying brightly, "OH NO, I'M FINE! I just keep hyperventillating and weeping because I am allergic to...something! MORE COFFEE?"

Doxie said...

Hey Swistle...I commented yesterday, but I read this article today...loved it and thought of you! You might enjoy it!http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Martha-Becks-20-Questions-That-Could-Change-Your-Life_

Swistle said...

Doxie- I can't find it! The link took me to an error page, so I tried searching the site and I found a link to it, but clicking that link took me back to the home page. Maybe they took it down?

pseudostoops said...

I think having other people scrutinize my spending is one of the most stressful things I can imagine. It is IMPOSSIBLE not to feel defensive. My in laws do it, and while I *rationally* know they're doing it because they're feeling uncertain about their OWN spending choices, emotionally it feels like punch after punch to the gut when they make offhanded comments about the ways we choose to spend our money. Long way of saying: I would never in a zillion years show them my checkbook register, and I felt actual physical stress and anxiety reading your description.