The Mis-Adventures Of A 50-Something Mom On A “Sexy” Youth Hostel Tour
For the record, I had never been to a Youth Hostel, even in my youth.
As a matter of fact, as I view my life now, I have experienced most things in reverse. I took on responsibility too young, got married at 17, had my daughter at 23, lived through 18 moves in 25 years following the career of my then-husband. No wild & crazy years, no gap year backpacking anywhere, no adventures of any kind, in fact.
So getting caught in a sex scandal would be pretty much the most unimaginable scenario, right?
I mean, think about your own Mom, the image you have of her. Is she more Lucille Ball (50s), Donna Reed (60s), or Miss Sue Ellen from Dallas (70s)? Would you be shocked if you caught your Mom in someplace… unmentionable?
How did I come to be in that, uh, predicament?
My daughter Caryn had just left for university when I departed Houston for Baku. She was beginning her big adventure, and I was beginning mine.
Once my divorce was finalized, I began to travel and one particular summer vacation, I wanted to set up a trip for Caryn to join me in England, Scotland, and Ireland.
But there’s a trick to it. Mom’s and daughters have an unspoken understanding after a certain age. Mom’s are not cool. Moms are not the people you want to hang out with. In fact, there’s a code of distance in the unwritten Catalogue of Cool. So, how do you show a 20-something anything if you’re hitting 50, and also a mom… her mom?
Caryn was by then about to graduate so I certainly wasn’t going to wing it. I looked for the “hippest” tour company with the smallest group sizes- I’d never tried this before, but figured it was worth a shot.
(Check out the video clip…and do stay till the end- you won’t want to miss this glimpse of a Tartan Toga party.)
You could say that I was fairly naive (ok, very naive). I didn’t know anything about Toga Parties, Tartan or otherwise, or Youth Hostel living, aside from being a step above camping. Imagine my surprise when I started making arrangements! Shared dorms and showers? Toga parties? I wasn’t sure I wanted to jump right in, but considering I was now divorced, had gone back to school and had actually started dating, well a couple dates, it all seemed to fit with the reverse direction of discovery going on in my life at the time.
I will say though, thankfully I picked up on enough to know not to bunk with the kids- that would just have been too weird! I usually booked the attic- private but still a bargain ($20/night). Some things you just don’t want to know and your kids shouldn’t have to explain. Right?
Day 1 in Scotland started off perfectly. Great guide… Ah dinnae ken the ferst time he said his name was Well-yum Brooun, bout aye, he was Seh-xy! (ask Repat Jack for a translation!).
Our small group numbered 6 in our van- just Caryn and myself, along with 4 college age girls from Edinburgh University who turned out to be Americans from New Jersey on a study abroad semester. Once the girls fell into the rhythm of William’s brogue and stopped staring at his blue eyes… well, let’s say we were all transfixed by Scotland and her ‘Sexy’ history.
Including the word ‘Sexy’ in at least every other sentence must be required marketing, but, no matter, the girls loved William Brown and agreed, it was Sexy, whether it was the Forth Rail Bridge or a lovely Loch. (Score one for the Moms team… great choice!)
Caryn and the 4 girls became fast friends and agreed to meet up in Cowgate for a day of sight-seeing and dinner out once we got back to Edinburgh after Ireland. It was strange that she didn’t need to ask if she could, or that I wasn’t going with her. She’d say, “Repeat after me, ‘You’re not 12 anymore.’ Ok, Mom?” That was the second hardest part of that holiday.
In Ireland, the camaraderie was the same. Though there were 20 in that group, only 3 of us were older than 25- those being the bus driver, the tour guide, and me. But it wasn’t like chaperoning a school field trip- these kids were from all over the world and were a delight, even Loud Aussie guy in the back.
We loved all of Scotland and Ireland, and had a great time. We were back in Edinburgh with a day to relax before we headed down to visit friends in Yorkshire England. With Caryn out with her new pals, I thought I would take a stroll to New Town, down Princes Street, to do a bit of window shopping myself.
I was having a great time, enjoying the weather, being out with no agenda, talking to vendors and learning the city. There were some great shops but nothing caught my eye until I came across this one shop- Ann Summer by name. I didn’t recognize the name or know anything about it, but it looked pretty. (Now don’t raise your hand if you’re on their customer list. You can just snicker quietly until the rest of us catch up.)
I saw a nice camisole in the window and thought I’d go in and check it out. In 4 years post-divorce, I hadn’t bought anything nice for myself and thought this would be a treat.
“Hmmm…What an odd layout,” I thought. I could see the shop was segmented into more than one section but didn’t understand why, so when I finished with the first section, I leaned beyond the curtained opening and saw more garments. Only when I got closer did I see that they were decidedly “different”. To say that my curiosity was piqued would be an understatement. A fascinating array of collars, cuffs (furry, studded, cop style, chocolate) and more. I didn’t know what some of the stuff was, but clearly it was out of my league- even I could deduce that much.
I was looking for the fitting room and found it behind yet another partitioned segment. Whoa! My mind was struggling to take it all in. “I didn’t know chocolate came in that many shapes, and sizes!” I thought. “What interesting things they’re doing with neoprene these days. Who’d have thought vinyl and rubber would have been suitable for these garments.” My eyes were wide open. WIDE. OPEN.
And then it happened… I heard the voice. Loud Aussie guy from the bus- the one who always called me “Mom” – he was now in the first section of the shop, coming my way.
I could hear him and his girlfriend discussing what she should buy, and for what purpose. Ewww… !
If the second hardest part of the trip was reminding myself everyday that Caryn wasn’t 12 anymore, the most difficult thing wasn’t going to be breaking the news that yes, her 50-something Mom was an individual, also an adult. No, the worst thing was going to be getting outed by a kid she just met. How humiliating!
I ducked in to the dressing room, just as they came around the corner in my direction. I could hear them talking as she tried on garment after garment, giving a running commentary on what he would like about each one. TMI kids, TMI!
After about 15 minutes in the dressing room, the shop clerk rapped on the door and asked if everything was all right. I was sweating bullets- I knew Aussie guy would recognize my voice just as I recognized his after spending a week together on a bus. I tried to whisper, but she couldn’t hear me. So I dropped my voice a couple octaves, and rasped “Uh, yeah, fine.”
When I heard laughing from the pair next door, all I could think was they were going to wait for some cross-dressing guy to exit my dressing room… I wasn’t sure where my daughter was, but could the thought of being discovered by her be any worse than the fix I felt I was in at the moment?
In my head, I knew I was an adult and could buy what I wanted, but I also felt really strongly that the first time seeing your Mom as a single person ideally shouldn’t be in the S&M section of a sex shop.
Ironically, this was the only part of that trip that was definitely not Seh-xy.