Mylar balloon of the grimacing emoji

WTF Moments: Volume 1 (My Weird and Awkward Preteenage Life)

Why yes, I was referencing Billy Joel’s line “my sweet, romantic teenage nights” from Scenes from an Italian Restaurant in the title of this post, thank you for noticing.

Life is full of WTF moments. Moments where you just stand there baffled and think “this could only happen to me.” Almost all of them just make you want to shake your head and laugh, whether it’s in the moment, years later, or both. As someone who has pretty much always unabashedly laughed at myself, I have had several of these.

I recently guest starred on the podcast Oh No! with Anna Campion to talk about one of my most embarrassing stories (the first one on this list, in fact!), so I thought that I would share a list of WTF moments from my preteen years. I decided to add “Volume 1” to the title of the post because I can almost guarantee that there will be several of these posts as my WTF stories dredge themselves up from my subconscious. You know how all of those embarrassing stories from your past come back to haunt you at 3am? Most people would say to just forget them and move on. I say you should write a blog post about them! So here we go…

The Happiest Slide on Earth?

I’m a Disney-phile. If you’re a regular around here, you know this very well. I cannot stay away from Disney, no matter how hard I try. My family has taken me to Disney regularly since I was a baby. On the Disney trip where this particular story took place, my parents and I went to Disney World with my childhood best friend Jenna and her parents.

One day, we were hanging out at the hotel pool, taking a break from the parks. Our hotel pool had a big water slide that you could go down. It wasn’t covered and you didn’t use an innertube to go down it, but it was still larger than your average pool slide. It looked like a lot of fun, so Jenna and I got in line to go down it.

At the top of the slide, there was a lifeguard waiting until sliders were a safe distance down the slide until they let the next person go. Jenna went first, and I waited until the lifeguard gave me the signal. Then, off I went!

As a fan of water slides in general, I was enjoying my sliding experience…that is, until I began to slow down. I could feel my velocity start to decrease as I continued down the slide. This is probably where I should mention that I was a rather chubby child. Apparently, the slide had not been made with people of my particular physique in mind.

I began to panic, thinking I might be stuck on the slide, while also realizing that I was far enough down the slide that the lifeguard had probably sent the next person. Who had been behind me in line? I remembered it was a guy (not too big, but sturdy by the looks of it), probably in his twenties. A guy that would definitely hit me while going down the slide if he didn’t realize I was there.

So I did what any reasonable human would do in this scenario. I started frantically pushing myself further down the slide to see if I could gain some momentum. Ahead, I saw a small dip in the slide that would help me speed up. I just had to make it to that dip.

I pushed myself as fast as I could to the dip, until I heard someone coming behind me. Realizing that there was no way I would get to the dip before the next person came down, I tried to flatten myself against the side of the wall. I looked behind me to see a very confused little girl barreling towards me. I took a moment to appreciate the chivalry of the man who had been behind me and had let this little girl go first. It is because of that chivalry that I am alive today.

Unable to get myself fully out of the way, the little girl accidentally kicked my back on her way down the slide, making sure to look back at me with a confused expression as she continued on her journey.

Whew. The person behind me has passed and it was a little girl, problem solved, right? Now all I had to do was make it to the dip?

Unfortunately, I hit the dip in the slide right after the little girl, causing an entirely new problem: we were coming down the slide very close together, and my weight was causing me to be propelled down the slide at a much faster velocity than the little girl. I was certain she was about to be crushed by the weight of my buttocks at the bottom of the slide. I was imagining how I would tell her parents about the fate that was about to befall her. 

Even though I was about to commit gluteal manslaughter (feel free to use that, but give me credit, please), I simply could not stop laughing about this entire experience. It was just so incredibly me that I was cracking up the entire time I went down the slide.

As it turns out, however, I had underestimated the little girl. The moment that she hit the water, she dove out of the way, synchronized-swimmer style. It is because of that jump that she is alive today.

As for me, I simply couldn’t stop laughing as I careened out of the slide and into the pool. I approached Jenna and our families in a fit of giggles. Jenna looked at me bemused.

“Wait, didn’t you come down the slide right after me? And what are you laughing at? We’ve been able to hear you laughing all the way down the slide!”

I caught my breath just long enough to tell the tale that sent us all into a fresh wave of laughter. Now I tell that tale every time I go to Disney. Or see a water slide. Or go to a pool. Or drink water.

Other Uses for Olive Oil

Because Jenna and I were fused at the hip as children, that first story was not the only one that she was present for. She was one of the sole witnesses to this story and the next as well!

One day after school, Jenna’s mom drove me home and she and Jenna hung out at my house for a bit since my mom wouldn’t be home from work for a couple more hours. Jenna and I were running around the house, just playing around. 

Back when I was younger, we had a plastic play structure in the front living room of our house where my friends and I would play. It sort of looked like the below but the bottom part was closed off with a doorway on one side and holes of various sizes on the other.

plastic play structure with a stepladder and slide attached

Fun fact: one time, I was playing with some of my egg nesting dolls I had gotten for Christmas while hanging out inside this play structure. I accidentally left them there and forgot they were in there. Later, when we moved the jungle gym, a few of the very tiny pieces of the nesting doll were crushed. My dad glued all of those very tiny pieces back together and I still have that egg nesting doll to this day. Oh wait, here’s a pic (bobby pin for size reference)!

egg nesting doll pieces shaped like a Christmas tree and santa sitting on a flowery mousepad with a bobby pin

Poor Santa has a bunch of cuts all over his head. Yeah, I was definitely on the naughty list that year.

Anyway, with all of our running around, we somehow ended up playing around the plastic jungle gym. We started chasing each other in and through it. Jenna ran through the door hole on one side of the structure then out a hole on the other side, so I followed her through. 

It bears repeating here that I was a bit of a chubby kid with a large bone structure to boot. I dove arms first through the hole and then…

Well, that was it, my hips wouldn’t fit through it and I couldn’t get my shoulders back through it going the other way. I was stuck.

In very Renata fashion, I started to joke about it. I had Jenna and her mom in stitches as I told joke after joke about my predicament. After some time laying sideways in the play structure, they eventually maneuvered it on its side so that I could stand upright with it around me. Of course, the jokes persisted. If you know me as an adult, you know that this is my preferred method of dealing with trauma.

Bad breakup? LOL! At least ice cream will never leave me for someone else!

Traumatic dental surgery? ROFL! I can no longer make the same face as the grimace emoji!

Stuck in a jungle gym hole? BAHAH! When I graduate from college I’ll have to walk on stage and get my diploma wearing a gown covering a huge jungle gym!

Laugh or cry, amirite?

But as the time got later and later, I started to panic. My mom would be home soon. Would she be mad? Jenna had soccer or gymnastics or dance practice that day that she and her mom were supposed to head out to. They didn’t want to leave me alone in the house wearing a plastic play structure, so Jenna skipped practice that day. Bless them. 

The worry started to break through my calm and jokey façade. Would this be the rest of my life? Would they have to fit my wedding dress around this giant thing on my waist? At least I always liked large ball gowns…

By the time my mom got home, I was in tears. When my mom walked in the door and Jenna’s mom explained the situation, my mom did the most mom thing that any mom can do when called on to mom in a crisis like this: she stripped me down to my underwear and used olive oil to help me slide out. Yup, the only way that I got out of this situation was with an Italian mom’s best friend, that good ole EVOO.

Completely mortified and covered in oil and bruises, I tearfully thanked Jenna and her mom for staying with me and thanked my mom for getting me out of my plastic imprisonment before heading up to take a long bath. We got rid of the jungle gym pretty soon after that, but that will never stop it from haunting my nightmares…

Renata as the Statue of Liberty

You know what they say: some things never change. And one of those things is my unending passion for chocolate custard. I have always loved chocolate custard. Whenever I go with my friends to a water ice stand, I will bypass the fruity water ice for a chocolate custard. I have been known to enjoy a chocolate custard for dinner on a warm summer evening. It is truly one of my main food groups, and I am willing to sacrifice myself for chocolate custard any day of the week.

One time, while Jenna and I were at the mall with her mom and grandmother, Jenna and I went to the custard stand in the food court to get some ice cream.

Now, one thing that I can say bothers me about getting ice cream or custard at a stand is the sprinkles-to-ice-cream ratio. When all they do is dip your cone into the container of sprinkles or sprinkle them on top (heh heh), they only get on the outside of the ice cream. So after that top layer of sprinkle-covered goodness, there are no more sprinkles to be had. How unfair is that?! Maybe the move is to put some sprinkles on halfway through the custard-on-cone process then add more once all of the custard has been piled on top of the cone. Did I just invent a new way to add sprinkles to a custard cone? Sure sounds like I did…

This may seem like a random rant, but it’s relevant, I promise.

So we went to get our custard and I ordered a chocolate custard with chocolate sprinkles on top and an extra cup of sprinkles on the side so that I could dip the leftover ice cream in more sprinkles. I know, I was a visionary.

We began our trek from the upstairs food court down to the bench where her grandmother was sitting on the first floor using the stairs that are smack dab in the middle of the mall. But who can focus on stairs when there’s a chocolate custard to devour?

Distracted by my delicious treat, I tripped on the final stair before the landing in the middle of the flights of stairs. As I was airborne, I watched my life flash before my eyes and realized that I had two different options: to let my custard fly out of my hands and catch myself so I didn’t fall too hard or save the custard and land roughly on my knees.

The choice was clear. I had to sacrifice my knees for the custard.

The sound of sprinkles hitting the ground assaulted my ears as they went flying from the cup. I held my hand as high as I could as my knees came crashing towards the ground. I’m sure I was a sight to behold. Breathless, I looked up to see my custard raised high above my head, unscathed, while I sat kneeling on scraped knees on the stair landing surrounded by a bunch of chocolate sprinkles. Don’t tell me that I don’t know sacrifice.

A teenager from the second floor looked down at me and said, “Nice save.” And I had to agree. It was.

I finished walking down the steps, laughing as I continued to eat my custard and joined Jenna and her grandmother on the bench. You can say a lot about young Renata, but you can’t say that she wasn’t an entertaining friend.

At a Loss for Words…and Pants

If you’ve ever been to a wholesale store, you know that they have a little bit of everything: sweets and meals, tires, paper towels, desk chairs, DVDs, TVs…anything you need can be found in the various aisles.

One time, my mom and I were shopping at BJ’s Wholesale Club. I saw a few pairs of shorts that looked interesting, so I decided I wanted to try them on. I asked my mom if there was a dressing room, because I didn’t see one. She told me there wasn’t, and recommended that I just try the shorts on over the shorts I was already wearing.

Unembarrassed by much at that point in my life, I shrugged and tried a few pairs of shorts on. Everything was going fine, until the last pair…

After trying on that last pair of shorts, I went to take them off, and…accidentally took off the shorts I was wearing, too. I held my shorts up to my face, baffled by the fact that they were no longer on my body. My mom looked over at me and was dually confused.

“Uhhhhhhhhhhh,” was all I could seem to get out in my baffled state. I quickly scrambled to get my shorts back on as my mom and I busted out laughing in the middle of the BJ’s clothing aisle. I don’t think we stopped laughing for days after.

Of course, this has prompted many jokes with friends and family over the years about how I’ll take off my pants anywhere, or if someone sees me changing clothes, they’ll ask me, “Renata, where do you think you are, BJ’s?” I guess taking off my pants in BJ’s is now one of my defining characteristics. It could be worse, though. I could be known for letting my ice cream slip out of my hand while falling down the stairs in the mall.

Being an awkward child (who then grew into an awkward adult) can be a bit embarrassing, but at the very least, it makes for some great stories. Do you have any awkward stories from your childhood? I’d love to hear them!

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

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