The beauty of maturing is that you don’t have to suffer through embarrassment anymore. I remember being in my teens and EVERYTHING embarrassed me. If I walked out of a bathroom with toilet paper clinging to my shoe, it was enough to make me want to commit hari kari.
All I ever wanted to do back then was blend in and not make a spectacle of myself. I’d rather skip a class than walk in late.
Now it doesn’t bother me a bit to straggle in late to something. I have been late to golf tournaments and either (1) begged a golf pro to give me a ride out to the hole or (2) run across several fairways trying to catch up with my team. I wave at everyone I pass and no longer think a thing about it.
Certainly it’s better not to get into situations where I’d be late, but now I see that it’s more important that I’m there than it is to worry about what people are going to think of me. I know my team needs me – I get lucky and hit a decent shot every now and then. I also know that if you are kind to people they’ve forgive just about anything.
Although if someone isn’t kind to me, I’m not embarrassed about what I say. One time I was in a crowded parking lot, it was around Christmas, and I was waiting for someone to back up so I could get their space. It was someone really slow, and they eased out, taking an eternity. When they finally got out of the way and I was pulling in, a car came out of nowhere and whipped into the space. A tacky woman and her hunched over boyfriend got out – she was driving. I yelled, “Hey, you took my space.” She yelled back, “I got there first.” I yelled, “But I was waiting for it.” And she yelled, “So?” And I yelled back at the top of my lungs, “You’re nothing but white trash.”
My daughter literally dived into the floorboard of my car. “Oh my gosh, Mom, please tell me you didn’t just yell across the parking lot and call someone white trash in front of all these people.”
“Well, she is,” I said.
My daughter is embarrassed about everything, and she was shocked. We had just been to church. “What if someone from church heard you?” she asked. She didn’t want to get up, even though the white trashy woman had already waddled into the store. Her boyfriend at least had the decency to look sheepish and shrug his shoulders as if he agreed with me but what could he do?
Years ago I would never have confronted that woman, and maybe I’m white trash myself for doing it now, but I just don’t care. If someone I knew had heard me, I would have been mortified, I guess, but I would have made the best of it.
Maybe that’s the difference. Maybe it’s not so much the fear of embarrassment anymore, it’s knowing that, whatever happens, I’ll manage to get through either by being witty or silly or apologetic or whatever it takes. Plus I’ve discovered that people don’t really pay that much attention to my goings-on. Nobody’s waiting around to see what I might do and pass judgment on me.
If I could give advice to teenagers, I’d say, “Don’t let fear of embarrassment hold you back from anything you want to do.” I’d have a whole ton of other advice, too, if any of them would ever listen, which they won’t. Especially if they’re related to me.
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