Today’s Writer Wednesday’s post is about our most embarrassing moments. My problem is there are so many, it’s hard to choose. I’m not coordinated so there are instances of me falling, tripping, and dropping things at the worst times. I’ve spilled drinks on other people (like at the GH/Rita reception last year in NYC), broken jars in grocery stores that required Hazmat Aisle 9 clean up crews, and tripped getting out of a limo in a long gown (I fell on my face!).
So when this topic was chosen, I thought this would be easy.
I have a lifetime’s worth of ridiculous moments to pull from that I’d rather forget. Even if I couldn’t remember, I knew my kids and DH and even the dog would help me out.
They’re good that way.
But as I sat down to write, I thought about what it meant to be embarrassed. Or humiliated. Or shamed.
And I realized while I have a lot of ridiculously funny (now!) embarrassment stories, I have some memories that still bleed. There’s a black side to being embarrassed. And while the silly stories are the ones I re-tell, often enhanced with hyperboles, there are others that make me curl up in a blanket of humiliation and remorse.
Like the time I sent a not-so-nice email to a loop instead of a friend.
Or when I got caught in high school gossiping about another girl (it did not end well).
Guilt defines those moments.
But I’m a grown-up and try to stamp down my pride and take responsibility for my actions.
Guilt, mea culpas, and I are old friends.
If embarrassment is the lighter side of the house, and humiliation is the darker side, they both cover the dank basement of undeserved shame. While embarrassment and humiliation are always completely my fault, the third is often undeserved. Or, if I’m not completely inculpable, the level of censure far outweighs the crime.
Undeserved shame and degradation cause wounds that take a long time to heal. They can’t be turned into cocktail hour hilarity and often stay deep inside where they fester and burn.
And that’s the short story I’d like to share. The day I was asked to leave a Warehouse Store. The day I was shamed.
Many of us have been to those big Costco-type stores. Huge warehouses filled with enormous tubs of baking powder and nutmeg. Concrete floors, fluorescent lights, and free food samples. And everyone walks around ignoring the fact the entire place smells like feet.
One day, when my twins were newborns, my husband had to go on a business trip. I was within the six week postpartum driving restriction so I made sure I had everything in the house I’d need for a week. But then my son got sick. It turns out he required a special formula to keep his stomach settled and the only place to get it was at the nearby Warehouse Store (this is before Amazon Prime!).
Despite the fact I shouldn’t have been driving and was sleep deprived, I packed us up in the car with the double stroller and a fully loaded baby bag that weighed more than the two babies combined. All went well on the trip and I got everyone settled in the stroller and headed into the store.
I don’t know what happened next–maybe it was the fluorescent lights or the loud rock music blaring–but the kids started to fuss. A rush of adrenaline hit my system like a jolt of three espressos, and I picked up the pace.
I reached the pharmacy and asked for what I needed only to hear that I had to have a prescription, a different insurance, a few hundred dollars — blah, blah, blah. I asked for a manager, but she was at lunch. As I was dealing with this, my kids got crankier and crankier.
Then they started to cry. And newborns have a very distinct (re: annoying) cry. Then my son started to gag because his stomach was upset. The employees gave me evil stares, other patrons shook their heads and walked away.
Meanwhile, I was waiting for the manager so I could get the prescription and leave. My kids were screaming and my heart was cracking. I still remember how my legs and arms shook. I prayed I wouldn’t have a panic attack.
Finally the manager showed up without my prescription. She told me, in front of six or so employees and a ton of customers, that since I couldn’t control my kids (newborns!) that I wouldn’t be served. Then a security guard appeared. The manager and the guard threw me out without my medicine.
When we got outside, they both berated me in front of other customers coming in and told me that I was a horrible mother and never to come in again. They even took my membership card. I was banned.
It was one of the most awful experiences of my life. And while I get angry now, at the time I was too exhausted and stressed to fight back. They attacked me while I was vulnerable.
After they left, I sat on the curb. My legs hurt because they’d been holding up my trembling body. A massive headache hovered, and I was too exhausted to move. The kids were still screaming and I could barely see through the tears. That’s when I heard a voice.
An older woman knelt in front of me and asked me what was wrong. In between sobs, I told her the story. She stood and told me to stay where I was and not to worry. She peeked into the double stroller and I have no idea what she said, but the kids calmed down, their cries turning to light whimpers. Then she went inside.
A few minutes later she returned with my formula. Apparently, it wasn’t a prescription product but they kept it behind the pharmacy counter because it was so expensive. When I tried to pay her for it, she refused. She walked me to my car and helped me buckle the kids into their carseats (before carseats popped out and clicked into strollers) and put the stroller in the trunk. When I turned around to thank her again, determined to pay her back, she’d disappeared.
Poof! Just like that she was gone. I drove around the parking lot looking for her, but I never found her. To this day I have no idea who she was, but the kids are convinced she was an angel.
Yesterday, when I started this blog, I asked (again!) my now sixteen-year old twins why they thought she was an angel.
They just shook their shoulders in unison and said, “Because when we were in the stroller, she told us so.”
I’d heard this answer below, many times, but it’s taken me years to believe it. At least I know someone is watching out for us when the embarrassment is undeserved.
While I wish that incident had never happened, in some ways it’s been a blessing. It reminded me that in spite of the “meanies” in the world, there are those who care. There are people who will laugh with you, not at you. And there are people who will stand up for you when you are unable. And sometimes you’ll be the one standing for others.
In the meantime, I probably shouldn’t be allowed to grocery shop, step out of limos, or wear high heels.
Now I have to break that to my family.
Do you have any embarrassing moments you’d like to share? I’d love to know I’m not alone.
Thank your for spending the day with us. Below is a link of my Golden Heart sisters who are participating in today’s blog party. Hope to see you next month!
All photographs courtesy of Sharon Wray.