Member Rara Avis
You know, I've never given it much thought before, but I honestly don't know if I've been embarrassed about anything since Junior High. Usually, I'm afraid I'm the cause of embarrassment, rather then the recipient.
Like the time I took my father-in-law, Don, to a downtown bar in LA when he visited California for the first time. Don was a typical Midwest guy, in his late fifties at the time, an ex-seaman and construction worker, and didn't understand why we had to drive for an hour to get a drink. As I recall, we were on our second or third beer when one of the patrons asked him to dance. Yep, it was a gay bar. To Don's credit, we finished our beers before leaving. But listening to him explain to my mother-in-law later was well worth the long drive North.
Or like the time I promised my younger sister, Nancy, I'd take her and her husband out when she turned twenty-one. She's nine years younger than me and VERY naïve. Nonetheless, she was a bit quicker on the uptake than Don and realized almost immediately that the dancers on the stage were wearing nothing but a smile from the waist up. It cost me twenty bucks under the table, but when one of the dancers tried to convince Nancy to "audition" the look on her sputtering face was priceless!
Same sister, a few years later, and Christmas was approaching. I bought her husband, Lance, a bong pipe (don't ask) and Nancy a pair of panties from Fredricks of Hollywood. I won't go into a lot of detail about the undergarments, but I will mention they included an attached whistle. And very little else. But the ensuring embarrassment really wasn't my fault this time - I had absolutely no idea that Lance's Mom was going to be visiting California for the Holidays. For years, Nancy would insist on taking my gifts into her bedroom to open privately.
I honestly don't know what it would take to embarrass me, though. Certainly, not nudity. As a photographer and painter for twenty years, it's almost blasé. My pool in California was well secluded and in all the time I lived there I don't think I ever bought a bathing suit. And, yea, I got "caught" a few times. One of my best buds, Mark (who later bought my company), pulled down my shorts in a very well attended game of hoops - little realizing the only thing beneath was a jock strap. I missed the shot, but I wasn't embarrassed (and thanks to the pool, there were NO tan marks).
Nor am I embarrassed by stupid mistakes (which are far too frequent in my life to be unusual). The first time I taught in front of a class a few years ago, I was so nervous I not only forgot the class notes I had spent HOURS preparing but even forgot the book I was to use in the class. There I was, in front of twenty strangers, and I had absolutely nothing to say. So I told them I was nervous because I hadn't done this before, admitted I had goofed, and we spent fifty minutes going around the room and letting everyone explain why they were interested in computers. It worked so well, I've since started all my classes with introductions.
This is a good topic, if only because it's made me think about what embarrassment really entails. What is this feeling we call embarrassment? Is it a form of shame? Or is it just emotional slapstick? Laughing at someone's else expense, like the guy who falls on a banana peel? Interesting…