Three days ago, I walked into a glass door in a very crowded restaurant.
I’d just eaten some delicious freekeh hummus and was perhaps momentarily distracted. On the other side of the glass door, people turned to look. I don’t blame them. I’ve seen many minutes on YouTube of young children running headfirst into glass windows but it’s not often that you see a fully-grown adult do so.
As I walked inside, one lady in particular kept looking at me with the hint of a smile on her lips. Nearly a smirk but not unkindly. She looked like she wanted to say something. Either ask me if I was okay or if I’ve done it on purpose. I smirked back at her like we had shared a private joke but was internally dying a slow and painful death.
My friends were complete unfazed. They were nearly bored with the whole non-event.
“Well, someone has to do it,” said one friend. But why did that person have to be me?
Sometimes I lie awake at night and relive all of my embarrassing moments. I go back in time, refresh my memory as to what I did exactly and how I felt in that moment. It’s through these masochistic exercises that I still remember with a disturbing accuracy each and every of my embarrassing moments. I’ll be an 89-year-old woman on my deathbed, groaning about something I did when I was 13.
But there is something strangely pleasurable about remembering your own and hearing about other people’s embarrassing moments. A small cohort study of five friends revealed that flatulence featured highly on people’s most embarrassing moments. Farting at school camp, farting during year seven silent reading, farting while sneezing. One friend cited farting in front of her boyfriend as her most embarrassing moment.
“Are you crazy?” I asked her. Sure, no one likes farting in front of somebody else (unless absolutely intentional and with malicious purpose). But your boyfriend has presumably seen you in much worse states. He has presumably even seen your asshole at some point. Literally the gateway to your rectum. Who cares if he hears you fart?
“The first time I farted around my boyfriend, I was sitting on his lap,” said another friend. “That was pretty embarrassing.”
Embarrassing or an opportunity for two souls to come spiritually closer together? What bonds human beings more than vulnerability, the exposure of our soft underbellies to the outside world? That and the byproducts of our enteric bacteria is always a sacred experience.
In year 10, I went through a stage of repeatedly drooling during maths class. The first time it happened, I was sitting next to my best friend when a droplet of viscous liquid fell onto my book. Instinctively, I looked up, thinking there was either a leaky hole in the roof or a dead body hanging from the ceiling fan, dripping its ooze onto me. But there was nothing up there.
My friend looked at me.
“Is that drool?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said, puzzled. We laughed while I pondered whether I had just had a cerebrovascular accident.
I should have been embarrassed and maybe I was for a short period of time. But instead, I felt this had been a unifying experience between my friend and I. She hadn’t been disgusting or horrified by my lack of salivary control. We had shared a moment and now 10 years down the track, I look back at it with fondness.
Embarrassing moments bring us together. Although at the moment we might be wallowing in self-pity, there’s something wonderful about being metaphorically (or perhaps literally) naked and exposed. During these times we’re not collected or composed. We’re the six-year-old kid who wets themselves in school but it’s okay because at least one kid wets themselves every day in year one. Or better yet, we’re the 89-year-old geriatric patient who flatulates loudly and unabashedly in a four patient room and doesn’t give a shit (or maybe he does give a little shit but at least he’s wearing a pad).
Reassuringly, most people are empathetic in these unguarded moments. After walking into a glass door in front of 30 people, not one person laughed at me and I’m convinced that the girl who smirked was just concerned for my welfare. As for my friends, I’d never felt so heartened by their lack of concern.
“At least it was in front of people you’ll never see again,” said one friend and then promptly went back to eating her waffle.
Mollified by my friends’ attitudes, I wanted to go back in time and take a bow. To luxuriate in the feeling that I’d just broken the unspoken barrier between me and these other people. The social niceties and polite silences. I wanted to laugh with the lady who had smirked at me, to congratulate the restaurant owners on how well they had cleaned their glass doors and how good their freekeh hummus was.
Utter humiliation can be a cherished time in our lives. I’m only now realizing that.