Embarrassment. We all feel it, it’s inevitable. At many many points in our life we are confronted with the spectre of actions we have committed before, be they as a result of naivety, ignorance, stupidity, or maybe just a few too many G&T’s (that last one definitely isn’t from experience). There’s the shame of a poorly timed joke, the looks that could kill from everyone in the vicinity as you drunkenly attempt to replicate the moves of Mr.Thom Yorke (see above), the horrible, horrible, red faced heat that follows the fluffing of a line on stage, or tripping over in front of the whole school. So, introductions done, prepare yourselves for another rambling, and ultimately completely pointless meditation on the most misunderstood of all emotions.
I’ve been embarrassed many times in my life, basically all of the examples given above, plus oh so many many more, and at the time it is absolutely excruciating. There are so many ways in which one can embarrass oneself in any given situation, and given the number of unique situations we find ourselves in on a daily basis, the permutations are virtually infinite. I won’t bore you with a long list as would ordinarily be the case, but I instead want you to just close your eyes and remember the last time you embarrassed yourself. Cast your minds back, back to that fateful moment, wherever or whenever it may have been, who you were with, what you said or did, feel the blood rush to your cheeks as you realise what’s happening, the reactions of the people around you, the babbled apology, let it all pour out, and now you may cry for a bit.
If you’re anything like me then you probably failed at that last part, mainly because there are too many examples to choose from. We are all constantly embarrassing ourselves every day, whether it’s the accidental fart in front of a girl or a basic lack of knowledge about Disney movies, and therefore, much like my ramble about Anger, Embarrassment is another thing that I’m adding to the growing list of “Things we’d rather do without but actually kind of need in order to stay sane” list. List. What an odd word…list.
Without those moments in our lives we’d never be humbled, never have life catch us by the ankle as we’re about to soar and slam us back down to earth while tutting and saying “Not today motherfucker” like a sassy black woman. We’d all be runaway egomaniacs thinking we’re invincible, that nothing can stop us and that we have no one to answer to. That would be, as the great Karl Pilkington so eloquently states, “Bullshit.” Observe if you will, the humble celebrity, fussing and preening as if they weren’t just another in a long line of X Factor runners up with their own “fragrance line” festering in the bargain bin at Superdrug. Nothing can bring them down, they’re the rulers of Essex, the champions of ITV2 panel shows, the role models for, well, no one really, but then BAM, guess who gets papped flashing their knickers as they get out of their Range Rover down at the local strip club. Some might say it’s cruel, a violation of their personal space, I say the bastards deserve it, and in the same way so do the rest of us.
Allow me, if you will, to indulge in a rare and definitely relevant anecdote. The year was 2003, a 9 year old, button nosed and neatly comb-overed Srikar had now been playing the Classical Guitar for just about two years. He had easily outshone the rest of the students in his group (of four), finishing the basic books, doing his Prep test and Grade One, and was now rapidly progressing through Silvio Ranieri’s “Method for the Guitar 1.” It was a regular morning at Sutton CP, the register had been taken, lessons were getting under way, when he was approached by his teacher and asked to take a note to the IT room. What an honour. Anyone who remembers primary school will understand the sudden feeling of “Suck it bitches” that came with getting chosen to leave the classroom. I was a noble knight on a quest, the note was clutched firmly in my hand, and I crossed the hall to the other side of school, journeying to the Mount Doom of IT via the Mordor of the Key Stage 1 area. I had just cleared the library when I came across
Gollum Mrs. Chapman heading the other way. We stopped, and looked at each other.
“Good morning Srikar.”
“You play the guitar don’t you? With Mr.Mell?”
“He tells me you’re doing very well.”
“Oh, thank you, I’m getting better slowly.”
“How would you like to play in assembly tomorrow morning?”
“Erm, yeah sure.” (Read: AHHHHHHHHHHH).
So the next morning I got my guitar, got my book, walked in to school already a nervous wreck. But before I continue I just need to explain the concept of an Indian parent. Indian parents operate on three levels: Encouragement, Pride, and Shame. These can manifest in different ways, there can be happy pride, angry encouragement, and so on. That morning my mum had treated me to some happy encouragement, I was full of confidence, but as I had already learnt by the time I was 7, shame was never far behind. Pumped full of my mum’s kind words I left registration early to get set up in the hall. I had my chair, my music stand, I found the piece, tuned up with the help of the piano, and waited. Everyone filed in, sat down, Mrs. Jennings struck up the piano for the hymn. Some announcements were made, and then came my cue, “and now to play some guitar for us, Srikar from Year 5.” A smattering of applause. I steeled myself, got comfy, my hands were shaking like leaves with Parkinson’s, I played the first note, and froze.
Now I’m not sure just how long the pause lasted, it felt like an eternity, all eyes were on my increasingly reddening face, the reception kids were growing restless. I placed a shaking finger down on the string for the second note, I fluffed it. I quickly tried again, success, the first two lines went off okay, but then disaster. I need to clarify at this point that I play music from memory, I learn from the book but after a while stop caring, it’s just there for show. I wasn’t so good back then. As I reached the end of the next section I stopped again, I’d missed a note, but where the fuck was it? I scanned the page frantically, I had no idea where I was, the notes all blurred and looked like nothing more than dots and lines, my heart was racing, palms sweating, I decided to just sod the rest and skip to the end. I played the final few notes, and stopped. No one knew it was the end, so I did a sly nod, as a sign that I was finally done. Everyone sort of clapped, as I hurried off and glanced at the clock, it had been two minutes.
That morning will forever be in my mind, I think of it every time I’m about to play in front of someone, in an exam or at a performance, never be too confident (and don’t let your Indian mother big you up too much). Embarrassment proved to be a lesson, a valuable one, and as a result I’ve never thought of myself as a better player than I am. Not any more though, I’m awesome now. But ever since then I’ve taken embarrassment in my stride, it’s no longer something to fret and worrit over (sorry if any Dickens references slip in, getting hyped for Great Expectations), it’s a source of retrospective enjoyment and a lesson to be learnt from. So embrace your embarrassing moments, don’t treat them as black marks in your history, because just like anger making us enjoy the good times more, embarrassment makes those moments when everything just clicks into place all the sweeter.
The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate.
XOXO, The Blushing Indian