Monday, November 15

Evolution of Embarrassment

My apologies to the guys in our number. I'm going to talk about girl stuff for a moment, but I hope you'll stick around, because I'd love your input at the end.

This week's topic is Most Embarrassing Moments. As I was contemplating what to write about, it struck me how many embarrassing moments - for girls, anyway - center around our bodies, how they are presented, and how others see us. It also interested me to note how some of those perceptions and embarrassments have changed over the years.

For example - my grandma was mortified by underclothing. She couldn't even bring herself to use the word underwear. To her, everything worn under street clothing fit under the category of "unmentionables". If her lingerie was not to be mentioned, it definitely was not to be seen. Girls when she was growing up used to wear bloomers, which were basically loose underwear with elastic casings around the waist and legs. She told me once that the elastic in the waist was prone to snapping, and gravity would have its way. The prospect of one's bloomers around one's ankles was so humiliating, she said, girls would feign fainting to save themselves the embarrassment. The goal was to hit the ground before your bloomers did.
My mom was a little less rigid, but even she used little code words for underclothing rather than just outright talking about it. For example, if your slip was showing (eek!) she couldn't bring herself to tell you in those words - she'd discreetly pull you aside and say, "It's snowing down south..." She must have had a thing with slips, because one of her most horrifying dreams was forgetting to put on her skirt before she left the house and walking down the street in just her slip.

By the time I was in high school, we hardly ever wore slips, let alone were embarrassed by them. Our greatest sources of embarrassment had shifted a bit. We weren't as concerned about what we were wearing as we were about our bodies themselves. We still might pin our bra straps to keep them from showing, but we were more focused on bodily function faux pas. Like "starting" at school and not being able to stand up for fear of what might show on our clothes - or be left on the seat. Or the classic urban legend about getting picked up for a date and having to fart so bad you let one rip when the boy is walking around to the driver's side door (hence outside the car and unable to hear), only to discover you're going on a double date and the other couple is already sitting in the back seat.

Girls don't seem to get hung up about underwear at all any more at all. Bra straps are meant to be seen. Thong underwear peeks up purposefully from the waistband of jeans. Some girls talk and joke about bodily functions just like guys.

So here's my question - what are some of the greatest sources of embarrassment for girls now? And... guys, what - if anything - embarrasses you?


Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

When I was growing up, I was totally limited in what I could wear by whether a bra strap might show or not. Of course now that I can wear tanks with tiny straps, my arms are hardly show-the-world-worthy. Ah, life.

Wendy Toliver said...

I remember being totally embarrassed to wear a bra b/c I didn't want anyone to know I was wearing one.

Amanda Ashby said...

My poor daughter is ten and suffered her first major embarrassing moment when one of her so called friends told the whole class the name of the boy my daughter liked. Even worse, my daughter tried to explain it all to me without revealing his name - of course because I am all knowing and all seeing, I already knew who it was!

T said...

so funny and true... I nearly die of shock every time I hear someone say "I just peed a little in my pants"... that would have mortified me as a youth!

Okay, so it's probably never true when they say it... but I'm pretty sure the very thought would have been abhorrent enough that it wouldn't have escaped my lips!

Melissa Walker said...

One big thing that makes me giggle are yoga farters. It happens a LOT in my regular class, and everyone just moves along like nothing happened. But I have to hold in the laughter so I don't look totally immature!