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Let gaffes and faux pas be bygones...

Let’s resolve to leave embarrassed blushes and nervous giggles

brunch Updated: Feb 03, 2018 22:52 IST
Rehana Munir
Rehana Munir
Hindustan Times
embarrassment,self-deprecation,nervousness
We all push ourselves to be socially skilled animals till embarrassment slips in through the smallest of cracks and roughly dismantles the elaborate structures we build around ourselves as protection.(Photo imaging: Parth Garg)

January is done. And now the year is down to 11 months, like the fortunes of so many of us in leave and license lodgings. If you, like me, haven’t been caught in any terrible misfortune, or achieved staggering glory, it’s back to business with bills and brawls, travels and travails. Not known particularly for my resolve, new year’s resolutions sound to me a sad and sweet expression of hope destined for failure. Like the expectation of a nuanced film from Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Or a good new U2 album.

But as any absurdist worth her black salt will tell you, we must make meaning out of meaninglessness. So this February, I’ve decided to perhaps strengthen a vague thought I lately seem to have had. Okay. That’s no resolutionary language. I’ll try again. I hereby resolve to get over an obstacle that has impeded my general progress from my grimy teens to grim 30s. I solemnly pledge not to be embarrassed.

Unfollow awkwardness

“By what?” the less vague among you might ask. That’s exactly the thing. Embarrassment is everywhere. In the spinach between your teeth, and the rip in your pants. In a Roxette obsession or fondness for bad puns. A misrouted text or one-sided hug. It’s when you applaud at the wrong time at a piano concert. (Hey. It was a long pause.) When you don’t get the memo to wear yellow at the wedding. (I wore red. At least it was a primary colour.) When you run into that person whose friend request you haven’t accepted on Facebook. (Do NOT guiltily say you’re NEVER on Facebook.) Awkwardness is its best friend. Fear its diet. Ridicule its worst nightmare. Enough, I proclaim. Enough of feeding the monster.

To get over the morbid fear of looking silly is to allow yourself the space to fail. A space to discover self-possession. But what to replace embarrassment with?

Where does it come from, this most inconvenient of feelings that follows a lapse in judgment? We all push ourselves to be these socially skilled animals, using knives and forks, language and laughter, all towards intended effects. Till embarrassment slips in through the smallest of cracks and roughly dismantles the elaborate structures we build around ourselves as protection. What’s worse, our bodies turn against us just when we want them to put up a brave front. It’s when the blushes come on, giggles set in and eyes desperately search for any object other than another pair of judging eyes.

Calling dibs on laughter

But these banana peels, literal and metaphoric, are everywhere. We’re all constantly messing up, some with obvious gaffes, others more subtly. Which brings me back to my resolution. If I were to get over the embarrassment factor, there’s no end to how foolish I could allow myself to appear. Okay. That didn’t come out right. To get over the morbid fear of looking silly is to allow yourself the space to fail. A space to discover self-possession. But what to replace embarrassment with? Self-deprecation is always handy. If you’re ready to laugh at yourself out loud, you could take the fun out of it for everyone else.

Better still is to put these momentary failures in perspective. Remember when Barack Obama flubbed his oath of office the first time around and had to do it over? I bet he was embarrassed as hell about it. And look at things now – his little flutter seems positively charming in comparison with presidential utterances these days.

Or when the Oscars awarded the wrong film last year? Again, the gory Hollywood misdemeanours exposed in the subsequent months have rendered that slip completely benign.

Imaginary armour

But somehow, despite Twitter trolls and stand-up acts, we’re routinely forgiving of national embarrassments, while magnifying our petty failures

Then again, there are some events that ought to occasion more embarrassment than they do. Chetan Bhagat’s novels and Navjot Singh Sidhu’s cricket commentary, Saif Ali Khan’s views on genes and education ministers’ thoughts on Darwin. But somehow, despite Twitter trolls and stand-up acts, we’re routinely forgiving of national embarrassments, while magnifying our petty failures. It’s like our public figures are shielded by imaginary armours that allow them to field the harshest blows with no consequences. And here I am, agonising about a misplaced comma and iffy haircut, a self-branded social disaster. I want that armour!

But until I obtain that superpower, I’m determined to look embarrassment in the eye and conquer it unblushingly. The next time I fail to identify identical twins (wouldn’t assuming that be racist or something?) or ask a hotel guard in Hyderabad how far Qutub Minar is (he was chillingly silent.), try to give away my college classics to a DVD-seller, using books as a decoy (“But I only sell double and triple X,” he pleaded) or demand a haircut at a shady establishment I genuinely believe to be a ‘family salon’, I won’t flinch. Embarrassment is so 2017.

From HT Brunch, February 4, 2018

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First Published: Feb 03, 2018 20:38 IST