I heard a story once (on public radio, of all places) told by a woman who came so hard the first time she had a G-spot orgasm that she pooped a little bit in her boyfriend's bed. After she'd cleaned herself up, apologized profusely, and fled the scene, she explained to the assembled nerd-audience, she realized something: "I'm un-embarrassable," she said. "Any time I'm late to work, or have spinach in my teeth, I think -- could have been worse, could have pooped in the bed."
As you can see, this story made a big impression on me, because that is one of my greatest ambitions: to be totally and completely impossible to embarrass.
(It also gave me a lingering fear of shitting the bed during sex, because really, public radio, was that necessary?)
I dream of being able to casually brush off surprise!visible nipple jewelry or an ill-timed "fuck-bomb" the same way a distracted stable maid might sweep away a stray blonde flyaway from her unlined forehead. I have a few friends who can do this: if I point out mistakes they've made, they just shrug in a dreamy, self-possessed manner, unbothered by even the suggestion of possible negative consequences. If only, I think, watching them.
In reality, I am a socially anxious mothertrucker who, despite being a manic class clown at the best of times, dwells on past slip-ups I've made for literal years.
And while I am pretty shameless about things like "farting in enclosed spaces" (sorry, fellow humans on that post-kale shuttle bus ride) or "falling on my face in public" (an eternal state of being for me), it's that suggestion of possible punishment that really gets to me.
For me, the question of embarrassment always comes down to my pervasive need to be liked by the people I love and respect. I've never had a problem with singing "Fat-Bottomed Girls" in front of strangers or dragging around a piece of toilet paper on my shoe for miles because, really, who cares? I'll never see those jerkwads again.
It's only when I think that I might get in "trouble" somehow, either through friend-shaming or actual, adult, authority-figure consequences, that the moment is forever burned onto my soul with a humiliation-fueled welding-torch.
I'll still occasionally be momentarily stymied by the memory of, say, my high school history teacher materializing behind me at the exact moment I described the "Brokeback Mountain" gay sex scene, in great detail, to a friend who hadn't seen the film yet.
Or the time in college when I propositioned a man three years my junior while wearing the above "sexy unicorn" costume before slowly toppling over, sycamore-style, onto the sidewalk in front of two very patient cops. Or when my mom gave me a 20-minute lecture after she caught me giving a cadre of my little brother's friends semi-explicit safe sex advice at his graduation party. I'm literally hiding behind my hands just thinking about it.
(Weirdly, very few of my embarrassing life moments have actually been sex-related. I guess my brain is just so busy coming up with dumb things to say while naked that I don't remember to be awkward about the various misadventures that ensue until way, way after the fact.)
Naturally, the ever-present availability of technology has made my potential for humiliation even more haunting, because as we all know, The Internet Never Forgets. In the last fortnight alone, I've drunkstagrammed a photo of me and my co-worker making out, copied-and-pasted a chunk of fan fiction to my boss via instant message, and sent a potential professional contact a message from my personal Tumblr, which often contains pictures of scantily clad dudes.
None of this was the end of the world, obviously, but I spent literal days waiting for the hand of God / Human Resources to strike me down. In the meantime, I blushed almost constantly, like a 12-year-old lesbian watching "Chicago" for the first time. I'm half Irish; it's a condition.
Based on lists like these, I doubt most people's so-called "embarrassing" moments would miff me in the slightest. I mean, tripping and falling? Really?
I also suspect, though, that my personal retribution-based anxiety system is not exactly normal. But I'm always fascinated by other people's lines between embarrassment and day-to-day existence, so I asked the xo editors to describe their versions of the ghosts that wake them in the middle of the night whispering things like, "Remember the time you dropped your Diva Cup in the public bathroom and it rolled away to leave a blood trail at the feet of your supervisor? We'll make sure you never forget."
The results, as you might expect, were pretty dishy.
Julieanne: I've accidentally Tumblr'd a picture of my boobs and once texted my dad what color underwear I was wearing. MISTAKES!
Madeline: My boyf once accidentally cinemagrammed my boobs with caption "McBoob" AND tweeted it from my account. I was crying so much we got it down really quick but who knows who screenshotted that ish.
Natalie: I farted once as I orgasmed which was pretty moment-killing. I then laughed so hard that I farted again.
Louise: I once fell asleep during sex, but I'm not sure if it was more embarrassing for him or for me. For the record, it wasn't my husband.
Daisy: I called a guy by the wrong name once while he was going down on me. But kind of like Louise - I think it was worse for him. I was just annoyed that he stopped.
Mandy: In college, there were these legendary parties held off campus by these dudes who mixed the drinks super strong (spoiler alert, I think that might be all it takes to make a legendary party). Shit always went down. People got slapped. Hookups that shouldn't have happened happened. Objects were broken.
Well, my first time after going to this party, I pissed the bed of a guy I had drunkenly hooked up with and woke up to him carrying the sheets out like, "NBD." We hooked up several more times so maybe that was "his thing."
Another time after one of these parties, I woke up the next day to find half my chin had come off because I made out with a guy who had a beard and I was on Accutane.
It really is a wonderful life.
Emily: I had only been on a few dates with my high school boyfriend. We visited a Chinese buffet. Afterward, I was going down on him at his house and out of nowhere I just puked. He had his head tipped back and didn't notice. I recoiled in horror and tried to figure out how to tell him his dick was now covered in white chunky puke. He noticed I stopped and was like "WHAT? WHAT HAPPENED?" and I seriously considered just bolting and starting a new life before he had to be told.
Hannah: Either nothing embarrassing has happened to me or I am immune to it. Shrug.
Lucky, lucky Hannah.
So what about you guys? Personally, if I puked on a dick in a forest and no one was around to hear it (except the dude in question, I guess), I don't think I'd be bothered one whit. The prospect of, say, leaving the last half of my young adult werewolf novel in the company printer like I did in the summer of 2009 is far, far more horrifying to me.
How do you guys define your most embarrassing moments? And can we all agree that tripping and falling in public is, like, the least humiliating thing your life can throw at you? Just relatively speaking? Come on.
Kate is embarrassing herself on Twitter: @katchatters