This is one of those stray stories from many, many moons ago that popped into my head the other day, and, as I may have mentioned before, it is my firm belief that my embarrassing moments have at least some redemptive value if I can share them and make you laugh a little. So, here goes.
It was my first basketball game at the new high school I was attending as a freshman. My family had recently moved from Chicago to a smaller city in another state, and I was learning, for better and for worse, what going to a smaller school actually meant.
The upside was, everybody knew everybody, and with not that many students, a new kid quickly got to be someone who knew everybody and was known by everybody.
The downside was, everybody knew everything about everybody. I had heard a couple of horror stories where kids were haunted still in high school by a moment of “indiscretion” dating back to early elementary school, so I knew a single event could make or break my reputation in my new world.
Thus far, I had done fairly well, however, making friends and joining several extra-curricular groups. So, I wasn’t brand spanking new anymore, but I was still a wee bit newish.
Since my school had a limited offering of sports, boys basketball was sort of the focal social sport of the year. Naturally, then, most people were there.
It was my first varsity basketball game, the first of the season, in fact, with a group of friends, basking in how much easier it was to be social and, well, cool in a small school. After a rough transitional year the year before with our move, I was now starting to relax and have fun.
My friends and I found seats toward the top of the bleachers on the home side, and in the row in front of us were a couple of cute college guys. One of my friends leaned over and whispered that the guy directly in front of me, the one with dark hair and oh-to-die-for white Levi’s on (yes, it was the 80s), had graduated from the school the year before and was now in college.
“Lots of girls had crushes on him when he was here,” she explained.
I could see why.
So there we were, being that special kind of obnoxious that only young high schoolers can be without drawing the attention of psychiatric specialists, when someone in the row behind me bumped into me, sending me pitching forward.
For the life of me, I cannot well explain why what happened next happened.
But, it happened.
I had been goofing around myself doing little cheers and so forth, so my palm was extended flat and forward, and as the force of the person behind me sent me falling forward, I extended my arm as a knee-jerk reaction to catch myself.
The next second, I swear, felt like a full minute, like impending disaster on mega-slow motion. Irrationally, this often happens to me in embarrassing moments, so that I can get the full bang for my buck, I guess. I could fully prognosticate what was about to happen, too, which should have allowed me to avoid embarrassment. I tried. I willed myself to stop what I could sense was in motion. “Stop it, shift, fall sideways, move your stupid arm, do a dance move, anything!” I screamed inwardly at myself.
I didn’t listen to myself.
My left hand, fully open, fell forward, and landed perfectly centered and with a fair amount of force on the college guy’s left white denim-clad, um,
You need to know that I’m not a perv.
I don’t know what happened, but somehow I could not stop the force of my body moving in the direction of his, um,
Myself as my witness, I tried. And failed.
You know that word that means “so mortified you might literally experience reverse peristalsis” except it hasn’t been invented yet? Yeah, that’s what I felt in that moment.
Oh, and to avoid having the rest of me fall into him, the only expedient option with high odds of success was to quickly push myself away from him. Using my left, strategically placed hand, of course.
You know, I just decided my children will not be allowed to read this post.
There’d be too much explaining to do.
And I’d never hear the end of it.
At any rate, he whipped around and stared at me, surprised. The look he gave was not good. If this had been a college game, and we all were in college, I suppose it could have been funny. But I was 14, and he was, well, not. So I can imagine how it felt to be groped by some hyper 14-year-old with braces and a bad perm. Well, actually I can’t, but I’m still guessing it wasn’t overly pleasant.
I can also guess that, given the perfectly-centered landing of my hand, he must have assumed that it was deliberate.
At the time, all I could think about was the fact that from now on, I would likely be known as the new girl that grabs strangers’, um, derrières. This was just the reputation I happened to be going for. Except the opposite.
The strange thing is, I remember the girls with me were laughing, but now, for the life of me, I can’t remember who I was with. They say people sometimes block certain details of traumatic events, so maybe that’s why.
On the other hand, I definitely remember the college guy. The look on his face when I inadvertently groped him is etched in one of the dark, dark recesses of my mind. I also remember avoiding this poor guy like a leper prone to fits of uncontrollable spitting the two or three times I saw him after that at various school functions. At the Homecoming game the next month, I was sweating buckets and developed a moderate twitch as I walked into that gym. And frankly, I’m reasonably confident that I saw him look my way once or twice at subsequent events and that there was something not unlike fear in his eyes before he quickly adverted them.
On the upside, for inexplicable reasons, the event didn’t haunt the rest of my high school career. I remember being briefly teased about it, but then after that, all regarding the incident went radio silent, so the event never defined my reputation in my small school as perhaps it could have.
Just as my experience in Walmart last week led me to believe I could make The Real Housewives of Walmart into a series, it occurred to me that Embarrassing Moments Should Be Shared could be a series as well. Because as I was writing this, at least a half dozen other embarrassing moments passed through my mind.
Some people can build an empire around precious moments.
For me, I guess my empire would have to be built with embarrassing ones.