I remember embarrassing moments of my youth with puzzlement. I’m unable to muster up the sheer mortification of my thirteen-year-old self whenever my father put on his new dark brown rubberized sandals over white crew socks. He only wore this atrocity on his feet when he donned shorts. We lived in Michigan so thankfully for an embarrassed teenager those summer months passed quickly.
Recently, as I set about to drink my coffee wearing a purple terry cloth robe and white crew socks, I decided to go outside for the newspaper in the driveway. I slipped on my sandals and ventured out to retrieve the paper. Neighbors whizzed by on their way to work, and I waved happily. I laughed to myself and remembered my father who passed away thirty years ago. I no longer felt embarrassment. Instead I longed to parade around my yard with him, both of us in white socks and sandals.
These days most of my embarrassing moments pass quickly and turn into stories embellished and fine-tuned, ready to pull out for any occasion that warrants a laugh or a place in one of my novels.
Here’s a story told to me by a friend that brings a smile every time I think of it because I know it could happen to anyone in similar circumstances.
This man, I shall call Tall because he is 6’5”. After a back surgery, doctors gave Tall a 50-50 chance of ever walking again. But walk he did, and on his first major excursion, Tall ventured to the grocery store. Dressing still remained a chore so he only managed shorts that morning – shorts now quite loose on his frame after the surgery. Walking down the crackers and cookies aisle, Tall felt a breeze and then almost tripped on the shorts now wrapped around his ankles. There he stood, all 6’5” of him, naked from the waist down and only a wire cart to hide his privates from Mrs. Cozy picking out a box of Triscuits.
How do you ask an eighty-year-old stranger of the opposite sex to pull up your pants gracefully? Tall determined he could not. Maneuvering his not-easy-to-hide body behind the cart, he managed to edge the shorts eventually up his legs because Tall still had trouble bending over. He walked proudly to the checkout counter after smiling at Mrs. Cozy and wishing her a very good morning.
As I age, it is not those physical moments that embarrass me. I fear those moments when I might stand naked to the world revealing more of myself than I ever intended.
One such “embarrassing” moment consisted of a combination of both types — physical and personal embarrassment. It happened during a kayak trip with a friend on the Santa Fe River in north Florida. I was the know-it-all guide to my friend who had never been in a kayak.
We stopped to visit with another friend who lives on the river. When we returned to the kayaks, I broke the No. 1 rule in boating. I attempted to get in the kayak while it was not secured but just floating on two-foot high water. Soon I was in the water and my kayak on top of me. I watched as my camera in a waterproof bag floated near the shore.
“Grab my camera bag,” I yelled to my friend who stood on the bank.
“So that’s how I should get into the kayak?” she asked, not so innocently.
I extracted a promise from her not to tell anyone about my fiasco, mostly because of my wounded pride. She agreed, although when we climbed into the shuttle van to return to our car, she announced to everyone she had successfully completed her first kayak trip without going in the water like some others she knew. The other canoers and kayakers looked at my wet clothes and smiled.
My friend kept her promise, but now I am going to tell the story my way — with the embellishments that all writers use.
After I righted my kayak and pulled it partially up on the bank, I noticed a gator sunning on the opposite bank. He lowered himself into the water to swim across the Santa Fe River to learn who interrupted his Saturday morning nap. I stood absolutely still as I held my kayak to prevent it from floating away.
When he discovered it was only a human doing another embarrassing thing and disturbing his habitat, he floated away, leaving us in peace.
And I stood proudly in the water, naked to the world, not embarrassed in the least.
I hope you enjoy your holiday weekend. And if you decide to go kayaking,
- go with at least one other person,
- put the cell phone (and camera) in a water proof bag,
- wear good water shoes,
- wear a life jacket or at least keep one within easy reach,
- avoid using an inflatable kayak in places where you might encounter wildlife such as alligators or sharks,
- never feed the wildlife,
- take what you brought back with you when you leave,
- leave behind only the ripples from your oars or paddles,
- enjoy the moment and give thanks for such beauty.