In this exercise, I describe five challenging situations I've been subjected to, and I follow the descriptions with the answers to two questions:
1) Did I get embarrassed by the situation?
2) How red did I turn, on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the least red and 10 being the most red)?
In a staff meeting in our company conference room, as everyone settles in with their pads and pens and coffee, a female supervisor asks me, loud enough for everyone to hear, if I know where my penis is. She apparently meant to say "pen" (though the question, "Do you know where your pen is?" seems a relatively curious thing to ask someone, unless the pen has been hidden).
Regardless, with the word "penis" figuratively flopping on the conference table, a short silence punctuates the question, followed by very, very loud laughter.
Did I Get Embarrassed By the Situation? Yes, for some reason. Maybe because I was slightly hung over and just not feeling very social or prepared for much of anything. And maybe because I knew that people would expect it to be embarrassing since the word "penis" -- silly, sexual -- was used. And since it was directed at me and I don't deal well with the spotlight, and since one should never feel less than shocked at having a clothed supervisor ask where one's clothed penis is, I felt helpless to the aggressive onset of embarrassment and its angry warmth, particularly since so much laughter followed the comment.
Although, now that I think about it, it seems that the supervisor should have been the one to get embarrassed. But she didn't. She just sat there in her cool blue outfit, laughing at herself, one hand on her pale forehead, like, "Oh, gosh, I can't believe I just said that."
How Red Did I Turn, On A Scale of 1-10? 7, while pretending to laugh, but inside hoping no one noticed.
At that same meeting, everyone laughs and looks at me, wondering how I might respond to the penis question. Then, an outgoing and temporarily inconsiderate female colleague points at me, eyes wide, and announces to the entire room, "Look how red his face is!"
Did I Get Embarrassed By the Situation? Yes, on top of already being embarrassed. Because if there's one way to embarrass me, it's to point out how red my face is thanks to an immediately previous embarrassment. It's not like you can control such a thing. If I could turn off my embarrassment forever, I would.
Also, in that moment I feared that by being embarrassed, my embarrassment would automatically be simplified to the assumption by others that I was flustered merely by the use of the word "penis," which was not the case, not technically. But to those who witnessed it without the benefit of explanation, the apparent embarrassment over the mere use of the word "penis" therefore signified a hidden agenda that was suddenly revealed -- one that said, "The word 'penis' embarrasses me for a reason. Because I'm the secretive, perverted sort who types with one hand and actually finds something useful in those penis-enlarger emails."
This untrue and unsaid accusation was highlighted in the stoplight-red glow of my face, for all my colleagues and my supervisor to see. And this added to my embarrassment.
Collectively, it all translated into a thickly layered embarrassment that proved very, very uncomfortable.
How Red Did I Turn, On A Scale of 1-10? 10+, with sweat beading on my forehead.
At a party that night, while readying to relay the highly embarrassing story to my wife, a female friend comes up and says something -- it's difficult to hear her over the music -- about making something small (?). And my wife says, "Hey, he's not small!" while pointing in the general direction of my groin. They laugh obnoxiously.
Did I Get Embarrassed By the Situation? Yes, partly because I was having trouble following what was being said, and it felt as though they were laughing at me for something I had unwittingly done.
And then, on another level, I realized that by seeming embarrassed by my wife's meaningless teasing over the size of my penis definitively said to anyone who witnessed the embarrassment, "Hey, maybe he really has a small penis and that's why he's embarrassed by that comment." Which isn’t the case, not really, not at all, but who can you explain that to, aside from your wife, who already knows this? This, too, was embarrassing.
Ultimately, this embarrassment was an aftershock from the previous "penis comment" embarrassment that occurred at work. And since I was getting ready to tell my wife that very story, it seemed rather alarming that someone would come up and make another reference to my penis at that precise second. It was like someone -- God, maybe -- was out to get me. It was a caught-off-guard eruption of embarrassment. And once I realized that the female friend and my wife had both noticed my embarrassment (before pretending to be interested in a dull painting across the room), the embarrassment caught fire and blazed robustly for several minutes.
How Red Did I Turn, On A Scale of 1-10? A solid 7.5.
At the grocery store with my young son, while passing another father and son, my son farts with vigor.
Did I Get Embarrassed By the Situation? Not even close. I simply raised my eyebrows and nodded my head to the other father, a gesture he returned with an added glint of respect in his eyes.
How Red Did I Turn, On A Scale of 1-10? 0.
At work, near my cubicle, someone makes a fart joke and a few people laugh. Then, the female supervisor who previously made the penis comment enthusiastically tells everyone, "Hold on!" She runs to her office and brings back something called a "Fart Detector," which looks like a household fire alarm. We all gather around (me standing near the outskirts of the small crowd). The supervisor activates it, and the detector screeches to life. A robotic male voice shouts, over the sound of a siren, "Attention! Someone in this vicinity has farted! Please evacuate the area!"
Everyone laughs and laughs, and I laugh some, but I'm not one to get carried away with fart humor. I feel there's nothing wrong with it and it certainly amuses me. But I've covered that territory so many times that it's just not as funny to me as it once was.
To be fair, I think some people relive the spirit of fart humor when in a new setting that's not necessarily conducive to fart humor. In other words, if they're standing in the clinical environment of their company's office and someone makes a fart joke they first heard when they were 7 years old, they'll laugh like they’re 7 again, because hearing it in the odd environment is almost like hearing the joke for the first time.
But for me, the idea of old fart jokes playing new again -- no matter the environment -- doesn't make sense. If you've heard fart humor once, you've heard it a thousand times, no matter the environment.
That's what I'm thinking when I notice that some people in the "Fart Detector" circle are looking at me through their tears of laughter. I wonder why. Maybe because they're planning to use the "Fart Detector" on me? Maybe because I'm not laughing anymore? Maybe because they think that, because I'm not laughing, it must mean I'm offended or embarrassed by the "Fart Detector?"
I laugh a fake laugh, just to fit in. But even I know it sounds fake.
And, sure enough, someone says, "Careful with that 'Fart Detector.' You might embarrass him again!"
Very, very loud laughter.
Did I Get Embarrassed By the Situation? Yes, but let me be clear that it was not because I was embarrassed by fart jokes or detectors. Instead, I was embarrassed by the idea that they would think I was embarrassed by fart jokes or detectors. Then, I was embarrassed by their pointed cackling. And then, I was embarrassed by my embarrassment.
Also, thanks to the company I was keeping at that moment, I was once again reminded of -- and I therefore had to relive -- the previous, completely stupid "penis comment" embarrassment, which seemed to hang over the office environment like the big red stink of a fart, sirens blaring. This was very, very embarrassing.
And finally, I suddenly and sadly realized that, thanks to this overactive and recurring rash of embarrassment, which would only later be quelled by heavy intake of alcohol mixed with a variety of prescription drugs, I had somehow lost the respect of every single person in the building. Very, very, very embarrassing.
How Red Did I Turn, On A Scale of 1-10? 8, before walking away; 10+, while hiding in an office bathroom stall.
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/allensituations.html]
B R A V E S O U L S R E C E I V E
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Two Years Ago Today
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LET IT BE WIDELY KNOWN THAT
the inaugural issue of the
land-grant college review
is available for internet purchasing - it's very nice-looking,
and includes an interview with an eyeshot contributor
that's primarily about this guy
& those with quick connections may be interested in the latest
offerings from the irritable colonists