Sins of the Father (and Mother)
It is a well established fact of life that parents will occasionally, usually unintentionally, embarrass their children. This is often accomplished, in most cases by the dad, simply by choice of attire. Kids do not want to be seen in close proximity to a parent who likely secured their latest colorful outfit at the clearance sale rack at the “Nerd Department” of Kohl’s.
Such momentary discomforts suffered by a child are to be expected and over time can be forgiven. My tale of woe is not the result of unintentional acts of geeky, parental behavior, but rather the result of a carefully planned course of action designed to inflict maximum humiliation. This cannot be forgiven.
Much of what you will read here is based on hearsay, in some cases double hearsay, and in an instance or two, triple hearsay, or so I’ve heard. A fair amount of conjecture is also sprinkled in, as well as a spoonful of sheer guesswork, but I deem it all reliable.
My parents met in high school. That was 10 years before I was born, but I have reason to believe that is where we find the genesis of the diabolical deed. My uncle says he knows a guy who once bought a used car from a guy who had the same study hall as mom and dad. I never spoke to him directly, but he swears that he overheard mom and dad whispering words like "bunnies" and "boxers" on multiple occasions. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
My parents celebrate their anniversary on February 14th. As such, Valentine’s Day is a big deal around my house. Even my dad gets all squishy about it. Coincidence that Phase One of the dastardly act was launched on Valentines Day? I don’t think so…more like it was their gift to each other.
Critical to the success of the scheme was the fact that dad and my gym teacher both are active members of the local Lions Club. My dad joined Lions 5 years before implementing the demonic deed. Proof of premeditation? I’d say.
It is also significant to note that my mom and the mother of the beautiful Janet served on two PTA committees together, thus giving them plenty of time to scheme. Consider too that my dad and Jack’s dad were in the same bowling league. Do you think more than bowling for average was going on? I do.
The complexity of the plan staggers the imagination and underscores the degree of depravity behind the dastardly deed.
“Happy Valentines Day, honey! We got this nice gift for you.”
The tone was sweet, much in the mode of Brutus asking Caesar to stop by for a visit. The package was beautifully wrapped, much in the tradition of the keepsake the Greeks left for the Trojans. The impact would prove to be greater than the consequences of either event. Even today, after the passing of so many years, I still lament that, in the immortal words of Lloyd Christmas, “I didn’t even see it coming.”
A good laugh was had by all. Pink boxer shorts covered with red hearts in a variety of sizes, a multitude of hopping white bunnies, and the words “Honey Bunny” plastered all over them.
“Thanks mom, very funny.”
If I had only known. I would have immediately shredded the garment, burned the fragments, and buried the ashes in the backyard, somewhere in the vicinity of the final resting place of Fred the hamster and AJ the turtle. But those were the naïve, trusting days of a 13 year old, so I thanked my parents and placed the “Honey Bunny” boxers at the bottom of my sock and underwear drawer, firm in the belief I would never wear them.
They say timing is everything in the world of humor. The same can be said for successful pranks, especially those of a malicious nature. Like a cat waiting to pounce on its unsuspecting prey, patience is key. In this case, the clever prankers quietly strategized for months before implementing the conclusion of their sorry scheme.
Freshman year in high school is a vulnerable time for many teens. Around mid-October, I was working through some self-confidence issues as I tried hard to “fit in”. I felt I was making good progress, and then it all came crashing down with unspeakable, humiliating, and endless consequence.
I had a restless night. I heard sounds in my bedroom, mysterious, foreboding sounds. In my semi-conscious state, I couldn’t identify the source. But now I know with absolute certitude that someone, mom or dad, I can’t be sure which as both strenuously adhere to the self-serving principal of plausible deniability, was rifling through my sock and underwear drawer. The next morning I discovered that there is indeed something worse than the proverbial “empty cupboard”- a drawer with a lone pair of boxer shorts- yes, you guessed it, the now infamous “Honey Bunny” boxer shorts.
How could this be? I know there were at least 3 pair of non-Honey Bunny boxers in that drawer, and now, poof, they’re gone? This was beyond suspicious.
“Mom! Where are my boxer shorts?! The only pair left is the stupid Honey Bun shorts, and I’m not wearing those!”
“They’re all in the laundry. You’ll have to wear the Honey Buns, honey bun.”
She sounded so sincere, so sweet, so honest. I bet she practiced that for days. My own mother!
Wait, let me think. It’s Thursday. My Physical Fitness course has classroom instruction on nutrition and healthy lifestyles on Thursdays. I won’t have to change into gym shorts today. No one will know I am wearing the Honey Buns. I’ll know, and there is a certain degree of discomfort associated with bearing such a close relationship with hearts and bunnies, but no real harm could come of it. But that I could only have grasped the extent of the devious intricacies of the plot.
My last normal day of high school was, well, pretty normal. In fact, it was above and beyond normal. My buddy Jason had informed me that Janet (the object of heartfelt obsession since my very first day of high school) would in fact agree to go to the Freshman Dance with me should I ever be able to muster up sufficient courage to ask her. Now this put my mind on a whole different track. I could think of nothing besides Janet, the dance, and how I would go about asking her. The troublesome reality of what was yet unseen vanished in the fog of fanciful romance.
Looking back on it, I am still undecided if it was merely cruel fate, or had either Jason or Janet, or both, with the prodding of their parents, assumed the part of co-conspirators. The role that the irresistible powers of distraction played in the event seems way too “convenient” to have been a matter of coincidence. Jason steadfastly denies any part in the whole sordid affair, and the shroud of embarrassment has precluded any attempt on my part to communicate with the beautiful Janet.
“Attention! Due to maintenance work in the gym scheduled for tomorrow, Mr. Hall’s Physical Fitness class will be held in the gym today.”
How difficult would it have been for my dad to learn of the schedule change from my gym teacher during a night of bowling and beer guzzling? Difficult? No, I’d put it in the column of highly probable…and sinister.
It never registered. Every electron flashing through my brain was focused on my only reality at the moment- Janet, Janet, and then some more Janet. As I stood in front of my locker, I was completely oblivious to the fact I was wearing the Honey Buns and the ensuing doom soon to be unleashed.
“Hey, Jack. What do you think we’ll be doing today?”
“I think we're still on…oh my God.”
My blue jeans were off, and there they were, for all to see- the dreaded Honey Buns. Jack was not a disciple of the cautionary admonition, “Loose lips sink ships”, and he was certainly not one to let a rich opportunity to publicly ridicule a classmate pass him by. He pounced with remarkable relish.
“Hey guys! Take a look at this! Pink underwear with hearts and bunnies!”
Oh my God. The moment I heard the words and the accompanying clamor for all to get a good look, I knew I was doomed. A nearby junior meanie grabbed my blue jeans and my gym shorts and took off, leaving me standing there defenseless and humiliated in my Honey Buns for the remainder of the period. They say the laughter could be heard in the girls’ locker-room clear across the other side of the gym. I would later learn that nearby neighbors in their homes questioned the cause of the jubilant uproar emanating from the high school.
It was an emotional stoning. My classmates showed no mercy. Even my gym teacher, previously perceived to be a nice man, laughed to the point of tears. Verbal descriptions of the event would have been damaging; the presence of camera equipped cell phones guaranteed long term and widespread devastation.
I felt like I was on display at a Carnival side show. Tardy students were flagged down in the hallway and brought in to take a look. Word of the spectacle somehow reached the faculty lounge and a number of the adults quickly abandoned their role of caretaker of children and rushed in to get a good laugh.
Girls giggled and pointed in the hallways the remainder of the day. Teachers smirked and muffled laughter. The Principal gave me a sympathetic look, shook his head, and said, “I was going to say that all things will pass, but then I saw the picture. Good luck, son.”
There are figures in history who are defined by one singular event, some good, some not so good. The good: Bobby Thompson’s home run, Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon, Lindberg’s trans-Atlantic fight. The bad: Bartman interfering with the foul ball in the Cubs’ playoff game, a candidate for national office flubbing the spelling of ‘potato’, Will Smith’s slap-down of Chris Rock. The ugly: me in my Honey Buns.
Similarly, there are permanent nicknames that carry a positive connotation, such as Zorro and Batman, while other monikers are less desirable, such as Humpty-Dumpty and Butt-Head. And then there is the truly regrettable- Honey Bunny.
From that day forward my christened name languished on the trash heap of history. I would forever be known as “Honey Bunny”.
Every kid in that high school called me Honey Bunny. Teachers did the same. My parents discarded the name they once picked out and went with Honey Bunny. The Greeter at Walmart shoved a cart in my direction saying, “Here you go, Honey Bunny”. The ultimate humiliation came when the priest in the Confessional slid open the little door and asked, “And when was your last confession, Honey Bunny?”
I fought it at first. I tried wearing disguises to school, wigs, phony glasses with the fake nose, occasionally a dress, a lovely chiffon with gold trim. It only added to the ridicule. I pleaded with my parents to send me to the Catholic High School across town. We checked it out, but my hopes were quickly dashed when the admissions counselor greeted me with, “We’d love to have you here at St. John’s, Honey Bunny.”
I finally realized there was no point in resisting, so I embraced it. If I were to be Honey Bunny, I was determined to be the best Honey Bunny I could be. The next day, just after the final bell at the end of the school day when the hallways are the busiest, I jumped up on a chair, raised my arms above my head, and shouted, “I am Honey Bunny! Hear me roar!” That only made things worse.
So, I sit alone and dejected, each day growing more and more accustomed to a life of ridicule and anguish. At long last, I have concluded that nothing can be done to improve my present circumstance. I turn then to the future. It is my heritage, it is my right. Should I ever find a woman charitable enough to take “Honey Bunny” for her husband, and should we have children, I will be certain to pass along the sins of my father…and mother.
I am not so cruel as to inflict anything as damaging as Honey Bunny boxers on my offspring, but I will be sure to dish out ample doses of embarrassment when opportunities arise. I already have a few things in mind. Whenever we are in public places, I’ll hit them up with distasteful nicknames like “Princess”, “Speedy” and “Buster”. I will make certain that my kids are the last to know there is no Santa, thereby guaranteeing they will be the brunt of a few laughs in their elementary school classrooms, maybe even high school if I can pull it off. And any time a child of mine distances himself or herself from me because of my wardrobe selection, I will quickly close the gap and repeatedly shout, “I’m this kid’s dad! I’m this kid’s dad!”
I don’t know if we can call this payback, but I feel better already.