To my children.
Kids, I used to be the Mistress of Embarrassment – as I don’t need to tell you.
Remember that time we were in the video store and you were being a pain and I said, keep that up and I’ll do something Really Embarrassing. ‘Like what?’ you said. ‘Oh, like lying on the floor and kicking my legs up….or starting to talk really loudly about when you were babies and you -‘
Ok ok, you said, we’ll behave (or something like that). Next week, I thought I’d try it again.
‘That’s ok, go right ahead,’ you said. ‘How about WE do something Really Embarrassing.’
‘That won’t be necessary. I’m sure we can come to some arrangement,’ I said, ever the perfect parent.
And my point is? At my stage in life, I’m relatively immune to embarrassment. Maybe because so many embarrassing things have happened to me – like the time I wet myself in a tube underpass in London (not the first person to have done that, by the olfactory ambience), or the time a boy presented me with an empty plastic glass at the Year 6 formal and I threw it at him in a fit of pique (it turned out to be full of lemonade). I was born embarrassing.
At some point you have a choice – avoid it, or embrace it. I couldn’t seem to avoid it, so I embraced it. So now I rarely think about whether a thing’s embarrassing. If I want to do it, chances are I will – dance alone in public, wear red velvet to work, make my own CDs in my scratchy little singing voice, go swimming at the beach in my bra and pants.
The upside of this is FREEDOM. I get to do a lot of things that more hung-up people don’t. I don’t spend much time thinking about the things I’d do if only I had the chutzpah. I kind of have the chutzpah (how DO you pronounce that?).
The downside is that sometimes, inhibitions are good. Like brakes on a car. Sometimes I say and do things I shouldn’t – as you know well. You have to explain me away to your friends ‘yes, well, mum’s a bit unusual, but she means well’. I have to explain myself away to more tight-arsed – I mean normal – friends. I wasn’t showing my tits off to your husband, I was just out in the rain in my tee shirt. I didn’t mean to offend you by dancing on your coffee table.
So be free – but not too free. You have to live with these prudes I mean people. Even if you decide NOT to act appropriately – it’s still useful to know what appropriate is. You don’t want to be like the guy at the nursing home who’s forgotten it’s not ok to pee in the front garden, or the socially incompetent bloke who tries to score with the line ‘you’ve got a great ass, want to fuck tonight?’.
But you could take a tip from the eighty year old who dances up a storm on Senior’s Day at the Show in her dirndl skirt and lurid makeup. Why the hell not – you’re only eighty once!