(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – February 2021)
I’m no psychologist, but I reckon that of all the emotions a human being can experience, embarrassment must rank one of the worst. For a start, you can’t control it. It happens. Usually because you’ve made a right klutz of yourself. Though it’s not simply the act of being dolt-like that triggers the reaction.
It’s more down to where you perpetrated this act of idiocy.
You see – In Your Home, No One Can Hear You Being A Klutz. It’s the presence of witnesses to the lummox-like behaviour that activates the adrenaline rush, speeding up your heart rate and dilating the blood vessels to improve blood flow and oxygen delivery. Blushing, in other words. Or word.
In effect, the emotion of embarrassment is controlled by others’ perceptions of your action.
Obviously, as we get older, we care less of what people think of us. (Oh, sorry – just me then…?)
However, having to put on your first pair of reading glasses in full view of an unsuspecting class of twelve year olds, while conscious of the communal hushed intake of breath – that’s embarrassing.
As a thirteen year old lad getting his first knock-back when asking for date from a girl you fancied? That’s embarrassing.
“How did you get on?” your eager friends would ask.
“Oh, she can’t make it this week because she’s got to wash her hair,” you’d reply, genuinely believing it. And you did – until you plucked up the nerve to ask again and had to report the same excuse to your pals once over. Now that was embarrassing.
As a half asleep and bored pupil, calling the Maths teacher ‘Mum,’ would have been embarrassing enough. But Mr Blair was not one to let these things go and for the next thirty minutes he certainly made the most of your discomfort.
You certainly didn’t fall asleep in his class again, that’s for sure. But, yeah – that was embarrassing.
Nothing, though, and I mean absolutely nothing, comes close to the sheer indignity and embarrassment of one incident in Year 5 at Westerton Primary. I’m actually cringing as I write this.
I should first explain that the three brothers who lived across the road from me went to a private school. When I was bugging my parents to take me to see the latest Man from UNCLE film, they were looking to extend their intellectual knowledge by going to museums and art galleries. They knew crazy shit, like Vincent Van Gogh, Rudolph Nuryev and Tchaikovski.
So one morning, Miss Wotherspoon rolled the school TV into class and we had a lesson about the people and traditions of some exotic Indonesian island. I say ‘some’ island because truth be known, I was sorting out the ‘swaps’ from my Batman bubblegum cards under the desk. I hadn’t a clue.
When the film ended, teacher asked the class, “Now children, where is Bali?”
I instantly perked up. I’d just been speaking to my neighbours at the weekend. I knew this. I thrust my hand in the air.
“Miss! Miss! Miss!” I grunted as only an over enthusiastic ten year old can.
“It’s at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow,” I blurted.
I can still sense about thirty young heads turning my way. Then the laughter. Oh, the laughter! But it WAS at the Theatre Royal, wasn’t it?
Even Miss Wotherspoon was knotting herself.
“Colin – that’s the ballet! Not Bali, the island. Now, who was paying attention?”
Billy Elliot wasn’t a thing back then, thank goodness. But have you ANY idea what it feels like to be a ten year old, West of Scotland lad, in the mid-Sixties, whose football obsessed peers think you’re into ballet? My ‘beamer’ turned puce. My shirt became plastered to my body. I was almost in tears.
And come playtime, nobody was interested in my Batman ‘swaps.’ They only wanted to see my cabrioles and pirouettes.
God, I hated my neighbours.