A few years ago, I listened to a "This American Life" episode that struck markedly close to home. The theme of this particular show was called "Cringe."
For those of you who aren't familiar with "This American Life", it is a weekly radio show from Chicago Public Radio. It can be heard either on National Public Radio or via podcasts.
The show has a main theme each week, and at least three entertaining/informative stories (or "acts" as they call them) that are told in relation to the theme for the week.
The opening story of "Cringe" was that of a man who accidentally mistook a "little person" for a small child.
He had left his glasses at his desk at work one day while he used the men's room. Upon exiting, he saw a person of small stature walking towards him. Although he couldn't see her clearly, he assumed it was a co-worker's daughter who regularly visited her father at his job.
The mix-up wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't playfully gotten down on all fours and did a fun little "crab-walk" towards the girl. By the time he could actually see her and realized it wasn't the little girl, but a dwarf (a temp who had started that same day), the damage had already been done. There was no way to recover.
I have had many "cringe" moments in my life, but the most traumatic occurred at age 12. One evening, I was in search for a towel. I wandered the house and ventured into our family's living room. I found my mother, father and a member of my dad's church ~a man ~ who had decided to stop by for a chat.
Did I mention I was completely naked?
We crawl up Cal's butt when he walks around without a shirt on; yet I apparently walked around the house completely buck nekkid when I was his age.
I flung the living room door open (didn't even peek in to check if the room was occupied) and the scene that followed is burned into my memory.
I recall the following scene in slow motion, like a sporting event that is played and replayed to accentuate the horror of an injury that has just occurred on the field.
All three of them slowly, painfully looked up at me, then slowly turned away with moans/grunts/gasps ~all uttering guttural noises of disbelief and horror.
It was quite the nightmare, as you can imagine, for a 12 year old girl. I was an awkward and self-conscious child anyway; puberty only exacerbated these issues.
I often wonder how the conversation continued after I rudely (and nudely) interrupted them? I only know that I didn't look him in the eye for years after that moment, and blushed furiously in his presence.
Another embarrassing moment happened just yesterday after church. I had recently purchased a shirt off of the 75% off rack at Target. It was comfortable and was a pretty color ~ and, most importantly, it was cheap. I quickly added it into my regular rotation of clothes.
Admittedly, I have been very lazy lately and have not been watching my portion sizes. My weight has gone up and has deposited itself, as it typically does, directly onto my stomach.
As I was standing with my husband and a group of people from church, a woman asked me my due date. I thought I misunderstood. "Your due date. When are you due?"
Dammit. THAT is why this shirt was on the 75% off rack. I looked at it again and it DID have a maternity-type look to it. The shirt's cut, in addition to my pudgy belly, indeed made me look pregnant.
The woman called me shortly after wards and profusely apologized. I wasn't as embarrassed as one might think I would have been...it was more an enlightenment. "Holy shiznit, I will never wear this top again."
"Does this shirt make me look pregnant," I asked Cal as we got into the car to drive home. He looked a little scared.
"I'm not going to answer that."
"No, seriously I want to know." He shook his head vehemently, his mouth clamped shut.
"Is it because of the shirt? Or is it the size of my stomach?" His eyes took on a panicked look and I decided to cease the torture.
Not only did I wear the shirt in question again, I am wearing it right now. It is comfortable and I like the color. And to be completely honest, people were a lot nicer to me when I was pregnant, so perhaps looking like I am pregnant isn't all that bad.
I'll get my act together soon and will start jogging again and eating salads. Until then, I think I will err on the side of comfort.
I'll just keep the "pregnant" thing in the back of my mind and won't wear it when I am buying booze. I don't think the sympathy would extend to a liquor store.