Pleading the Fifth: Parents’ Weekend

Brett Ekberg

Embarrassing stories are great. Who doesn’t love hearing about what slightly overweight guy your friend hooked up with at the frats on Saturday or listening to your roommate explain why he took a fire extinguisher to your door handle (apparently the door was locked and he had forgotten his key and, this is a direct quote here, “it worked in the movies.”).

Hell, I personally get a kick out of publicizing peoples’ embarrassing moments. I know someone who once lobbed cans down a flight of stairs like they were grenades, almost obliterating his own roommate’s cranium in the process (oops, was I not supposed to print that?).

Yep, embarrassing stories are entertaining, that is unless they are being told about you. It isn’t nearly as funny when the story about the awkwardly placed splinter you got when you were seven is suddenly the topic of conversation at dinner with your roommates and their parents. But this, after all, is Parents Weekend; all bets are off.

The word “schadenfreude” means to take pleasure from other people’s pain. In this case pain might be too strong a word; my family gets quite the kick out of other people’s humiliation. Maybe we’re slightly atypical (I’m going to bet we’re not, some of you are pretty messed up in the head, and don’t try to tell me otherwise) but nothing gets us laughing more than telling a somewhat personal yet completely embarrassing story in a public setting.

Good fun for the whole family, except of course for the story’s main character, which for most of this weekend happened to be me. I would like to personally thank my brother and sister for revealing details of my childhood that my roommates are now free to hold against me. If the world was a court of law my Fifth Amendment rights got trampled this weekend, but that’s another story. Now the only thing slightly more awkward than having your formative years laid out to your friends is having your new friends’ parents asking you what their son or daughter is like at college. There isn’t really an easy way to explain to parents that their son enjoys sleeping around. But should you be backed into a corner by overly nosy parents, consider the following:

1. Never admit to anything! This is the cardinal rule. Be as vague as possible when questioned, especially if the question is direct. Not only does this back you out of a sticky situation, it also makes life easier on the parents. I mean, what mother seriously wants to know what her daughter has been up to, eh?

2. It’s O.K. to avoid the question completely. When asked by the parents which one of my roommates actually violated the rules of sexiling and hooked up with a girl on the futon, I promptly turned the conversation to the Jimmy Choos one of the moms was wearing. It wasn’t the most manly way out, but sometimes you’ve just got to take one for the team.

3. It’s okay to accept bribes for information. This basically is the modern version of the age-old question, “for love or money?” If parents offer cash, or something that isn’t Keystone in exchange for the 411 on their kid, it might be wise to accept. You don’t have to tell them the truth, anyway…

4. Rule number three works the other way. College isn’t cheap, how much is your silence worth?

Despite the awkward interactions and learning yet another set of names you’ll struggle to remember, Parents Weekend is fun for everyone. Kids get to see their parents again and parents get to see what their kids have been up to for the past couple of months and meet the new people in their lives.

However, there is a reason that it only lasts two days. And just for the record, all of the above stories are based on actual events; I just withheld the names to protect the innocent.