Wednesday, November 3, 2010


From the moment we are pulled and separated from our loving mother's womb and brought out into the cold, harsh reality that is the world by the cruel hand of some doctor, we unknowingly agree to be a part of some rather unfortunate events, activities, feelings and more. Shame, pain, break-ups, mathematics, the SAT, rejection, illness and much, much more make us miserable. There is one, though, that rises above all of these and makes us want to curl up and die. This event is experienced by everyone, mostly by awkward teenagers and pre-teens and can only be described as a gut-wrenching, bone crushing, tear inducing nightmare. We've come to know this experience as embarrassment. And as you know, it sucks. A lot.

Out of the many things Canada produced, sociologist Erving Goffman was probably one of the best. Mr. Goffman made many contributions to the field of sociology, including his study of symbolic interaction in the form of a dramaturgical perspective. When taking a dramaturgical perspective, we see people as actors presenting a "front stage self." But, like all actors in a theatrical production, before heading out on stage to perform their role, they must prepare themselves backstage.
Before you head out with all your friends and people you associate yourself with, you probably, you know, get ready and make yourself appear presentable. Heaven forbid you walk out with your grimy, smelly pajamas. No, instead, you bathe and change clothes in order to look not gross. In this example, your front stage self, the self you decide to show your friends, is clean and not gross. Your backstage self, the self you hide from the world, is gross and grimy. Get it? If not, do some research. I don't know if I did an adequate job explaining it, but if I didn't, get over it. I'm not a teacher or whatever.

There's a reason why I'm telling you this, you guys. Trust me.

But what happens when your backstage self is revealed to the world? Or when our "performance" goes all wrong?
Embarrassment happens.
And we want to die.

This unpleasant feeling is dreaded among us all. Many of us live in fear from it, avoiding all situations that can embarrass us such as reading out loud in class, dancing, singing, swimming in a pool, etc.
But, like everything else in life, if you worry too much about it, you're pretty much fucked. You will lose your sanity and people won't want to hang out with you anymore. You'll be boring, and boring people are not fun to be around. Those who will attempt to hide their backstage self from the world will constantly be cautious of what they do, say or wear. Every fleeting moment will be spent in constant fear. It won't end well. So, instead of avoiding it, embrace embarrassment.

Embarrassment is next to impossible to avoid. Fortunately, we have methods of lessening the impact of embarrassment. Your fellow "stage actors" (friends, family, etc.) will employ the use of tact when you become embarrassed. If something goes wrong, your fellow actors will support you and lessen the blow. You'll be fine.
Wise words were spoken to me once. I was told that embarrassing yourself at least once every day would prevent you from becoming a robot. That's probably true, too.

So, dear reader, wear your pants and shirts backwards, burp in the library, lose control of your bodily movements, have your stomach growl loudly at a funeral, and smile proudly, for the cilantro lodged deep within your gums are a sure sign that you are indeed not a robot. For the sake of your sanity, go forth and screw up.

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