This week, I had a reader ask how to save face and move on if you’ve done something really embarrassing. Before we get on with it, I have to say that it is almost impossible to embarrass me. It can happen, but it’s rare. I’m the daughter of a nurse and a plumber so poos, wees and farts are child’s play in the embarrassment leagues for me and in my life I’ve worked with teenagers, drug addicts, prostitutes, kids with special needs, ridiculously stupid people and actors. There’s not a lot that shocks me. Believe me.
However if you were raised in civilised society as I clearly was not, here’s a few tips on how to deal with life’s little nasties. Hopefully, it will help you walk away from a red-faced moment with your dignity intact.
The Physical Faux Pas
I’m incredibly clumsy. I drop things, run into doorways and quite regularly fall down. Through out my years of public mishaps I’ve learned that the only way to deal with this is to be fabulous about it. I once fell down three flights of stairs, onto the stage of a theatre in front of 100 people. I cracked my face on my friends arse while simultaneously breaking my fall with both my knees on a concrete floor. It resulted in stunned silence from the entire audience and I ended up bleeding from nose to knees. It was humiliating, but I got up, faced the audience, did a little curtsy and asked if anyone could spare a tissue for my mass hemorrhage. Everyone laughed, realised I was okay and I ended up with plenty of tissues to mop up my rather frightening blood loss. It was so much better than if I had slunk, red-faced to my seat, burst into tears or left the theatre. It sucks if you fall over. It sucks even worse if you let it hurt your pride as well as your body.
The Body Blooper
I’m talking burps and farts here. I’ll start with burps. You can genteelly burp behind your hand and no one will ever know unless you ate a garlic kebab for lunch. If someone asks if you just burped, just reply honestly that yes, you did burp and apologise saying that you had garlic or whatever offensive food for lunch. Or beat them to it right after you burp by saying ‘I’m so sorry, you’ll have to forgive my breath. I ate this Greek salad for lunch it was full of garlic. Do you have a mint?’. Nipping it in the bud is always a great option.
As for the fart… all I can say is just try to pinch it off. Try hard. Really, really hard. It’s difficult to recover from a public fart. If it’s loud it’s awful, if it’s smelly it’s even worse. If one does slip out, as occasionally they do, blame it on something medical. Say you’re on antibiotics and they make you gassy or say you’re doing allergy testing so you’re eating unusual foods. Apologise quickly, and move on. After all, it is a normal bodily function so we should just unclench, pardon the pun. Also, if you can blame someone else, do it. If you’re in a corridor, blame the guy that just walked past. If you’re in a mall, aim your fart at a kid and blame them. You can’t do this too often though or people will catch on that strangers seem to fart around you a lot. I have to reiterate that avoidance is truly key here, so work hard to suppress. Even if you have to make a little grunting noise. It’ll be way better than the fart, trust me.
The Slip of the Tongue
I once met a woman who said to me, mid-conversation ‘I love the Lord Jesus Christ. Love him, love him, love him.’ and I promptly laughed my arse off. Mistake. She wasn’t joking. She was the Pentecostal, organ playing, wife of a preacher. Like speaking in tongues and shit. Whoops. I apologised. Straight away and very sincerely. She brushed it off and we went back to our conversation. Then later, she said ‘It was so lovely to meet you. I would LOVE to set you up with my son. You’d be perfect for him. Well, except for the whole eternal damnation thing.‘ It was perfect, because I was sincere in my apology and continued our conversation despite a very obvious differing of opinion and she felt comfortable enough to have a joke about my slip of the tongue. Look, we all say unintentionally offensive things sometimes but I have to point out, it’s so much better if you realise it’s offensive at the time and can apologise and make things right. So the next time you accidentally make a joke about how rude French people are in front of a French person, be thankful of your awareness. Because you now have the power to fix it, rather than have that person walk away thinking you’re a jerk off.
The Monumental Eff Up
You screwed up at work. Big time. It’s a bad, stupid and idiotic mistake, and it’s not funny. You can’t blame it on a stinky kid and you can’t take a bow and demand applause. There’s only one thing to do. Own it. Apologise. Fix it. Do it quickly and never let it happen again. Also it helps to not have any opinions for at least a month and be really willing to do the coffee run. Just for a month until it all blows over.
The Prodigal Gossip
You said something not so great about someone else and it got back to them. First of all, naughty girl/boy. Gossip is nasty, but what’s done is done. When the person confronts you, you need to say ‘I’m really sorry. What I was trying to say was X and it came out as Y, and I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, I won’t do it again.’ Fights, feuds and bitchiness breeds when people don’t admit they are wrong. So save everyone a lot of time and negative energy and own it.
The bottom line is that you have the choice to be embarrassed about something and you have the choice to not be embarrassed. It takes some practice but you can re-learn your thinking and start to feel more positive about the little bumps in your life’s path.
Also… can you actually remember the last time you were really truly embarrassed? I can’t. Even the stories I’ve told for this piece didn’t really embarrass me at the time. They amused me more than anything. Honestly though? Time heals all wounds and it heals embarrassment the fastest. Just remember that.