There’s nothing funnier than an embarrassing story–even if it’s about me—as long as I get to tell it. There’s nothing more humiliating than finding out that others have been telling embarrassing stories about me and I’m not there to spin it sufficiently toward funny and away from devastating. I assume that’s true for most everyone. Sharing past slip-ups and faux pas are very entertaining and, I think, a very healthy way to keep your ego in check. It’s like a colon cleanse without the laxatives.
I’ve been a professional “self-embarasser” for years now but I realized that I could reach new heights as a “child embarrasser” when my daughters were in preschool and I had volunteered to drive on a field trip. As I loaded my car with my four-year olds and the three extra ones I had been assigned, I asked the question we always asked at the beginning of a car ride: “Is everybody buckle-dee-buckled?” (I think it’s my husband Brent’s homage to Ned Flanders from the Simpsons but I’m not 100% sure.) My daughters groaned, “Mommmm…” I was aghast. Had I embarrassed them? I knew it would happen eventually but I assumed it would be at a mall or a slumber party. Maybe it would be in the school drop-off line as they were getting out of our minivan and I would yell, “I love you sooo much!” They would be pre-teen, not preschool. This meant I had years and years of “Mommmm!” groans to look forward to!
The most effective method for embarrassing yourself is to do it on television. I know this because I’ve done it and have the reruns to prove it. Four years ago my family was on HGTV’s “House Hunters.” If you know the show, you know that a realtor takes a family to see three houses and by the end of the half hour episode they have chosen and signed all the papers for their new house. My husband took a week off work to tape the episode. This involved sound and light checks, costume changes, and exterior shots (but no craft service, unfortunately).
We are a very accommodating couple in most respects, so when the director said she wanted a shot of me riding through the park on my bike with my son in the toddler seat I did it. When she requested a shot of Brent pretending to look at a patient’s chart with his nurse at his office she had it. When she suggested shooting me planting pansies in a rocky flowerbed near the trashcans, I was totally cool with that. That’s why we were both completely invested in the scene that consisted of me calling for Brent’s help while struggling to stack our nuclear holocaust supply of toilet paper in the closet of our old house to highlight our need for more storage space. In an Oscar-worthy performance I cried, “Brent, can you help me?” and he came running to my side. “That Charmin looks mighty heavy, little lady.” In the “I-Can’t-Believe-We’re-Gonna-Be-On-TV” environment of that week, we didn’t question much of anything. We just went along with any idea that came to the director’s mind. (Is that how Hitler got the Nazis on board? Why would anyone sign up for that insanity unless they had been meticulously lured into it with promises of their own cable TV show?)
When our episode aired for the first time, we watched it on a giant screen in the gym at our church with a bunch of our friends. That will go down as one of the top ten most embarrassing yet hilarious nights of my life. It was a like a car accident—I wanted to close my eyes but I just couldn’t look away. We had spent hours and hours taping what would be about 22 minutes of footage (after taking out the commercials). If you subtract every sixty-second update of the riveting storyline after the commercial breaks, then it would be more like fifteen minutes. So much had been edited out and some of the parts they did use—like the toilet paper scene—I barely remembered. Not to mention the things that happened off camera, like the time that I put pantiliners inside my shirt so that I wouldn’t have sweaty armpits. Somehow one of the pantiliners slipped out and made its way to the bottom of the sound guy’s shoe. I noticed it just as they were releasing Brent and I to leave so that the crew could stay and shoot some B-roll. I was in the van with the engine running before Brent knew what had happened. Gland control of a woman in her thirties was not something I wanted to explain to the twenty-something sound guy who had just worked on an episode of MTV Cribs before coming to shoot our show.
When I look at the whole experience—embarrassing parts and all—I’m still glad we did it. I got to spend a week with Brent doing something new. We gave our kids a wonderful gift—a readily available fun fact to use at freshman mixer games. We put our city on the map, hopefully in a good way. My one regret (other than the toilet paper wimpiness and the pantiliner), was the brown capris I wore one of the shooting days. In the shot of us walking up the front porch, I look like I’m wearing a “Big Momma” fat suit. Apparently, the camera added all of the fifteen pounds to my rear. Phew! I’m just glad I got to say it instead of hearing someone else say it first. I feel so much better now! A little dose of embarrassment from time to time is good for what ails you!