The first one is a private embarrassment. Nobody really knew the crushing disappointment and embarrassment I felt at that moment except me. Isn’t that how it goes sometimes? In my freshman year of high school I had a huge crush on this girl. She was the one that would turn my legs to rubber and my mind to mush every time she walked by. One day she sat next to me in a study hall and started talking about an upcoming dance. She kept asking me questions about what I was doing Friday night and I really thought she was hinting that I should ask her to the dance. I was just about to, building up my nerve, thinking about the best way to phrase my query, trying to remain cool. I was excited and tense, debating my options, almost dizzy with anticipation.
I decided to go for it.
But right before I was about to open my mouth, she said, “So, what I wanted to ask you is, you know Dean – do you think he’d want to go to the dance with me?”
The surprise and disappointment was explosive, so much so that I must have momentarily let down my guard because she gave me this long look of dawning understanding before finally saying, “Oh.”
Just “Oh,” not “Oh, I’m sorry you got the wrong idea blah, blah, blah.” It was just “Oh.” The word hung in the air like this huge mirror reflecting all of my insecurities and ineptitudes and the longer I let it hang there the greater my embarrassment grew. Finally I managed to laugh and say something, backpedaling with everything I had and saving some face. I managed to smooth over the situation but inside the embarrassment I felt was like this heavy stone that I was forced to swim with and it took every ounce of strength I possessed not to sink.
And then, of course there was my very embarrassing public experience. I was sitting in my Spanish class, doing what I normally did back then: feebly trying to pay attention and not really doing a good job. It was late autumn and the leaves outside were lush and vibrant; I couldn’t keep my eyes off of them. I just sat there, chewing on the end of my pen, staring off at the rolling hills peppered with orange, yellow and red leaves. It was the height of the season and the colors were spectacular.
The teacher interrupted my daydreams with a request to repeat some phrase in Spanish. I tried my best and thought I nailed it but she just smiled and asked me to repeat it. I did so and this time I did an even better job but she actually laughed at me. Then she asked me to stand up and try it again and when I did, not only did she laugh but the whole class also started to laugh. I couldn’t understand what was so funny and why everyone was being so cruel. I kept repeating that stupid phrase over and over again and each time I did the class would laugh even louder.
Finally the teacher told me to go down to the boys’ room and look in the mirror. When I got down there I could understand why everyone was laughing but it didn’t make me feel any better. The pen I had been chewing on had leaked and my teeth and lips were blue.
So, which of these things would you rather have happen to you? Bonus points if you explain your answer.