Last night, I did something embarrassing that I'm not very proud of. It was definitely not one of my better moments, but if I think about it, it's not really that bad. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being "I want to leave the country and go somewhere no one knows me", last night was probably a four.
As it was happening though, I think I remember that it felt like a 7 or an 8 for at least a short while. You see, we were at a friend's place for some Karaoke fun, and I was talking to a couple of my friends, and I started flirting with one of them who then basically said "Not gonna happen."
Followed up with the other one saying "Oh snap!"
Followed up with the other one saying "Oh snap!"
I'm pretty sure I lost my balance for a second. I literally almost stumbled and fell over backwards.
Luckily, I regained my composure within seconds. Well, at least from the neck down; I can't really be sure now if my face wasn't still cringing in shame and disappointment for a few more moments. I can't remember now - it's all very hazy. In all odds, it's probably very likely that my facial expression was totally giving away my true feelings even though I was holding myself upright and saying words with my mouth. I can't even remember now what I said after that. But I'm pretty sure I started rambling and tried to play it off really casually.
Anyway, I said enough words until I felt like I'd distanced myself enough from the embarrassment that my mind was already actively trying to forget. It was Karaoke night, damn it! I was gonna move on and have fun. I'd deal with the shame tomorrow when I relive the experience through highly unreliable memories.
And so that's what I've been doing today. I relived last night, but I'm not even sure how much of it really happened like I seem to remember today. I mean, memory isn't very reliable. Especially when it's a traumatic experience. I don't know if my mind has exaggerated certain details, or if it's downplayed some key events.
It's a good thing that we can't fully recall these embarrassing moments in life, but it's also terribly dreadful. It just leaves you with so many unknowns and so much uncertainty. Was it really as bad as I'm making it out to be? Did anyone even notice? Who am I kidding, of course they noticed. She said "Oh snap!" Or did she? Were the words "not gonna happen" actually spoken, or is that also a figment of my imagination?
I'll just pretend it's my imagination. I mean, I'll never find out anyway, so I might as well make it better in my head. It's not like I can just casually talk to them and be like "hey, so, um, remind me how you rejected me last Friday? I'm a bit fuzzy on the details".
Memory is shit. Unreliable and rarely verifiable. Still, this doesn't stop the brain from pulling up a highlight reel of you worst moments, accuracy be damned. And it's so easy to trigger too! One minor slip up during the day, and you feel slightly flustered, but you brush it off and carry on with whatever you were doing. But later on as your mind starts to wander, your brain reminds you of that awkward situation that happened earlier. And then it says "shit, this isn't so bad. You've done worse. Here, look at this", and it pulls up another embarrassing memory. It's like Youtube's autoplay, but each video gets suckier and suckier and the comments section is mean and snarky.
I guess it's helpful in a sense that it does allow you to put things in perspective. It's like a defense mechanism. A really sucky defense mechanism. And it's a mechanism that seems to function the same way no matter what age we are. I feel like I've been looking back at my past self and cringing for as long as I can remember. Not constantly, but it does happen every so often, and each time it happens, it feels the same. You'd think you'd get used to it and feel it less, but every time I cringe, it's pretty intense.
Sometimes I imagine things I almost said but didn't and cringe about that. Sometimes I project myself into the future, and cringe about things that haven't even happened. Sometimes I cringe so hard that I exclaim, even if I'm all alone. It's not even always coherent. I think it just comes from the strong urge to be distracted from the cringey memories, so I just say something like "Oh God", or "Oh well, would you look at the time". Sometimes I just groan. Sometimes I do this when there are people around, and they get confused. I would explain to them, but what would I even say? "Oh don't mind me, I was just remembering that I'm not really that cool"
Anyway, today I didn't dwell on it too long. Luckily I had plenty of things to keep me busy. I was going to write a short post about how much I love sweets and desserts for my FundMySmile blog. For this, I had to look through my Facebook photos to collect pictures of me eating dessert. As I scroll through my Facebook timeline I see some things and I say to myself "Oh my God, this is public? People have seen this? Why on earth would I ever share that? Let alone be proud of it. Oh my God get it off the internet nowwwww". And it's not like I hadn't seen some of these posts just recently. It's just that today, with my ego freshly wounded, it seems I'm more easily embarrassed.
It's not easy, putting yourself out there in the world. It doesn't always play out well. Sometimes I fantasize about becoming super cool or fly or whatever it is that kids are calling it these days, and then owning all my cringe moments, and be sort of like, "yeah, I did some stupid shit, but I'm honestly okay with that. Go ahead, look through the cringy photos, status updates and text messages I've sent. See if I care. I'm cooler than the cat's pajamas." And then everyone applauds my courage and honesty. Sort of like what Rebecca Black did by putting up her reaction video on Youtube, where she reacts to her hit single, Friday.
Sometimes I think about embracing the cringe. Become one with it. Like, it's not cringy if I make it my thing. I mispronounce a word while talking to someone I'm trying to impress? Mispronounce more words! Make it look casual, like "yeah, that's just a thing I do. I like to mess up the pronunciation of words sometimes. I'm funny like that". Did I say something inappropriate? Say something even more offensive! Show them that I'm just edgy like that. But then I come to my senses and recall that I've seen people just "go with the cringe" and try to play it off cool, and it's almost always cringier. There are exceptions though, and I think Lorde is one of them, for example. Check out a video of her performing live. She's such an awkward creature and she's got the craziest dance moves, but it's beautiful to watch because she completely embraces it and owns it.
Of course, another way to stop prolonging the feeling of embarrassment for longer than necessary is to watch other people embarrass themselves in worse ways than you could ever have imagined. And so I go on to YouTube and binge-watch cringe compliations. These cringe binges help by making me feel like less of a loser in comparison, which is a very comforting ego boost. It's like Chicken Soup for the Soul.
And that's why, I guess, there are whole shows with nothing but cringe, like the Office, Peep Show, and American Idol auditions. There's even a whole subreddit dedicated to cringe-worthy things at Reddit.com/r/cringe. I guess some people just like to watch other people in uncomfortable situations.
In any case, embarrassment is normal. People do stupid things and they regret them. While prolonged shame is unnecessary, regret is a good thing. It shows us that we know we can do better.