Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Embarrassed, Moi?

Elly asked

“What's your most embarrassing moment ever? And if you could do it over, would you?”

I’m going to dither a bit here and discuss the difference between embarrassment and humiliation. Embarrassment is shame caused by one’s own actions. Humiliation is brought about by a deliberate act of cruelty by another. Ellie specifically asked about embarrassment, so that’s what I’ll talk about. I have been humiliated in my life, I’ve been done over by a couple masters. I’d rather not talk about those episodes though, they are fairly painful.

So, embarrassment. To be honest I don’t embarrass easy. For the most part I either don’t care what others think, or see the humour in the situation and laugh along at whatever silliness I’ve done. My poor kids will likely have a time of dread of being seen with me, as I’m wont to break into song, or practice my silly walks in public. This brings delight to young kids, but will likely mortify them when teenagers. I can’t wait.

So, in some sense there is so much embarrassment in my life its hard to pick just one out. Instead I’ll highlight a couple episodes where the embarrassment lead to something else. The first one that sticks out in my mind is when I was a neophyte lifeguard working the beaches in Vancouver. This happened early on, one of the first shifts I did.

The guard shacks where not shacks, brick built and sturdy, but lacking anything remotely private. This particular one was just one big room, with wide glass doors that were normally open. It was the end of the day and I had to change. The first few times I’d scoped out who was around, and quickly changed when no one was looking.

This time, despite my precautions, just as I was pulling down my trunks a mixed crowd walked out front. Now, I wasn’t embarrassed being seen by other men, I did a lot of sports and changing in front of other guys was fully normal. However, at that stage of my life I’d only just lost my virginity, and the two girls I’d been with, I’d been with in dark rooms.

Yet what do you do? Without really thinking about it I turned and went into a strip tease act. It was awful, hoots of laughter and cheers spurring me on. I can still remember how hot my face felt from blushing (I blush easy (that time was a doosy)). I’m told my whole body turned pink. Yet I did it, and got changed, and when I went out a beer was thrust into my hands and people I didn’t know suddenly where my friends. I even pulled that night, an older girl who said she liked what she saw. We met up a few more times, but she got bored with me, which was humiliating rather than embarrassing! But to answer the question, yes I’d do it (did it) again. As I was doing it I was sure I’d never live it down. In a way I didn’t, but not in a negative sense I’d thought.

Another one I mentioned over at Greavsie’s. I had to do one of those awful conference presentations, doing the “blah blah” about a project my then company had done. For the most part I like presenting, it lets me put aside my natural shyness. I should have been an actor me, I’m sure I would have been marvellous (at least I would have been marvellous to me…). At that stage I used to practice, make sure I had my patter down pat. This particular one I practiced so that I wouldn’t look at the screen, just point accurately behind me while keeping eye contact with the vast audience (of 20).

The time came, I started, and some ten minutes in having talked and waved animatedly behind me I suddenly realised that something had gone wrong. The screen, which at the start had proudly shown my title slide, was a neat uniform white. The looks of the audience which I’d taken for awe, where in fact people holding back laughter. Which then broke out, of course. I still remember turning back to a crack about vapour ware.

So I cracked a joke in return, and just carried on, including the pantomime pointing, which I exaggerated for the laugh. It worked, and afterwards I got exactly two comments. One was about it being the best presentation he’d never seen. The second, from a woman (who I didn’t pull…) about a fine makeup to cover the unsightly blemish that had grown up from my shirt collar.


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