Cringetopia: The Many Tales Of Butt Scrunching Over The Course Of An Embarrassing Life And How I’ve Learned To Not Be Embarrassed Anymore.
When I was in 8th grade, there was a girl named Shandis Haskell in my class who did the most remarkable thing that my insecure 13-year-old brain could conceive. It was the middle school talent show, and Shandis was on the gym floor with a microphone, in front of bleachers of rude and awkward tweens and preteens, singing Love Will Build a Bridge (a solid karaoke choice by any standard.)
Shandis had an amazing voice - slightly raspy and perfectly pitched, and it was obvious to the rest of us gawky kids - who couldn’t be paid to submit their name to a talent show roster - that she was absolutely meant to be up there.
However, halfway into the song, she forgot the lyrics. Just totally spaced. My second-hand cringe curdled up my spine as I joined my fellow onlookers with their hands over their mouths.
“Whoops!” Shandis said merrily. “I don’t know what the words are! Ah, it’s ok. I don’t get embarrassed.” And she chuckled for a bit, waited for the next refrain, and began singing again. Her easy statement, “I don’t get embarrassed,” floored me. So much so that I’m sure that Shandis, wherever she may be now, 30 years later, would be surprised. Because it’s not like we were good pals or anything (she was popular and secure in her skin; I was… not.)
At that moment I subconsciously gained a new life goal: to not feel embarrassed when I should feel embarrassed. It’s an admirable goal. And as it turns out, it’s an especially difficult one to achieve when your life is basically a tottering blooper reel.
It’s a Blunderful Life
The other day, my husband, who I’ve been together with for more than 20 years, claimed, “I bet I know what your #1 most embarrassing moment is!”
“The time at the bank?” I suggested.
“No,” he said, “ it was before we had kids."
“Ah,” I said. “The time with the hotel sink."
He began chortling. “That’s not the one I was thinking of."
I listed off four or five more embarrassing - but incorrect - incidents, his chuckles morphing into guffaws as he finally admitted that the incident on his mind - my MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT - was that time I let go a really loud, low fart while conversing with a fellow school teacher, and said teacher acted like he didn’t hear anything and kept the conversation smoothly flowing, while my husband, who was behind him, was practically bent over in laughter and I myself was doing my damndest to maintain composure.
“Oh, yeah.” I said. ‘That was a good one.”
An Existence of Cringe
I have always been awkward. I’m a stumbler, a fumbler, an ankle-rolling, food spilling, foot-in-mouthing Uber-dork who has just never had the smooth way of gliding through life the way that a lot of people do. I’m uncouth. I lack decorum. I’m the one who has told a friend’s mother that he was married (she didn’t know); the one who assumed a hotel groundskeeper spoke Spanish and so approached him flaunting my Español (he didn’t speak Spanish); the one who spilled red punch on a bride’s fluffy gown; the gal who gives the blond jokes their merit (yeah, I’m blonde.)
So it has been because of my goofy methods of existing that I’ve been almost forced - rather than choosing - to live my life the Shandis Way. Embarrassment, while usually warranted, doesn’t keep me awake at night anymore. I’d never sleep if it did.
That Time at the Bank
One day, I drove through the bank ATM to withdraw $400. I sat in my minivan and counted, and recounted the money… always coming up with $500. The ATM had given me an extra $100!
Since I’m a good person and an excellent example of integrity for my children, I guided the minivan around to the front of the bank, unloaded my two daughters (making sure I wiped off snotty faces and zipped up jackets), and marched them inside to show them the value of honesty.
The bank was empty of customers but several tellers were behind the counter and other bankers at their lobby desks. Hence, my announcement echoed through the place as I strode up to the teller and pronounced the mistake of my extra $100.
Bankers were quietly saying things like, “Wow, that’s so honest!” and “Thank you so much for doing the right thing!” as the teller counted the bills. I looked around with humble pride.
Eventually, the teller looked up and said, “There’s $400 here…” I looked at the money, then up at her, my cheeks starting to flush.
I had been counting the 20s — repeatedly, like seriously, 8 times — in groups of 4, not five. There had been $400 all along.
“We have cookies,” said the teller. “Do you want a cookie?” I felt my older daughter shrink into her coat next to me as the younger one happily bolted for the cookie tray. The girls and I each took one as we walked out.
More to Come
I’m currently compiling the embarrassing incidents I can think of to add to this series. It may be a very long series, so stay tuned.
I’d love to hear: What would you claim as your most cringe-worthy moment? Tell me in comments and we'll groan and laugh together!
by Emily Nielsen
"I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition."
All posts are copyright ©Emily Nielsen