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The art of embarrassment

We all make fools of ourselves every so often. Speaking for myself, it’s ‘more often’ than ‘every so’. It would be fair to say; I’ve made it an art form.

Misjudgments, mistakes and sheer stupidity account for many of my foibles. The truth is, being mortified is pretty much second nature to me.

I hang my hat on the notion that intent is everything. If only it were enough.

I remember back when I was 7, I was in catechism class and my tummy hurt so badly. Despite repeated acts of waving my arm and asking for a bathroom pass, the teacher was not sympathetic (nuns … don’t even get me started!) so there I sat. I thought that if I could eke out a tiny little silent fart, it would get me by. It was the only survival instinct I had and I went for it. Needless to say my attempt was far from tiny or silent. The sound and the smell ripped through the room like an atom bomb. It’s hard to bounce back from something like that when you’re 7. I still cringe and wince when I think about it.

Then there was the time when in an attempt to surprise my (then) husband, I wrapped myself in saran wrap, put a bow on my head and waited for him to come home. That was about the time I realized I couldn’t walk, I had wrapped my legs together and I couldn’t sit down. It was also the moment that we had a power failure in August in the Valley. By the time my husband got home (about an hour of waiting), I was a smelly ball of sweat that had swelled under the wrapping. We had to cut it all off as the moisture made it impossible to unwrap me (thanks for nothing Cosmopolitan Magazine!). We headed off to the emergency room for the prickly heat that covered 90% of my stinky body. I cling to the fact that my intent was awesome.

Later in years, I remember walking out on stage to deliver a keynote presentation to a room of 150 people only to later discover that the back of my skirt was tucked in to the top of my panty hose and there was a trail of toilet paper hanging from my underwear. Yeah. That wasn’t awesome.

Embarrassing moments are non-discriminating. Age, gender, financial status; we all fall into the pit of humiliation at one point or another. Another indisputable fact is that they help to mold us and define our limits and abilities.

I remember my 7 year old daughter choreographing a musical extravaganza in our backyard for the family and our neighbors. She and her best friends had practiced and planned for weeks. During the performance she took a hell of a tumble off the small trampoline and landed on her face. Stunned, she paused for a brief second then hopped to her feet, extended her arms above her head and yelled to the top of her lungs, “Ta-daaaaaah!”  That’s what I’m talking about.

Eventually we learn a lot every time we do goofy things that we later realize we should have known better. All the instances I have had the bravery and insanity to share with you instilled in me an uproarious sense of humor about myself and a bounce back quality that has served me well throughout the years.

If you never venture out of your box, you’ll never humiliate yourself. I’d rather have the humiliation than the box.

I have found that there is tremendous value in the act of being embarrassed. If you can find your way through it to hold your head high, you’re way ahead of the game of life and anything that it can (and will) throw at you.

Fear of being embarrassed or humiliated is what stops so many of us from pursuing the careers, the people, the events we want in our lives. There’s a reason that public speaking is the second biggest fear (dying is the first) that most people harbor. We are so afraid of making a fool of ourselves that we don’t even try. What could be sadder than that?

In being my own best friend, I have found that I am often my own worst enemy. I think that’s true for most of us. Feeling the caution but not listening to the fear is an art form that embarrassment and humiliation teaches us very well.

I can guarantee that my days of doing stupid things are far from over. But I’m comforted by the fact that I have never allowed my failures, faux-paus and misjudgments to hold me down or keep me back.

Like my father always said: never let them see you sweat. They never have.


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Trenna - We’re all hoping to hear about the rest of the mishaps this weekend We all agree, there is no one in this world like you!!! And, we love you!

Joan Cooper - What comes to mind, Tammy, is all the embarrassing moments celebrities have and just get richer and richer in spite of or because of.

As George Clooney said….’eveyone has a camera these days, and if you happen to put your finger up your nose…they get it…’

ost people would be embarrassed by the short term marriage (?) Kim Kardashian had. But no, she may run for Governor of California and then who knows?

And then there are those politicians.

You just need to learn how to make your embarrassments an advantage for you.

Joan Cooper

Rick Gualtieri - Mishaps happen, fortunately some of them are humorous after the fact.

A few years back I was putting on a Halloween show for some neighborhood kids. It was a “living dissection”. I one point I was supposed to knock out my victim with a mallet. I used a real rubber mallet. The plan was to miss his head (obviously) and slam it into a piece of wood behind him so it would sound as if I had just clunked him. Long story short, I missed him as planned but somehow wound up hitting my own thumb instead of the wood plank. Yep, broken.

Still managed to finish the show, though. 🙂

Tammy - Hi Trenna, it’s good to be back in Denver! I’m so looking forward to the writer’s conference but looking forward to connecting with old friends even more! I love you too!!!

Tammy - Hi Rick. Ooooo, ouch! I can hear it crack. That sounds more tragic than embarrassing but I give you a gold star non the less. Funny how we remember stuff like that, isn’t it? For me, it was over 50 years ago. Maybe it’s time I let it go. Still, I’ve gotta confess, it sure taught me a whole hell of a lot. Thanks for being here, Rick, and thanks ever so for the post.

Tammy - Hi Joan, I wish there was a way I could make money off my embarrassing moments. I’d be a millionaire! Instead I am left mortified but all the wiser. I truly do believe that moments like these in our lives help to define our tolerance for humiliation and thereby define our abilities. Thanks for sharing your insight. So love having you here!

Cynthia - Oh Tammy, I recall the saran wrap story and still chuckle when I think of it. We all have had embarassing moments, but many of us keep them to ourselves and pretend they never happened….too bad, as they are often humbling experiences that are best shared. Can hardly wait to see you this weekend.

Jennifer Eubanks - Tammy, I too remember the saran wrap story and tell it many times to others! I also have a “few” other stories that you failed to mention…i.e. 21 gun salute. I do believe being able to expose and then laugh at our embarrassing moments makes us more apt to venture out of our boxes. Something I’m still working on… but better to work on it than ignore it all! Thank you again for the laugh…it is the best medicine after all!

Tammy - Hi Cynthia, Some things are pretty darn hard to forget. Darn it. I shared that story with just a few chosen friends and every single one of them remembers it vividly. Me too. I have to say that I am the better for some of the humiliating moments. While I still wish many of them had never happened … I’m grateful for the person they have helped me to become. Thanks for your post. I can’t wait to see you this weekend either!

Tammy - Hi Jenn, Oh, ouch. Do we have to mention the 21 gun salute? I’m still pretty mortified about that. When the time comes, please tell your dad that I meant no disrespect. I’m just a born goofball and act on survival instinct. I only hope he got a chuckle out of that. Thanks for being here, Jenn, it’s awesome knowing that you are.

Mel - Dear Tammy,
Tammy, The last post was very honest, very open, and the strength here is that you are fearless – not cowardly in expressing yourself or letting the embarrassing moments get to you. Everyone can detail their list of embarrassing moments.
I still remember the disaster singing solo in front of the auditorium in the 5th grade. Keep writing!

Tammy - Hi Mel, so happy you enjoyed the read. I’m a lot of things, but cowardly has never been one of them. I might be better off if I had a dash of it in me somewhere. I find it warmly interesting you mentioning how embarrassed you were singing solo in fifth grade. We never quite seem to get over those things, do we? We even remember the queasy feeling in our stomachs. If we don’t own the humiliation, the queasy tummy, we never really learn from it. Thanks so much for your post. I know you tried to post twice and I want you to know how much I appreciate you staying with it. I’m just delighted to have you here.

Kellie - Ya mine. Working in downtown Century City. We always walked across Avenue of the Stars to get lunch. This area was known to be a wind storm area. There was an ATM used by all on Santa Monica Blvd. and Ave of the Stars. I went to pull money out of ATM with a male friend. Before I knew it my skirt was over my head stuck to my face like plastic wrap and I was wearing thong undies! The cars are honking giving a thumbs up! I am trying to pull dress down and keep my money from flying away all my friend could do is laugh! Thanks Robert my dear friend!

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