When You Have to Pretend You Knew All Along

This railing has no connection to this post... but my husband takes some awesome photos I have to show off.

This railing has no connection to this post… but my husband takes some awesome photos I have to show off.

Miles run today: 4.5

Interviews I need to complete today: 1

Rockin’ New Year’s Day meal I cooked yesterday: 1

When I was in fifth grade, my parents went away for a long weekend and left us with our across-the-street neighbors.

In the days while they were gone, my long, thick, curly hair grew increasingly greasy on the underside, despite the fact that I was taking daily showers.

When my parents returned home, I told my mom about the Hair Situation.

Me: I can’t figure it out. My hair is clean on the top, dirty on the bottom.

Mom (in a casual, flippant tone): Have you been washing your neck?

Me (secretly horrified): Well. Um. Yes, of course. I mean, I always wash all my body parts. For sure. Yes.

I hadn’t been washing my neck. 

There have been other moments like that over the years.

There was the time when my sister, who was a mere teenager to my worldly college student, told me that plastic wrap should be pulled tightly over the top of food bowls, not lightly draped.

Me: Uh, yeah. Of course. Everyone knows that.

Her: Really? I just discovered it. It really helps the plastic wrap cling to the bowl better.

Me: I know. Totally.

I never pulled plastic wrap tightly across the tops of things. 

In fact, I rarely used plastic wrap. Plastic wrap was not a part of my daily routine, and I had never considered it much one way or another. But after that, my world was changed. Plastic wrap is made to be pulled tightly.

I moved forward in the world with no one being wiser about my own lack of wisdom. 

I learn new things about cooking in much the same way. In spite of the fact that I cook five or six nights a week, I have plenty of new horizons to be broadened, plenty of new skills to be acquired.

I have certain ways that I cook my vegetables, and when my father-in-law (an excellent cook) was visiting this summer, he showed me how to bring the water to a boil, then add the green beans, then allow them to sit in the covered pan to steam.

I thanked him for showing me. Then I tried the very same technique with broccoli.

As we sat around the table that night, gumming our broccoli, my father-in-law and I looked at each other.

Me: Maybe it doesn’t work so well with broccoli.

Him: Yeah. Maybe not.

I couldn’t even pretend I already knew that. Dangit.

Ever since we got out on our own, my sister and I have used my mom as a Cooking Hotline. But of course, sometimes we have to pretend we already knew all of the information it has taken her a lifetime to acquire.

A few days ago, my sister was making one of our family’s favorite dishes, squash casserole. She only makes it about once a year, during the holidays. So she forgets from year to year precisely how to make it.

Time to call the Mom Cooking Hotline. In this case, my mom was at my grandmother’s house, and they were on speaker phone.

My sister: So… I don’t know what I did wrong. The squash is all pulverized and runny.

Mom: So when you went to drain the squash, did you…

My sister: Drain the squash? Oops.

My mom is like a one-woman tech hotline, with plenty of questions lined up to ask, ranging from the simplest to the most complicated. When you’re immediately dinged on a simple question, it is akin to the time when I called up the Help Desk at one of my first big jobs: my computer wasn’t working.  In fact, nothing happened when I went to start it.

Tech guy, edging around my desk: Have you checked to see if it’s plugged in?

Me: Of course it’s plugged in. I mean, why wouldn’t it be plugged in? [sinking feeling in stomach, having hopes that the computer was horrendously damaged by a massive power surge overnight]

Tech guy, sticking cord unceremoniously in wall and pressing power button: Mmmm hmmm.

He did not even tell me to have a good day.

What life truths have you discovered through embarrassing mishaps or revealing conversations? Were you able to cover up your ignorance, or was it on display for all to see?

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43 thoughts on “When You Have to Pretend You Knew All Along

  1. My wife says I am argumentative. I disagree – although she may be right.

  2. Bernie Brown says:

    Life truths learned in embarrassing ways? Way too many to mention. I’ve learned many writing truths in writing group, but there I don’t bother to hide my ignorance. Of course, you know that! 🙂 And you can’t mention your rocking New Year’s meal without telling us what you made.

    • annewoodman says:

      Writing is a great outlet for embarrassing truths, isn’t it? And fiction is nice, because maybe the main characters can do the stupid things, not us. ; )

      Oh, I meant to mention my meal: black-eyed peas with andouille, risotto, wilted spinach and cornbread. It’s a twist on a Southern classic!

      • Bernie Brown says:

        Sounds yummy. I’m especially curious about andouille. I’ve always wanted to know what it tastes like. Where do you buy it?

      • annewoodman says:

        OMG. It’s one of my favorite sausages. All of the trendy meat markets in Raleigh and Cary probably stock it. It’s used in a bunch of New Orleans dishes, and it’s heavenly! (If you like sausage, that is.)

  3. Joyce says:

    This post makes me miss my mama. What I wouldn’t give to have a Cooking Mama Hotline. Even though my momma couldn’t cook. Two convenient life truths rolled into one……
    So, what fabulous New Year’s Day meal did you cook?

    • annewoodman says:

      I do realize how lucky I am to have a Cooking Mama Hotline. Whether yours could cook or not, it’s nice to hear a supportive voice on the other end of the line. My running friend uses me as an International Pizza Dough Hotline, so apparently I’m available for rent. ; )

  4. Joyce says:

    Oh, never mind. Just saw it. I have never partaken of the black-eyed peas tradition. Mom tried to make us as kids, but as I said, she couldn’t cook. So, black-eyed peas and greens hold particular scorn in my mind.

  5. Oh yes, I’m always discovering things that everyone else knew! My favourite though is a friend’s husband who only discovered in his 30s that a cuckoo is a real bird and not just a fictitious one from stories!

    I’ve just remembered one of mine. When I was growing up there were lots of medical dramas on TV set in hospitals, where you would often see unconscious patients inside those oxygen tents; you know the ones I mean? Anyway, I always thought that the oxygen tent itself was called a coma because the other characters would say things like “She’s in a coma”. And it was through an embarrassing discussion that my ignorance was revealed!

    • annewoodman says:

      Ha! I love that one! Mine like that was when my parents used to be watching sports on TV, and a newscaster would be standing in My-ami (Miami, Florida). For years, literally years, I thought to myself, “What gave him the right to call it HIS ami? And when is someone going to call it YOUR ami?” Very confusing.

    • Bernie Brown says:

      Oh, that’s funny. And cute, too.

  6. I remember licking the back of a peal and stick stamp about 10 times before the office manager explained that they stick better without saliva. Who’d a thunk’it?

  7. Carrie Rubin says:

    “gumming our broccoli”—You always make me laugh out loud.

    I’ve not had too many food mishaps, thanks to Betty Crocker, whose book was my constant companion when I taught myself how to cook after my first son was born (what did I do before then, you ask? A lot of jarred spaghetti and tacos. And take out.) But I did once make my husband take my car in when the display lights weren’t working. I was in a bit of a panic. How could I drive without seeing the display panel? So take it in he did. Only to have the mechanic reach in the car, put his hand on a dial by the steering wheel, and roll the dial upwards. Ah, display lights! Who knew that dial was there? Must have bumped it with my knee. Luckily for me, my husband had to face the embarrassment. Even if he blamed me, which I’m sure he did, he also didn’t figure it out before bringing it in for ‘repair.’ Hmm, maybe you’ve just given me an idea for a blog topic…

    • annewoodman says:

      The Betty Crocker (old-style) recipe book is etched in my mind… it was my mother’s constant companion, next to Julia Child. Hers has a black and green cover and Betty Crocker herself on the cover.

      The display light thing has happened to me! (Sadly.) My husband had detailed my car (early, early in our relationship), and when I drove it the next day, the dashboard wouldn’t light up. He couldn’t believe I didn’t know there was a dial. (And he still married me. ; ) Maybe pity?)

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        At least your husband identified the problem. Mine was as clueless as me. And he couldn’t even talk his way out of it, which for him, was truly the worst thing about the situation. 🙂

  8. Melissa says:

    I’m afraid my warped sense of humor points out my lack of knowledge every time. If I forgot to plug in the computer I would dissolve into a fit of laughter…then the tech guy would think I was either an idiot or playing a practical joke…no self respect at all.

  9. Daryl says:

    Once I was recanting a story about my “Dan Dan” to a school friend (I was in high school). He looked at me and said, “What’s a Dan Dan?”, after much embarrassment it became blatantly obvious that it was not a universal name known to all. On the flip side, at least it didn’t happen at a business luncheon.

  10. robincoyle says:

    “You told me that already, Mom. Twice.”

    “Oh, yeah. Right. I know I told you that story.”

    I have no memory of telling that story. Ugh.

    P.S. I am inviting you to do the Next Big Thing interview tomorrow. I have a feeling you have been asked to do it already based on your comment about having one interview to do.

  11. Christi says:

    I had the same problem with my work computer a few years ago (it wasn’t plugged in. Super embarrassing…).

    • annewoodman says:

      Bad feeling, isn’t it? I don’t do well with phone tech help lines, either. They assume that you have a base of knowledge that may or may not be there already.

  12. strawberryquicksand says:

    Oh goodness, this is too funny! Thank you for sharing that story. My mum, too, is the Cooking Hotline. Ironically, though, I am a trained chef. I used to ring mum to ask things like “how do I cook a corned beef?” or “How do I boil rice?” because as a chef, in the professional kitchen where I worked, we used entirely different methods than one would use in a home kitchen. Mum would always come to the rescue. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      Wow, your mom could help with trained chef questions? She rocks! Do you also play the violin? I see one in your profile picture… I played for all of my school years–just curious. Thanks for stopping by!

      • strawberryquicksand says:

        Hey! In fact, I actually just rang mum today – “mum, how do I cook creamed rice?” she replied with “you’ve done that heaps of times!” me: “I know! I just can’t remember how to get it started”… lol.

        And yes, I play the violin. I was in an ensemble until I moved a few monhts back and haven’t been bothered to find some other musos to play with. I really must! Do you ever play any more?

      • annewoodman says:

        I still play the piano (very badly, but for fun ; ), but I haven’t picked up my violin since college. I’m glad to hear you’re still getting enjoyment from it.

  13. jmmcdowell says:

    I know there must be hundreds of examples from my life, but I’m drawing a complete blank! It’s probably some psychological defense mechanism to keep me from embarrassing myself yet again in such a public forum. 🙂 But trust me—it’s happened many, many times!

    • annewoodman says:

      I bet you’re pretty good at staying out of embarrassment’s way, JM. ; ) Me, not so much. It’s gotten better over the years, but there are still moments. Yikes. It really helps to write about them and “out” myself.

      • jmmcdowell says:

        Unfortunately, the flip side of avoiding embarrassment is often not trying something new that I might enjoy. Fear of embarrassment and/or failure has held me back more than once. So I see courage in someone who will take those chances, saying the heck with embarrassment or failure!

  14. Amy Mak says:

    Haha! Oh, I’ve tried so many times to act like I really knew what was going on…like saying, “Look, it’s a bwick (buick)” or telling my brother in a really snotty voice, “It’s not a Ford, it’s a Mustang!” Like, duh. Still trying….funny post!

  15. thepoelog says:

    As a super-annoying know-it-all adult, I couldn’t possibly cop to such a thing. But I do remember being enlightened by a fellow kindergartner that you were supposed to color INSIDE the lines and that you should match your socks to your outfit. I think I covered up pretty well on both of those with the age-old “Nuh-huh. My mom says you don’t have to.”

    • annewoodman says:

      You are such a rebel. ; ) One little girl in my kindergarten class said that her mom said she was the best artist in the entire world. I thought that was pretty ridiculous, and also, my mom never said that about my artwork (for good reason). “Yeah? Well, my mom said that about me, too!” I told her. That little girl had an annoying tendency to take all of the blue paint.

  16. 4amWriter says:

    Somehow everyone in my family got the impression I knew everything. Then, because, I didn’t want to embarrass myself, I had to pretend I was indeed up on all the latest fads, trends, news. I learned quickly at an early age to lie, and lie convincingly. Your stories are my stories, Anne. 🙂

  17. I’m just going to enjoy all your mishaps and act like I have never had any of my own… Happy New Year xx

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