It was my Meat Loaf moment.
A few weeks ago, I took my two daughters to see a Broadway show starring Sutton Foster (who may not be a household name across the country, but for my two theater-obsessed kids is pretty much the coolest thing ever), a two-time Tony-winning singer/actress/dancer, and star of the late, lamented ABC Family series "Bunheads." After the show ended, we lined up with all the other theater geeks by the stage door to get her autograph.
Wearing flip-flops, denim shorts and no makeup (really no makeup, not the kind of "no-makeup" celebs take hours to apply), the actress made her way down the line, chatting and posing for photos. When she got to my kids, who at age 11 and 13 are acutely aware of everything I say and do in their presence that might be even remotely embarrassing, I said, "Sutton! My daughter broke her clavicle being chased by a llama in sleep-away camp, and she would love it if you could sign her sling."
Of course, Sutton stopped, cooed over my adorable daughter in her sling, asked about the llama incident, and wound up talking to us for several minutes, while the fans behind us got very antsy.
My 13-year-old rolled her eyes so far back in her head that she probably got a pretty good view of her cerebellum. As we walked away, she said, "Mom! Why did you say that? It was so embarrassing!"
And that's when I realized, "OMG, I'm turning into my mother."
Flip back the calendar a few decades to 1982, when I was 15 and traveling back from a trip to London with my parents. At the airport, the customs officers waved through my family with hardly a glance, but they stopped another passenger and sifted through his luggage, examining every roll of socks as if there might be an entire brick of cocaine stashed inside. "He looks like your cousin Howard," my mom commented about the beefy gentleman with the large forehead.
I squinted back at him and said, "Hey, isn't that Meat Loaf?" I had listened to "Paradise By the Dashboard Lights" about a million times by then and had seen "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." (Though, nerd that I was, instead of going to the midnight show in Greenwich Village, I went to a matinee. With my dad. On Long Island.)
So what did my mom do? She waited until the big, scary rock star was through customs, then marched right up to him, and said, "Excuse me, Mr. Loaf. You remind me so much of my nephew Howard. Can I get an autograph for him?"
I thought I would drop dead, right there in the Pam Am terminal at JFK. I braced for the humiliation as the big, scary rock star stared down or growled at my middle-aged Jewish mother. Or maybe he would glare at me and use his powers of rock stardom to eye-zap me into a puddle of ectoplasm.
Instead, he graciously posed for photos and signed autographs for my family, and we got an awesome story that we've been milking for years.
And so, yes, now that I am in my 40s, I find myself doing the same exact thing as my mom: not giving a damn if someone thinks I'm an uncool, middle-aged mom who says embarrassing things to famous people. I'm comfortable with my own goofiness, and I think people react to that in a positive way. Because really, what's the worst thing they can do to me? Roll their own eyes like a 13-year-old and have a moment of condescension before going back to their own self-obsessed lives? Or they might just take a minute out of their famous lives to be polite and friendly and make someone else's day.
As the lions sing on Broadway, it's the circle of life: My daughter has turned into me, and I have turned into my mom. I will continue to embarrass her in front of whatever famous people we come across in our travels, and she will continue to roll her eyes.
But in 30 years, she'll have some awesome stories to tell her own kids.