I was walking in the mall the other day and as I passed a group of young mothers, I heard one say, “I could have died of embarrassment.” I smiled to myself and I thought, “Young lady, you will have many more such deaths before you get through life.” We all have experienced those awkward and mortifying feelings at one time or another. It is all part of living but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As you get older, you are able to shrug these situations off and you will learn to laugh at yourself along with those witnessing the event. After a while, these experiences will be just good story-telling material. I went through these stages of feeling totally stupid, to feeling a little silly, to the final stage of ‘what the hell’ and just had a good laugh at myself along with those who were observing my predicament. Let me take you through my journey.
The Feeling Stupid Years:
When I was 21, Chuck and I attended a wedding in Sudbury. I smoked at the time, a habit I had for ten years before I got smart and quit. On the way to the reception, I realized I was out of cigarettes so Chuck, not knowing the area, stopped at the first bar we came to. Remember, this is Sudbury. Dressed in my mini-skirt and all dolled up, I entered the building. What a dive. Men who had probably worked the night shift at the mines plus men who probably didn’t work at all, were slouched in their seats drinking beer. Back then, I was slim, shy and very “proper” in my manner so the minute I walked into the place, I was an easy target for these guys. Wolf whistles and a few comments like, “Hi Honey, etc.” were thrown my way. I was completely flustered. I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
In the late sixties, cigarettes in many establishments, especially bars and restaurants, were dispensed from machines just like candy bars. I immediately made a beeline towards the machine and put my coins in. I hit a button and the music blared. To my horror, I had put my money into a jute box. Forget about those damn cigarettes. I turned and fled. I had made those patrons’ day. Not only did I give them a hearty laugh about what I had done, but I also left them with a song to listen to. I felt totally stupid and humiliated. But then I realized, I would never see them again and maybe, just maybe, they were too drunk to remember the incident. Those thoughts made me feel a little better. Today, I would have handled that situation very differently but back then I was young, naïve, and just off the farm.
The Feeling Silly Years:
During the early 1970s, it was the fashion for all ladies to visit the hairdresser once a week to get her hair styled and set. Now if you slept just right and used enough hairspray you could maybe make it to your next appointment with every hair still in place. However, on the off chance your hair became a mess, say on day five, you had that situation covered. Wigs would tie you over for those extra two days. These contraptions were hot and ill-fitting but at the time they were the best available and everyone owned one, including me. If you were having a bad hair day, you simply stuck on the wig. I was teaching school during this era and I usually needed a ‘wig day’ 24 hours before my hair appointment. I remember this particular day so well.
My group of eight-year-olds was lining up to go back into the classroom after recess. Pushing and shoving like all kids do, they more or less made their way into line in an acceptable manner except for one, Brent. This kid was big for his age, was the one who misbehaved in class and I loved him dearly. He had spirit. Brent wanted to be first in line so at breakneck speed he arrived like a baseball player sliding into home plate. As he came to a screeching halt, he accidentally bumped me making me lose my balance. Although I didn’t fall, the jolt did something very comical, at least that is how the kids saw it. Off flew my wig. There was dead silence from this boisterous group. The kids thought I had been scalped. I bent down, picked it up and plunked it back down on my head. Trying to ease their shock and surprise, I made the comment. “Brent has finally made me blow my top.” Tension eased and laughter followed including mine. For the rest of the day, I had a very happy class. Smiles and giggles could be periodically heard throughout the room.
I know this little episode was discussed that night at everyone’s dinner table accompanied by much laughter. How do I know? Well, a few weeks later I ran into an acquaintance who had a niece in my class and she made the comment, “I hear your wig fell off at school.” My how the story travelled.
The ‘What the Hell’ Years:
Moving from a crowded, busy city to a rural property had a beautiful, calming feeling my body and soul craved. Nature had so much to offer and there was nothing behind our house but farmland and trees as far as the eye could see. Blinds and curtains were not installed on these windows because I wanted nothing to block this tranquil scene. Let the sun pour in and nature unfold. Well, this philosophy worked for a while but then one morning I learned an important lesson. As I looked out my bathroom window to admire the beauty of the back fields, I realized that you cannot do this when you are stark naked, especially when you have given permission to cross country skiers to use those fields. Well what else could I do? I waved.
So, I say to those young mums I saw at the mall, “You will have many embarrassing moments throughout your life, but over time, you will remember them with laughter and great fondness. You will survive.”