Embarrassment is a funny old thing! Who invented embarrassment and what on earth could have been the first reason? Who decided what we should, and shouldn’t be embarrassed about? At what point did someone see someone else doing something a little bit ‘different’ and decide that it was wrong? This sounds like an obvious statement, but most forms of embarrassment are born through shame and insecurities. We only feel that way because we’ve been made fun off, admonished, or laughed at for whatever had happened. We’re born without any sense of shame, and so it is drilled into us by our parents, and the actions of people around us, as we mature. A wise old lady once told me vicariously through a friend that you should just own your embarrassing moments. Sounds hard I know, but when you manage to do it, when you manage to say to yourself or others, “Okay, I just farted too loud and it sounded a little wet but fuck you lot, I know I haven’t shit myself and that’s all that matters” it feels great.” That of course began its own conversation with friends about embarrassment, that’s when I realised just how very differently people react even in the most normal every day things we do.
There are generic things that people get embarrassed about, like when your cash card gets rejected at a busy checkout. You stand there rubbing the strip or wiping the chip as you feel the eyes of other customers in the back of your head. After the third try you know they are thinking you’re an idiot, or you’re skint, neither of which is a great option. So they void the shopping and you insist you’ll just nip out to the cash point, in lightening quick time you’re back so at least a couple of those people can see you’re not skint as you fan your rosy cheeks with a wad of cash. This of course is why I’ve come to love self service checkouts.
Another instance is what do you do when you walk around the corner and see that the bus has just pulled in to the stop? You have seconds to decide if you should run to catch it or not. As your pace quickens you attempt to calculate what speed you’d need to run in comparison to the amount patrons leaving and boarding the bus. Some people find it so embarrassing that they wouldn’t run, at all. Whereas others will only run if they can guarantee to make it. I heard two stories where people have tried to make it to the stop and ended up running half way home as they were too embarrassed to just stop at the empty bus stop, catch their breath and admit they’d missed it. There is no reason for this, no great stigma, as far as I know has been attached to people who miss the bus so why are some embarrassed by it?
Mistaken identity is another. I did it myself as a child. I tried to drown a poor boy in the swimming pool because I thought it was my brother. Then there was the time my husband was fondled from behind in a pub by a young lady who, she said, thought he was someone else. She was so embarrassed she didn’t wait around for her boyfriend to meet her and swiftly left the pub. Worst of all are the times when you see someone you don’t recognise wave at you from a distance. Not wanting to be rude of course, you wave back. Then the person shouts over to you asking if you’d like a lift home whilst, all the time, you’re searching the very inner core of your memory as you just can’t place them. Then you realise it might be a weirdo trying to get you in their car, until another stranger runs past you and gets in to said persons car quite, grateful of the lift.
Of course, in life, there are the times that you can have no ownership of. The times so embarrassing they scar your soul. One would be exposing specific parts or part of your body to your family, by accident obviously. That is one that is reserved for only the unluckiest of us. Then there’s doing the same thing but outside, in front of strangers. The conversations then lead to a poor guy who, at an innocent trip to the library, went to the counter to check out a book. The person serving him wasn’t an old lady with her hair in a bun, it just happened to be a quite attractive young lady. She took the book from him and discreetly said ‘You might want to put that away’ he looked up and followed her gaze to his penis that was proudly protruding through his zipper. There are some of you that may be cynical about his intentions, but trust me, knowing the guy and seeing the sheer embarrassment on his face as he told the story, there’s no doubting this was an accident. An incredibly embarrassing accident.
I sat blushing, as I reminisced about my most embarrassing moment. My parents had refused to buy a pair of boots for me on the basis that the massive heel made them dangerous. Of course, as a teenager, I guffawed in the face of danger. It took me a while, but when I was thirteen I managed to save up all of my pocket money to buy myself that pair of boots. The following Saturday I showed off my new boots down a busy high street. It felt great, as I walked towering over older teens, this is what I’d worked for. That was until I was waiting to cross the road and managed to slip and roll off the kerb in a manner that would make even the greatest of stuntmen jealous. That was bad enough, but then I had a fright as I realised there was an oncoming Double Decker bus. There was an ear piercing screech of the brakes as the bus stopped, just as my seemingly slow motion roll had come to an end. Embarrassment swept over me just as I wished the bus had maybe hit me. Not really, but I did think that at least then I’d have been too unconscious to notice. I jumped up on to my twisted ankle and limped towards my so called friend who had reached the other side of the road and, it seemed, a point of hysteria. Not only was I extremely cross with my new boots, I became annoyed when I realised the same bus that had nearly hit me, was also my ride home.
In conclusion to this and other tales of embarrassment, don’t just learn to live with it, own it. It’s always feels worse as we mull it over in our heads. The young girl in the pub probably cringes every time she thinks about her mistaken case of identity with my husband, whereas it doesn’t even cross his mind. The bus driver who hit me probably nearly hit a hundred teenagers in his career and wouldn’t remember me specifically. As for the librarian, she probably wouldn’t recognise my friend if they passed in the street…unless he had his zipper down. But take heed to the following words of advice Listen to your mum when she tells you the heels are too high. Work hard in school so you can afford to get taxis instead of having to run for the bus, and next time someone you don’t recognise waves at you, look behind you before you wave back.
But then if we all did that, where would we get our stories?