One of my friends (you know who you are) sent me a link to a Buzzfeed article highlighting people’s most embarrassing moments. I totally empathized with these folks, but several of their stories were so hilarious they had me laughing out loud. 

As I read through those confessions of mortification, I couldn’t help but think about my own humiliating experiences. I was painfully shy and awkward growing up, and incidents that may not even land on someone else’s radar made me want to crawl into a hole and pull the dirt back in over me. Age has thickened my skin a bit, but I still cringe when I reminisce about those little traumas. 

The earliest embarrassing moment that comes to mind was during summer vacation between second and third grade. My best friend’s mother let her hold a carnival in their backyard to raise money for muscular dystrophy, and I was excited to be a part of it. I don’t recall all the different booths we had, but I’ll never forget mine. I was the fortune teller and was set up in a nifty little tent. For a measly ten cents, I’d offer silly predictions to whoever stopped by. It wasn’t long before one particular boy popped his head in, smiled at me, and held out his dime. I simply sat there and stared at him like a deer caught in headlights. This was my secret crush all through second grade, and I’d never had the nerve to say more than a few words to him. Now, there he was, merely inches from me in the small confines of that tent. I finally found my voice and stammered, “Keep your money. It’s not worth it.” Clearly confused, he looked at me for what seemed like an eternity, and then he shook his head and backed out of the tent. I waited to come out until I was sure he was gone, and I never told a soul about it. 

In middle school, I was forced to face my fear of public speaking by giving an oral book report. As awkward and embarrassed as I was to stand there in front of the class, I managed to find enough courage to tell everyone all about the book I’d read. I can’t even remember now what that book was, but it obviously had captured my interest because some alien force overtook me, and I talked and talked and talked. What was supposed to be a five-minute summary morphed into a twenty-minute review. As I walked back to my desk after finishing, the kids applauded. But before I even had a chance to feel good about myself, the girl who sat behind me whispered, “They’re only clapping because you’re done.” I was mortified, and even though she was probably right, I never much cared for that girl after that. 

High school didn’t get any better. I never had a ghost of a chance to be popular, but I did try to keep up appearances. Back in the ‘70s, it wasn’t uncommon to wear hairpieces and wigs. One day after lunch, I was talking to some friends when another student walked past and deliberately bumped into me. He was just being funny, but my head jerked back, and when I whirled around, I looked down and saw my wig splayed on the floor like roadkill. Trying to cover my plastered-down hair with one hand, I grabbed the wig with the other and raced to the bathroom. Honestly, everything after that is a blur. I know I eventually returned to class, though, because I did finish high school and have the diploma to prove it. 

Life after school has offered a multitude of embarrassing opportunities.  Like the time I was at a buffet dinner with a lot of other people, and I happily dug into the chocolate mousse…only to discover it was liver pâté. Maintaining any level of composure at that point went straight out the window.

There was also the time I was getting ready to lead a Weight Watchers meeting in a basement. I was walking to the front of the room while looking back to chat with a member who was following me. When I turned back around, I smacked my face right into a very unforgiving support post. It hurt like the dickens – and I know I must have looked like a total klutz – but I did my best to laugh it off, and I started the meeting. About two minutes in, a member in the front row got my attention to let me know my nose was bleeding. I like to think I was a dedicated leader, but that gave all new meaning to the term “blood, sweat, and tears.”

Then there was the time a gentleman with a white cane stepped off the elevator into the lobby where I worked as a receptionist. After getting his information, I gestured toward the waiting area and invited him to take a seat. He just stood there with a blank look on his face until I remembered he was blind. I could gesture until the cows came home, and that poor guy still wouldn’t have any idea what I was trying to say. 

One of my more ridiculous fiascos didn’t involve witnesses, thank goodness, but it was still embarrassing because I needed a bit of assistance after the fact. I was the proud new owner of an inversion table, and I was adjusting it to fit my body’s specifications. In order to use it properly, it had to be set to where the table would stay parallel to the floor as I lay on it. When I wanted to invert it to hang upside down, I would slowly raise my arms above my head, and the table would tip back until it was perpendicular to the floor. Because I have long legs and an almost nonexistent torso, I had to adjust it several times to get it to accommodate my center of gravity. Per the instructions, I secured my ankles each time before testing it. 

For the final test, when I was pretty sure I had it right, I didn’t bother securing my ankles because I wasn’t planning to invert. I was simply going to go far enough to confirm it would stay level. I slowly leaned the table back, and it balanced perfectly parallel to the floor. I was so excited about finally having it set up correctly that I quickly raised my arms in victory, and before I knew what was happening, the table tilted all the way back. 

Remember I mentioned I hadn’t taken those necessary few seconds to secure my ankles? Yes, well, that came back to bite me in the butt…big time. I had a nanosecond to realize I was upside down before I completely slid off the blasted thing and landed in a crumpled heap on the floor. My husband came to investigate after he heard the unceremonious thud, and he found me crawling out from behind the inversion table. He helped me to my feet and was kind enough not to laugh until he was sure I hadn’t broken anything. 

While I did use the table for a while after that initial calamity, I never quite trusted it. I wound up selling it, and as the guy was loading it into his truck, I went out of my way to hammer home the importance of securing those ankles. To paraphrase author Catherine Aird, “If I can’t be a good example, I’ll just have to be a horrible warning.”

The aforementioned are just a few examples of my inability to be calm, cool, and collected. I never have been and never will be one of those people who have it all together. When I was younger, that reality bothered me a lot. Now, though, I can accept it. And it’s not like I have much choice. At my age, I absolutely do not have the physical or mental energy for an overhaul.

Let’s face it…I’m a WYSIWYG. What you see is what you get. 


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