A Toast to Embarrassment

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


You’d think that getting older would mean that you don’t get embarrassed as easily as when you were younger.  Maybe people just assume that with age, wisdom and knowledge of the world that their thicker skins would filter out life’s more embarrassing moments.  They’d be wrong, of course, but they’d still be making a fair assumption.  I’m living proof that the above theory just isn’t correct. 

I’m not speaking of people who don’t have a conscience or who never have sleepless nights over trivial matters such as ethics, honestly or bodily outbursts.  I’m referring to regular people like you and me that like to set positive examples for others.  We’ve paid our dues, sometimes at full retail, but still have to deal with the annoyance of embarrassment. 

I speak from personal experience when I reminisce about embarrassing events that have occurred in the span of my ordinary life.  When my mind happens to stumble upon a not so savory memory from the archives, I still cringe at the thought, and can hardly believe that I was a party to that disgusting moment.  Believe it or not, my first memory of being publicly embarrassed (or should I say humiliated) was at the tender age of four or five.  They say that your first time is the most memorable; I don’t think that “they” were referring to embarrassing moments, but the concept still seems to apply here. 

I was over at a friend’s house for a sleepover.  We had French toast for breakfast.  How could I possible remember a breakfast item that was served one morning, at someone’s house – roughly a lifetime ago?  I’ll reluctantly tell you how.  I sneezed that morning.  I don’t remember if I sneezed in the bedroom.  I don’t remember if I sneezed in the bathroom.  What I do remember is that I sneezed at the kitchen table that morning, right onto my French toast.  Hello.  I was five years old.  I don’t know many five year olds that have expert control over the contents of their nostrils.  Apparently, I didn’t either. 

Was the resulting sneeze funny?  I might go out on a limb and suggest that if I saw a five year old sneeze, and shoot a projectile out of his or hers nose, I might find it mildly amusing.  If said object flew out and landed on a freshly cooked piece of French toast, I even might turn aside and chuckle a bit (with my inner voice, of course). What I do recall is that the mom thought it was very funny.  My friend, following his mother’s lead also thought it was hilarious.  They both made it abundantly clear that it was one of the funniest things that they had ever seen. 

I’d like to think that I’m way beyond that event.  I was young, and was not fully schooled in the ways of proper tissue-manship.  In fact, I’m fairly sure that I didn’t know too much about anything.  But I learned an important lesson about embarrassment.  For one thing, it permanently stains you like a bloody nose on a white t-shirt.  I’ve had a few of those in my time, so I know from where I speak.  It also raises self awareness.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, when sprinkled sparingly on the brain.  I always sprinkle on a little too much self awareness.  I don’t mean to, but I think the holes on my shaker are a little too big. 

I’ve moved on; at least I’d like to think so.  I still get embarrassed in new situations and continue to open the wounds of old ones.  But, I suppose that I do get a little stronger every day.  I’m a professional sneezer now.  I never sneeze near food, and can say “bless you” in five different languages.


One Piece Swimsuit

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It’s funny how it always happens; you’re thrown into situations that you might not ordinarily choose.  Such is the case on a trip that our family took to Cancun.  I’m not talking about the life-size iguana family that congregated outside of our bungalow and scared my wife and kids, or the hundreds of sea turtles that hatched and ran for their lives one night as we walked on the shore of our hotel.  Both of these events were pretty exciting.

No, I’m reminded of another event that we stumbled onto during a daylong excursion to La Isla Mujeres, one of those islands that has retained the natural beauty that you only see in travel magazines. 

We rented motor scooters, and had the opportunity to travel around the entire perimeter of the island at our own pace, stopping only to taking pictures and admire the scenery along the way.  We decided to take a lunch break at a seaside restaurant, where we could eat and drink right on the shoreline.  Our waiter walked us out to an umbrella covered spot with a couple of lounge chairs. 

As any human would, I glanced around to familiarize myself with the surroundings.  The person lying on a chaise lounge to our left, who I first assumed was a man – due to the fact that he (turned out to be a she) wasn’t wearing a top.  My youngest daughter looked to us (the parents) with a puzzled expression.  “Mommy,” she said, “that girl’s not wearing her bathing suit.”  I quickly and quietly pointed out to Mommy and my daughter that we should act with a little discretion because this woman was sitting right next to us. 

Suddenly, we all had to make a mental note not to look to the left anymore.  So we gazed ahead, while still trying to process the new circumstance in which we were thrown.  It didn’t take long for my eyes to focus on another person; yes it was another woman and yes she was also topless.  This one was sitting at the edge of the sandy shore reading a book.  I obviously didn't get the memo, nor did I see a sign, stating that this was a bathing suit optional beach.  This was a little detail that, as parents, we might have wanted a “head’s up” on before settling into a public restaurant on an open beach.  We eventually got acclimated, though, and were able to just relax and enjoy the afternoon. 

My strongest memory of that afternoon is not of the two women in their one piece swimsuits, although I do have to say that my wife and kid’s reactions to them were somewhat priceless.  No, it was just the family, being together on that warm little island: exploring, eating, relaxing and swimming.  We were able to walk endless distances out into the ocean, with the water level never even reaching our waists. 

I think that I’ll have to pause briefly the next time that one of my daughters mentions something about wearing a one piece swimsuit.  A properly worded follow-up question might be in order.  I’m a man, but I’m also a protective dad.  Swimsuit styles may come and go, and body parts may present themselves in different shapes and sizes; but there is a time and a place for everything – except for my daughters, wearing a “one piece” swimsuit at the beach.


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