Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I often lie in bed thinking about how I've embarrassed myself over the years. Some memories make me cower under my covers, like when I [XXXXXXXXXXXXX]* when I was eighteen. And when I danced [XXXXXXXXXXXXX]** when I was twenty-five. Those embarrassments happened relatively recently so the aftershocks still shudder me. But when I peed in my terry-cloth yellow shorts while singing with my fellow kindergarteners as we stood in front of our moms, and my mom had to scoop me up in mid-song as the puddle grew, and she had to wipe me down in the boys' washroom and an older kid came in to pee in the urinal like an adult and he got weirded out 'cause why's-this-woman-in-the-boys'-washroom and ha-ha-lookit-this-twerp-kid-he's-got-piss-all-over-his-lower-body... I don't feel embarrassed about that any more. By the way, our teacher had treated the kids and moms to free orange-coloured water from McDonald's in a big red plastic cooler and I drank like thirty-three cuplets before singing. By the way, my shorts were yellow to begin with.

I don't mind telling you about that embarrassment. It happened the same year Duran Duran released Seven and the Ragged Tiger. It happened so long ago that I'm totally cool to confess. But I'm not gonna tell you about when I [XXXXXXXXXXXXX]*** in 2004. And I don't even want to think about when I [XXXXXXXXXXXXX]**** without asking her first in 2002. You see, the longer I wait the less embarrassed I'll be. I think. Maybe. Certainly temporal distance gives us emotional distance, but then again, some embarrassments might never be healed. After all, a kindergartener is supposed to piss his pants in front of two dozen moms. It's the thing. But an adult isn't supposed to give [XXXXXXXXXXXXX]***** like I did in 1999. The cause for embarrassment -- whether we had conscious control of the act or not -- must be considered. Embarrassment, like crime, must be judged with mens rea in mind. That must be why remembering my recent embarrassments makes me cover my face: I should have known better. I did know better. I shouldn't have done it. And yes, I'm not exaggerating when I say I cover my face.

BUT WHY? do I still get embarrassed about past embarrassments? Why do I still let those events bother me? I hadn't thought about [XXXXXXXXXXXXX]****** in years, so if my life has been okay in the interim, why let this renegade memory disturb me now while I try to fall asleep? After cowering, I compose myself with this mantra: "No one remembers... no one remembers... no one remembers...". That person and that person and that person and that person -- all who were there during the event -- have likely forgetten. They certainly weren't affected by that event as much as me (unless they were). And they certainly aren't thinking about that event at this moment so stop cowering! I'm the only one thinking about this embarrassment, and all I have to do to kill this embarrassment is stop thinking about it. Memory tends to exaggerate moments, so we overblow our shame. Embarrassment is subjective and feels like a disaster to one while a fleeting guffaw to another. If embarrassment can be both a disaster and guffaw at once, then just let it go. Fleet away.

No one remembers.
No one remembers.
No one remembers.

Unless everyone does remember, in which case keep cowering.

*Clearly I'm too embarrassed to tell you.
**Clearly I'm too embarrassed to tell you.
***Clearly I'm too embarrassed to tell you.
****Clearly I'm too embarrassed to tell you.
*****Clearly I'm too embarrassed to tell you.
******that time in 1996 when I was checking out a high school yearbook with [friend] and we were peeping all the girls' photos, saying "hot" or "nah". I pointed to one picture and said "nah". "That's my sister," said [friend].


Rich said...

Wow. This is a great post. I can certainly relate.. and actually it is quite comforting to know that Norman also gets embarrassed about past embarrassing moments that he too is bothered by it. The next time I shudder or have a panic attack because of a shameful memory, I'll think about this post and that Norman might be shuddering at the same time... and it will be funny instead of a gross nervous feeling.

Simpson said...

I like reading the embarrassing moments. Maybe I'm the guy who take delight in other people's embarrassing moments.


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