How embarrassing is embarrassment?
Before I give you my ideas, I have a question: what do you associate ’embarrassment’ with?
When I define the word for my English students, I normally try to provide a vivid picture, thus specifying the connotation. For example, we feel embarrassed when we slip and fall in front of everybody, making them laugh instantaneously, or when our sports leggings tear on thighs when we sweat hard doing squats in the gym. In a nutshell, these instances make us feel confused and, therefore, terribly ashamed.
If you are a reasonable person, who doesn’t tend to take things close to heart, you will laugh at yourself and let go of the situation. But what if you bottle up your emotions and accumulate these pent-up feelings deep inside? I guess, it won’t do you any good. First, because you may accidentally vent your frustration on your partner, thus worsening it all. Secondly, it will lead to self-erosion and you will lose touch with who you are. If you have noticed the eerie signs, I ask you to stop and look at the bright side of your embarrassment.
I’m sure it’s no revelation for you, but time does pass, sweeping away all the good and, most importantly, bad, and living space for sincere gratitude for what has been done. As obvious as it may seem, but just think of it: will this stressful and unpleasant situation bother you in, say, a month’s time? I doubt so. What’s more, why do friends normally laugh their heads off when they meet up? You’re quite right — they reminiscence of their most ludicrous experiences, sincerely boasting of the most ridiculous ones. All the embarrassment is turned into memorable jokes of sentimental and symbolic value. Are you still in doubt? Just take the incident that happened to me not so long ago.
Disclaimer: I should mention that I am a highly organised and responsible person, who never misses a deadline and double-checks important figures, dates and time, but sometimes mistakes do occur in any system – so did they do in mine.
I was on holiday. It was a long-anticipated journey to one of the European cities, where I intended to indulge in gentle walks along the seaside, explore historic locations, devour a midday cup of coffee in the best coffee shops on the coast and just simply be. In other words, it was the time of absolute solitude and blissful happiness away from the hustle and bustle of my hometown. However, I didn’t lose track of time and knew when my departure date was.
When the day came, I (a little sad but still eager to resume my usual way of life) went through the familiar routine: checked out from the apartment, arrived at the airport 2.5 hours before the scheduled flight, found my check-in counter and joined the line, waiting for my turn. When the time came, I obediently put the baggage on the drop-off point and handed my passport to a pleasantly looking handling agent. While he was performing all the necessary operations, I was babbling about the flight, my baggage, the seats I would prefer and some other distracting stuff. But then I noticed that the man looked rather puzzled and didn’t seem to be listening. Then he asked me to check the flight again because he didn’t see my name on the passenger list. I assured him that there could be no mistake, because I had checked it several times before and nonchalantly mentioned that he should check the system for errors. The nice man was desperate to help me and called for one more agent to solve the problem. They rebooted the system, filled in my information again, but still without success. Meanwhile, as you may guess, the people behind my back were becoming more and more agitated, probably wishing they could burn me at the stake. After several fruitless attempts the agents suggested calling customer support to find out what the problem was. Obediently, I dragged myself back to the hall, nervously trying to find my mobile phone. Suddenly I got a sneaking suspicion and decided to double-check (or zillion-check, should I say?) my ticket again. And what do you think I discovered? It was me who had been in the wrong the whole time, because my flight was the next day. I just decided to leave one day earlier!
Can you imagine the sensation I experienced that moment? Well, to put it mildly, I wished the earth would open up and swallow me. I grabbed my bags and rushed to the exist (as they say: out of sight, out of mind). I couldn’t figure out why I had been so absent-minded and, to my dismay, everybody around seemed to know about my failure and was pointing fingers at me. When I hailed a taxi and told the taxi driver my story, he kindly laughed at me and said: “Don’t worry, can happen to anyone!”. And then it dawned on me: we are all prone to exaggerate when, in reality, things are not that bad.
Now that I am home, safe and sound, I can’t help laughing when telling my family and friends the story in all the colourful details. And you know what I realised? We need to learn to give it all a go! We are all humans, we make mistakes — that’s just the way it is, that’s life! If such situations do not teach us a lesson (which is always a virtue), they simply transform into valuable memories, which are stocked in the warehouse of most embarrassing yet hilarious moments somewhere inside our brains.
Text: Aleksandra Finyakina