The highlight of the third grade was our musical production of Music Throughout The Years, a fanciful medley of songs from the 1920’s to the present day 1980’s. We began with a rousing rendition of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and rounded out the evening with a heartful version From a Distance. Whomever put the music together was obviously a genius.

I was pretty stoked, though, because I got to play two whole parts in the play. First, I was a trippy 60’s party goer in our totally rockin’ version of Splish Splash, who came in and danced. Later, I was to come in and shoot someone with a fake bow (but no arrow).

Just like I knew that I was supposed to be an actress. I could tell.

Unfortunately no one had showed me how exactly to work the bow. Living in the suburbs, the hunting experience I’d had was limited to stalking my prey–the canned frosting tubs–at the grocery store. Perhaps if I’d lived somewhere in Montana, say, I’d have known how to properly hold a fake bow.

But I stood backstage, certain that my future as an actress shone brightly in the stars. Why, I had dark hair and teeth like chicklets and liked hats. I could certainly be like one of those sitcom stars. I could smell my destiny like some exotic perfume. I was going to be an ACTRESS.

When it came my part to shoot someone, I aimed the motherfucker right at my own face. In front of Baby Jesus, my whole school, our parents, and worst of all, my whole class.

I was mortified.

Thankfully, it was later when I realized my colossal fuck-uppery but I still remember that feeling in the pit of my stomach. Which, at age 8, you can’t just separate it and be all “Dude, I didn’t fucking know, okay?” It’s like the end of the world.

Luckily, I was only ostracized for a day or so until some girl peed her pants and somehow I wasn’t the biggest asshole in our class. But for that day I got the meanest note I’ve ever gotten. Fuck Monotizing the Hate, this is the real hate mail! I can actually still remember it:

Dear Becky,

I like you a little bit. But it grows smaller every day.



Her name was Becky too! How’s that for the kicker in the ass! Also, she signed it “Love Becky” which means that she was writing the note for show anyway.

After my stint as the class punching bag for accidentally holding the bow the wrong way, Becky and I made up and were pretending to be The Babysitters Club again by the week’s end. Those books were wicked fun.

This week, Ben had his third grade musical, and he was all nervous that he was going to screw it up, and so I started telling him this story, right? So he could see that I fucked up and that I had somehow made it to adulthood as a semi-functioning adult (shut UP!).

That somehow my bowing mishap hadn’t made it onto my permanent record and I hadn’t had to spend the rest of my life living down “The Girl Who Shot Herself In The Face With A Fake Bow.” And then I realized that being teased by my friends EVEN FOR A DAY probably wasn’t his idea of no consequences, so I uncharacteristically shut my mouth mid-story.

Ben: “Mom, I’m just nervous about this.”

Aunt Becky: “Don’t be nervous, dude. See, when I was in third grade, I was supposed to shoot this bow, and I turned it around and shot it the wrong way and…”

Ben: “And?”

Aunt Becky: “And, uh, WOW! Look at that cat! Isn’t he, uh, FAT?”

Ben (looks around and sees our cat, Peekachoo): “That looks like the same cat, Mom. He looks the same as he always does.”

Aunt Becky: “But isn’t he fat?”

Ben: “What happened after you shot the bow wrong?”

Aunt Becky: “Uh, well, nothing?”

Ben: “I don’t believe you.”

Aunt Becky: “Some, uh, girl peed her pants.”

Ben: “GROSS!”

Aunt Becky: “So if you trip and fall while you’re dancing, how’s this, I’ll bum rush the stage and TAKE OVER FOR YOU. Everyone will be so busy focusing on what I’M doing that they’ll ignore you and focus on me. They’ll forget all about your fall.”

Aunt Becky: “Or you can imagine everyone in their underwear.”

Ben: (laughs)

Aunt Becky: “And I’ll take you out for ice cream afterward. So, if you’re scared, just think about ice cream. That ALWAYS works for me.”

And, you know what? The kid did his Momma proud. I was all set and ready to bum rush the stage and it turns out that being stupid isn’t genetic. He didn’t trip, fall, or embarrass himself in anyway.

I can’t say the same for myself, but you knew that.

*actual note!

129 thoughts on “Bright Lights, Big Failure

  1. Awesome story! Kids are so weird. I’m loving kindergarten, where constant hugging is de rigeur and kids can piss their pants and puke on the floor and it’s no big deal. I hate that we all can’t stay that way.

  2. Wicked fun, eh? Are you from Boston by any chance? 🙂
    I had my share of on-stage embarrassment in school.
    One time I apparently missed a memo and showed up for
    a chorus performance in fashionably purple-striped pants.
    I was the only girl not wearing a dress or skirt. I died a thousand
    deaths on stage that night. Oh, the angst of childhood!

      1. Dude I POOPED myself in the 3rd grade. (still have IBS, but now know when to run*

        Imagine the horror. I still remember the polyester red pants I was wearing. I was super embarrassed. I remember having to beat up a boy the next day because the teasing was so bad. That said, the teasing didnt end, but the boy got the worst of it after that. He got beat up by Missy Pissy Poopy Pants GIRL. Boy was I glad when we moved that summer lol.

        * for the most part – IBS SUCKS

        1. Jesus, you poor thing. That’s horrible. Seriously, that’s freaking horrible. I guess the best part of that story is that not much can bother you as an adult. Now I want to give you a big hug.

  3. Someone needed to be a better director! You can’t just put a bow in a kids hand and expect them to know what to do with it. Hell, give me a real bow now, and there is a good chance I’d really shoot myself in the face!
    I’ve had my share of oopsies on the stage. I once didn’t fasten my top correctly and ended up flashing an entire audience my sticky bra while wearing a Miranda hat.

  4. Me too! I just want to crawl under a rock and die third grade moment: For me, it was the Christmas program. I got to be Mary one year, a pretty big deal for a girl in Catholic school. They had us stand at the end of the play to take our bow and when I walked to the front of the stage, I tripped over some wiseman’s robe and dropped Baby Jesus! Thankfully, a doll! I was forever the Baby Jesus Killer. My big brothers loved that moment. It gave them such material to work with.

    Congratulations to your Ben!

  5. Our school always put on musicals and I can’t sing worth a damn yet somehow I always ended up right in front of one of the stage microphones. I cringe at the memory of my off key voice voice booming out over the speakers drowning out the people who really could sing. And because we never had the same teacher doing the play over the years it happened several times!

  6. I can’t wait to read your book. I have to make sure I have no liquid in my mouth when reading your blog. You are an amazing storyteller and more funnier than Lolcats or Cake Wrecks or all that other shit. How would I survive without you?

    Sorry I haven’t commented in awhile. Oscar went through a crazy phase of not sleeping AT ALL and every time I sat down to read blogs I fell asleep and practically spilled tea all over myself and the keyboard. I am now putting him on a schedule and letting him cry it out, and I’m beginning to feel human again.

    I know you’ve missed my fangirl love. And erudite comments.

    1. Doesn’t it suck when the kids don’t sleep? Blerg. Glad you’re putting him on a schedule. Sometimes, it’s got to be done. Also, you should stalk me more. My ego was hurting 😉

  7. In Grade 7 I was cast as Lucy in Your a Good Man Charlie Brown.
    I was so pissed, I wanted to be Snoopy because Snoopy got to do a cartwheel on stage.
    Looking back, me as Lucy, total typecasting.
    We did a whole two performances and I managed not to screw up!

    But no one came to our small town on Vancouver Island to make me a star. Jerks.

  8. I just love it when you recount a story to your child and realize partway through that it was so not what you were going for. Or that it became wickedly inappropriate, and therefore your kid is reduced to thinking you’re an idiot, a drunk, or a complete whore…depending on how far into the story you get before realizing you are still talking.
    It’s going to cost me trillions of dollars worth of therapy to get my kids cured of, me.

  9. This post brings two things to mind.
    1 – I never got any parts in any elementary school plays b/c the cool kids with the SAHMs did. Their moms volunteered and picked their friends for the parts. Dangit mom. Why’d you have to work?

    2 – Senior year in my yearbook I got the following “note”. “Thanks for the blowjob you whore. Your boyfriend is a queer. Eric” And that is verbatim. I graduated 12 years ago and remember it like it was yesterday. I found out who wrote it. Obviously not someone named Eric. When I was on a break with my high school boyfriend, I dated this boy and apparently his friend was offended for him when I went back to my boyfriend. P.S. I gave neither “Eric” nor his friend a beejer.

  10. Arrgh! Elementary school was full of humiliation for me. Glad to hear that Ben came out of his performance without a scrape.

  11. When I was in the 3rd grade, a long, long, time ago, at our schools end of the year performance, I had my first ever real live massive freaking panick attack. Because Michael Jackson was THERE! Watching ME!!!

    Stupid girl who’s father was like the “king” of our side of town, was “friends” with MJ’s impersonator, and he came all dressed up to our show, to watch said “king’s” daughter, and to freak me clear the fuck out, and ruin the whole show, for me.

    I cried through the whole show, I have no freaking idea why.

    My freakism stopped also because a girl peed her pants, the same night, and I think for the same reason that I was bawling like a little baby. Thank goodness, I just cried, I would’ve hated being the pisser.

  12. I barely even remember school plays. I’m sure that I was there, and pouting because I didn’t get the big part. I really really always wanted the big part. That’s all that I remember about school plays.

  13. Oh the elementary musicals. We did a LOVELY Christmas program (with the whole school involved) when I was in 2nd grade.

    While I was in my “personalized learning for unique students” class (I totally used to be smart!) the teacher from the Kindergarten room asked me to come help her for a second model the present costumes they were using for the Kindergartners. For the next two days all anyone talked about was how I was the size of a 5 year old. And shouldn’t be allowed near the “big kids”.

    And then, like ALL elementary students do, they forgot to make fun of me, when someone else asked our music teacher if she was pregnant. She was in her 60s. So OBVIOUSLY this was not the case.

    I’m so proud of Ben. You should get him an extra ice cream from Auntie Sara. He deserves it!

  14. One year, my daughter got a piccolo part in the band concert at school. At the very end of the concert, and everyone got up and started leaving, we get down there and realize she was in tears over something. Apparently, her piccolo was doing something wrong, or whatever, I still don’t know what the fuck she was so upset about. She ended up not playing her piccolo because of it, and thought she had ruined the song. The truth is, the whole band is so freaking loud, you couldn’t even HEAR her one little piccolo playing anyway, so if she messed it up nobody knew. We had a conversation after that about handling those situations with grace, and not sitting down there blubbering in front of everyone. THAT’S what people remember you for.

  15. (1) I loved the story about you and the bow. It’s fantastic.

    (2) I love what you said to your kid. I’d feel better, too, if someone said those things to me.

  16. I am glad he did well!!

    I don’t get these kids these days. When I was my daughter’s age (9), I was terrified of standing up on stage, giving reports, tests, etc and so was everyone else that I grew up with. Kids fainted and peed all of the time!!!

    Now, kids are doing all of that all of the time and they are not nervous! Why? Why?

    1. I think the kids just get started doing cool stuff earlier and are used to it. We were obviously the ones that were far, far behind and inferior. Do you know that I have NO trophies? NO FAKE trophies? NONE. Ben has a shelf of “just because you participated” trophies. I have none.

  17. Dude, your such a good momma. Sacrificing yourself for your son. Although he would probubly get made fun of because his mother bum rushed the stage, but your heart is in the right place. Thats awesome. I remember those awkward 3rd grade days. Kids are mean.

  18. We did a similar show when I was in the same grade I sang the good ship lollipop, thankfully that part was simple and if I messed up people thought it was cute. As for living in Montana and holding a bow…Nope, I still suck as much as I did when I lived in Oregon lol!

  19. I still remember Dawne, the girl who fainted when we had to get shots from the nurse.
    yes it was 1968 but I remember
    wonder whatever happened to her
    at least she didn’t pee

    1. Isn’t it weird the things that we remember? I remember in first grade when this girl broke this Robin’s egg that I brought in to show the class. Clumsy bitch just BROKE it. I was so pissed.

  20. I think our kids are destined to do better than us. I get so nervous for my daughter, then she blows everyone away with her karate performance when testing.

  21. Way to go, Ben!!! It’s so nerve wracking when you have to sit and watch your kid do anything in front of an audience. I’m always prepared to make a scene to take the focus off of him if he tanks. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only mother out there willing to faint, puke or fake a heart attack to save their kid.

  22. I AM originally from Montana, I totally know how to hold a bow. Never actually used one to shoot anything other than trees.

    I like that you gave Ben some options if things went bad. I have to do that with Owen. He was totally the kid who peed himself last month. I told him if that happened again, just knock his water on himself “accidentally” to cover. He told he couldn’t do that because it would be a lie. WTF I am so afraid he will always be the kid who peed himself in first grade.

  23. During my second (third?) grade Christmas play a fake building fell on my head and almost knocked me off the stage (I was narrating). I got teased about the way I looked flailing my arms for about two days – until one of my classmates puked ON another one of my classmates during library time. It’s so awesome when you’re little and you screw up because there is always someone waiting to take your place, haha.

  24. Oy vey, we all have that shitty thing or two or three or a dozen things that happen to us as a kid that resulted in that pit of stomach thing. I guess though if my mom had tried to assure me it was ok that she had fucked up, too, I might not have cared.
    Glad he did great, though!

  25. I can’t stand to watch my kids do anything. Sports, music, plays, whatever. I get all nervous, twitchy, and teary eyed at the same time. They, however, are completely unfazed by anything.

  26. What is it with third grade and plays to create such heartbreak? Mine, I didn’t do anything shattering like forget my lines, or pee, or puke, or anything involving body fluids, actually. Man, I had to play the part of a BOY. It’s irrelevant that I was the biggest tomboy on the planet and hated dresses. I’m not a boy. Ewwwww….

  27. What a great story! I try to tell my kiddos stuff that happened to me when I was little and all I get is, “but mama that was in the 1950’s right?” Ummmm…NO!! I give up already! 🙂

  28. All of my good “accidents” happened much, much later than third grade. Like when I was 14. I went on a service learning trip to tijuana with my gifted students class. And the time was a little different and I just was so sleepy on the plane ride home. I woke up and the little table in front of me was down. There was a sucker perched gently on the side of it. Then a guy from three rows in front tossed a look over his shoulder and said “Is she awake yet?” followed by a maniac grin. I glanced to the girl on my right and said “What did you *DO*?” And she started laughing. She explained that I had fallen asleep with my nose pointed straight in the air, mouth agape, lollipop descending into the depths of my little girl throat. Her natural reaction was to take pictures with everyone’s camera. My teacher from two rows back had made a special trip up to extract the sucker before it closed off my air supply.
    I died a little that day. And I got taunted for about a week, until some girl fell into a giant puddle at lunch recess.

    Of course, there was also the guy from when I was 12 who cried when he got the required shots. I will remember this for always because his crying prevented me from crying (because it hurt, oh my god, did it hurt). Then I got to lord it over him all the way up until high school, when I dated him.

    Someone mentioned candy?

  29. 12th grade, we did a variety show. the number i was in was a group dance to a 70’s disco song. (i want to say Voulez-Vous, but that is so inappropriate for 17 year old girls to be dancing to that i can’t imagine the school officials would let us pick that song.)

    i looked like a cheap stripper: short shorts (my mom did not realize how much of my ass was going to be hanging out until she watched from the audience and had a fucking heart attack and a stroke simultaneously. frankly, i’m surprised she did not come flying down to the stage and drag me off), button up shirt tied right under my boobs – which were soooo perky back then, shiny tights, and thigh-high high heeled boots. looking back, i am surprised that i did not break my g-damn neck prancing around. oh, and i wore the full-on 70’s make up.

    all i needed was a pole and a strobe.

  30. We did one of those “Music through the Ages” things too! In 5th Grade and I still remember most of the music. We even did a break dancing segment for the 80’s!

    I was supposed to recite the Martin Luther King speech in 5th grade at an assembly in front of the entire school and totally forgot the words.

    One of my favorite Aunt Becky posts ever. Way to Go Ben!

  31. OMG I totally knew I was supposed to be an actress too! But did YOU get the Chinese/Japanese/Korean symbol for ‘actor’ tattooed on YOUR ankle the week you turned 18? And it really probably means ‘stupid white chicken asshole’ anyway…. And my best moment on stage? Performing in the senior play, up on a ladder, with half the cast hung over from my party the night before! I didn’t throw up on George (it was Our Town, how cute right) but it was a near, near thing.

    1. Dude. You know, it’s a good fucking thing I didn’t, but I could have. I luckily gave up any aspirations of being in the Creative Arts in the third grade, so I don’t have any Stupid White Bitch tattoos anywhere on my person. HA.

  32. Haha! You’re a cool mom! And we really have to put life to all the embarrassment that we had in the past just to calm our nervous children with stage fright!

  33. Oh Becky it reminds me the 6th grade. This girl, Jill, was so mean, God I would never go back to middle school/highschool. I remember sitting behind her in school, she had long brown hair that would hit my desk. I was short, chubby and had a fucking Dorothy Hamill haircut. I think I told her one day I was going to cut off her hair for being mean. Jill, in turn, told me she was going to have her big brother beat me up (huh)her brother was a Freshman in high school. I remember being scared (i know stupid). Two days later in class she wet her pants. I stopped worrying about her brother.

  34. Can I plagiarize that note to send emails when coworkers piss me off? That’s awesome. Just kidding, I would never send an email. I prefer to let it all build up until I give myself a migraine.

    Glad he did well! Maybe he will fulfill your sitcom star dreams.

  35. I thought I was going to be an actress too. What happened to us? We should be walking red carpets right now. I fell on stage once and the audience laughed. They thought it was supposed to happen.

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