The Luv Doc: Cranberry Volcano

People who don't have embarrassing stories are either exceptionally dull, or disturbingly dishonest

The Luv Doc: Cranberry Volcano

Dear Luv Doc,

On Thanksgiving in 2019 I threw up on my boyfriend's mother. I know that sounds bad enough, but it gets even worse. She was wearing a light beige Jenni Kayne sweater that she had just bought to wear on Thanksgiving and I vomited cranberries all over it. Yes, it was ruined, as was my day and probably everyone else's. I pretended to be sick for the rest of the day and stayed in a bedroom until we drove back to Austin, but I wasn't sick, I was just feeling drunk and queasy from not eating breakfast and then mixing mimosas with sangria all morning. That happens to everybody, right? Anyway, I had just eaten a lot of cranberry sauce because for some reason it seemed to be the least nauseating food and when I went to put my plate in the kitchen my boyfriend's mom – looking really radiant, by the way – hugged me and thanked me for helping and I don't know why, but that hug turned a switch in my stomach and bleerrrg ... cranberry volcano. Now, after spending a quiet Thanksgiving with my parents during COVID, my boyfriend said we need to go back to Dallas for Thanksgiving with his family this year. I said I am still too embarrassed and would like to wait a year or two. He is angry with me. He says that no one cares and everyone is looking forward to seeing me. Am I being unfair?

– Weak Stomach


I almost didn't respond to your missive given the fact that it came in after deadline and the paper comes out on Thursday ... but then I remembered: Wait! The Chronicle's Thanksgiving issue comes out on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so there is still time for my treasured advice to save the day and perhaps your relationship and maybe even your life, although, to be completely honest, I haven't fully mapped out a scenario in which my advice would be lifesaving, but mathematically it's not impossible. The important point is that you could still read this column on Wednesday – perhaps you might pick it up while buying some delicious gravy at Salt & Time, read it, and decide to change your plans entirely and make the seven-hour Wednesday afternoon drive up I-35 for a giant, Thanksgiving helping of redemption. Did I mention that I am an optimist? I guess that seems glaringly obvious at this point, but I truly believe in you and your ability to hold back the cranberry volcano this year!

Look, as a person who has amassed a deep, impressive résumé of embarrassing incidents, I can tell you that the real doozies never fade into obscurity. You might think you can go into hiding until all the witnesses die, but people with really great, embarrassing stories about other people seem to live an impressively long time. Not only that, you would think that after 30 or 40 years their memories would start to fade, but that only makes things worse because the parts they forget they just shamelessly rewrite with complete disregard for the facts. After all, the story is in the telling, right? And when people tell embarrassing stories – even about themselves – the only facts that are relevant are the embarrassing ones.

Now, before you decide to never eat Thanksgiving dinner in Dallas again (which isn't a bad policy, but for entirely different reasons) I should tell you that the best way to get past a truly embarrassing incident is to just own it – ideally with grace, humility, and an acknowledgment of any personal responsibility. Oh, and you're going to need a good sense of humor, too, because that is generally how most people deal with awkward and embarrassing subjects. The important thing to remember is that everyone has been deeply embarrassed at some time or another. People who don't have embarrassing stories are either exceptionally dull or disturbingly dishonest. Living an interesting life means getting out of your comfort zone and exposing yourself to risks. Sometimes those risks reap rewards, and one of the most precious rewards is the realization that sometimes you are just as much of a goofy fuckup as everyone else. Lastly, there is no better teacher than embarrassment. My bet is the chance of you mixing mimosas and sangria and vomiting on your mother-in-law again are somewhere around zero percent. Similarly, I will never again try to force a fart in a public place, even if I think no one will hear. So, with that horrible image I will end this screed and encourage you to go enjoy Thanksgiving in Dallas, but maybe bring along a Jenni Kayne sweater for your mother-in-law if you can afford it (because Jesus those things are pricey).

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