My friend, Nancy*, said this, today, “You really have to be secure in yourself to reveal somewhat embarrassing stories to the general public, as you often do – I can’t help but admire that.” I really appreciated that.
Last night, Thor and I were talking and he said, “I got really embarrassed today.” I asked why and he said, “Snot flew out my nose and everyone laughed at me. Then, I wiped it away and everyone said I was gross, and they laughed more.” I commiserated then said, “You know what helps? If you laugh, too.”
I gave him a fresh example, as I had fallen off a curb on my way to lunch, yesterday. There were people standing on the sidewalk, and they laughed when I went down. It was embarrassing, it was painful (my swollen ankle can attest), and I felt really clumsy, “But,” I told my son, “I got up quickly, I shrugged, and I laughed too.”
“Because it was funny. If I had seen it, I might have laughed too. I’m sure I looked pretty silly with my arms flailing all around.” I demonstrated for him, “And my face like this!”
He laughed and I said, “See? Funny. So, the next time your friends start to laugh at you, you laugh. Then, they can’t laugh at you. Then, they are laughing with you. If they are laughing to be mean, they will stop because it isn’t any fun to laugh at someone who is laughing with you. If they are laughing just because it is funny, then you’ll all be happy. They will think you are a really cool guy because you can laugh at yourself.”
He was still skeptical, but I suggested he just try it and see what happens.
Listen, I learned that lesson the long, hard way. I used to break in half with embarrassment all the time. I don’t know when I got this down pat, but here is the deal: I find that when I tell on myself, it takes the sting out of the incident. I did it. Someone probably witnessed it. I don’t need to try to hide it and be ashamed of it because we all make mistakes, and maybe my mistake can save someone else some embarrassment, and maybe my mistake can make someone’s day better. I can’t tell you the number of times someone has confided something they have done, and I have been awash with gratitude because their mistake meant I wasn’t alone in my own perpetration of idiocy.
If me telling you about the time I asked out Mike Love by saying, “How would you like a girl to ask you out,” then repeating his answer back to him as saucily as I could manage, only to have him say, “Uh…I only like you as a friend,” saves you that embarrassment, then I have done a public service in the name of romance. Romantic Comedy actresses get paid big money to do that!
I am secure in myself, but I do believe that a lot of that comes of sharing my failures as warning, or comedy. That’s a chicken or egg thing, too. Yes, I had to have a degree of self confidence to tell the story of screaming out lines from the Merchant of Venice at the top of my lungs in response to being bullied, but sharing that story was also the first big step toward actually healing those wounds, and when people laughed it bolstered my confidence to tell more.
Telling on myself keeps me honest, and I like to think it keeps me from being so hard on other people. It’s really difficult to laugh at the people of Walmart when you are one of them.
*Nancy is the brilliant artist behind the official website for Yasmin Le Bon. Whether or not you know who Yasmin Le Bon is, you should take a look at this site. Nancy did all of it. ALL of it. It never ceases to amaze me that one person can put something like this together. I’m doing good to change the format of the blog now and then.