I saw a great bumper sticker a few years ago: "Embarrassing my children -- a full-time job."
I've taken it to heart. My daughter, from the time she was around eight, has regarded me as a walking, talking embarrassment.
Her state indoor track championships took place yesterday. In the hallway of the track complex, the Marine Corps had set up a pull-up bar challenge, as a way to get the names and numbers of potential recruits. A couple of studly specimens wearing "U.S. Marines" t-shirts manned the post. After my daughter's event, I wandered over and asked what the record was.
"Eighteen," came the reply. "But they're only counted if you go all the way down and you're not allowed to kip up."
I said I was a little old to enlist, but asked if they would mind if I did a little warm up set and then tried for it anyway. They were polite and encouraging (or, from their viewpoint, indulgent), so I jumped up and did seven pull-ups to warm up. Unbeknownst to me, my daughter and three of her friends happened to be walking by just as I was doing them. I let go of the bar and turned around to see her standing there with a look of utter mortification. Her friends looked amused, but my daughter obviously wanted the floor to swallow her up.
"Oh god, I should have known," she groaned.
"What's wrong?" I asked. "Why can't I try it too? What -- I'm embarrassing?" I turned to the Marines. "Am I embarrassing?"
The two Marines read their cues correctly and said to my daughter, "No! He's not embarrassing at all." They were smiling; she looked horror-stricken.
I then forced my daughter to promise to come back in five minutes when I did my hard set.
When it came time, I emptied my pockets and took off my shoes. I wanted to take off my two outer layers of shirts as well, but when I tried to peel them off, my undershirt came off with them. My daughter blanched. It took about ten seconds for me to extract my undershirt, turn it right side out, and get it back on. Ten seconds which seemed like ten minutes to my daughter. The entire time she looked as if she wanted to die.
After I got the undershirt back on, my daughter hissed, "Dad -- your undershirt has holes in it," in the same tone in which another might say, "Captain -- we've just hit an iceberg and there aren't enough lifeboats for everyone."
After I got to six pull-ups, one of the Marines said, "You can do it! Only four more!" They then counted down to ten, as if that had been my goal.
After ten, they started saying, "Come on! You've got one more in you!"
After I got to twelve, I sputtered, "I'm doing eighteen." I ended up doing twenty, but the Marine who was counting disallowed two of them because I had kicked up too much with my legs (he was holding his arm out in front of them).
The best part of the whole thing was that at around number fourteen, I actually heard my daughter say, "Come on Dad -- you can do it!"
Afterward they presented me with a Marine Corps coffee mug for having tied the record. The two Marines in charge were both nice-looking, fit, polite, friendly, and well-spoken. (I guess that was why they were chosen to be recruiters.)
They were also brave, which is why they had chosen to become Marines. I asked one of them his name, and then thanked him for his service to our country. He replied, "Thank you sir." I said, "No. Thank you." (It's hard to look at these fine young men and not think about the risks they will be undergoing when they get deployed.)
By this point my daughter's look of mortification had faded to mere sheepishness.
Which alerted me to the fact that I wasn't doing my job.