Thursday, March 27, 2014
There are two things I fear: 1) Dying and 2) Being embarrassed. And there’s a difference between looking foolish and feeling stupid.
Example 1: I was hiking with friends when I tripped over a root and rolled downhill halfway to China. I popped up at the bottom, speckled with dirt and leaves, chirping, “I’m good! It’s cool!” My companions laughed hysterically and so did I. It was funny, and I appreciate funny.
Example 2: I was stowing my carry-on in a plane’s overhead bin while wearing a baggy pair of jeans. Being the height of a Smurf, I had to stretch waaaay up high to shove it in. When I sat down my boyfriend, who’d been fighting the same battle with his bag, whispered that everyone got a glimpse of my belly from the front and my underwear from behind.
I shrugged and said, “No additional charge,” which I still think was witty. (The boyfriend married me three months later, so it worked out.)
Then there are the other times. Recently Widdle and I went to a funeral, then out to eat—I had the spinach salad, because I eat spinach almost daily. Then we stopped at a grocery store. I headed for the avocados and promptly lost my husband.
Wandering in search of Widdle, I ran into Frank Johnson, who edits this and two other newspapers. I was distracted, my left contact was trying to pop out, and my feet hurt in the spike heels I’d insisted on wearing. As Frank and I spoke, I blinked, peered around and shifted from foot to foot. Charming. But I did flash a big grin as we parted ways.
I finally found Widdle and we went home—where I discovered spinach firmly wedged between my front teeth. I almost died. This wasn’t a shred; this was a chunk that practically blacked out an entire tooth. Widdle said he didn’t notice it, which begs the question, do I always walk around with spinach in my teeth?
Last Sunday may have been the pinnacle of personal embarrassment. We were heading to St. Paul’s in Summerville. We hadn’t been in ages, because Widdle’s United Methodist Church is one block from the house, so that’s where we usually go. (Yes, I am theologically lazy.)
I was feeling sharp in black Diva pants, crisp white blouse and a fitted navy blazer I loved but hadn’t worn in years. I pulled it on as we headed out the door. “Do I look OK?” I asked Widdle.
“You’re fine,” he replied.
At church, we settled in my favorite pew down front. About 40 minutes later, we had the passing of the peace. As I turned to say “God’s peace” to the couple behind me, Widdle gasped and began slapping me vigorously on the neck and shoulders. I thought he had lost his mind.
“You have dust and—and... old hairspray, maybe? All OVER your shoulders,” he hissed. “It’s everywhere!”
I was mortified. I hadn’t seen some of the parishioners in years, only to show up looking like a crazy cat lady. “Let’s leave!” I said. “Now!”
“No, no, I’m sure nobody’s noticed,” he said, still beating me fiercely.
I was almost in tears as I shrugged the blazer off—which then made me look like a server in a nice restaurant where black slacks and white shirt were mandatory.
“I’m humiliated,” I muttered. “HUMILIATED.”
I sulked for the rest of the service, and halfway through the brunch we went to afterwards.
“Next time I’ll inspect you closely,” Widdle promised. “But I really don’t think anybody noticed.”
The jacket is now at the dry cleaner’s. I don’t know what we’re going to do about the spinach.
Julie R. Smith, who will never trust a navy blazer again, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.