Learning to laugh at myself

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    By Trisha Barker

    I seem to have mastered the art of embarrassment.

    Most of my earliest memories involve something dumb I said or did, a lot of laughter from those around me, and a series of long, hot moments when the color of my face was nearly as red as the coils on an electric stove.

    I remember one such incident during a shopping trip with my mother and grandmother years ago. After hours of looking through endless clearance racks, I remember running up to my grandma, wrapping my arms tightly around her upper leg and asking, “Grandma, can we PUH-LEASE go home now?”

    I looked up to see whether she’d give in to my plea, only to realize that the leg I was holding was not my grandmother’s, and the look on her face was anything but pleasant.

    “You shouldn’t go around grabbing people you don’t know,” the lady said, as if I had been grabbing the leg of every other stranger that had walked by.

    Needless to say, I was embarrassed to tears. By the way I was crying when my grandma found me, she thought someone had tried to abduct me. I made her promise not to tell anyone, but that only lasted until dinnertime. My family made fun of me so much that I locked myself in my room for the rest of the night.

    A bit dramatic?

    Well, yeah … probably. But at the time, I thought my world was ending.

    That incident was just the beginning of a long string of embarrassing moments that have filled my life and defined the person I have become.

    There was the time my junior year in high school when I attempted to get my driver’s license. I was sitting at the stop sign right before the Department of Motor Vehicles when every potential driver’s nightmare came true – I was rear-ended by some lady in a minivan. Naturally it wasn’t my fault, but they still wouldn’t give me a license.

    “I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I have never been in an accident during a test before,” the test proctor said – as if that was supposed to make me feel any better.

    The best part of the experience was when the state trooper arrived on the scene. After examining the damage and talking to both drivers, he grabbed my driver’s education manual off the dashboard and began to walk away.

    “I think the lady behind you needs this more than you do,” he quipped.

    Then there was the time I got knocked out doing a complicated cheerleading stunt in front of the varsity football team. (I guess what goes up must come down — my skirt landed on my chest and the entire team got a peek at my bright maroon bloomers.)

    Then of course came my junior year at BYU. I was sitting next to my friend John, trying to help him through a family science class. Shortly after finding out his wife was expecting, we watched “The Miracle of Life” in class. Surprisingly, I was the one who passed out and HE had to carry ME out of the classroom.

    Perhaps my most embarrassing experience occurred that same year. I had moved into a new ward on condo row and was eager to get to know people. I went to that first ward prayer with great anticipation of what (or should I be honest and say “who”) was awaiting me.

    One guy seemed fascinated when he found out I was a sports reporter and eagerly asked what I thought of that year’s football team. With no hesitation, I told him I thought that the team had lost most of its key players and had too many big holes to be good enough to get anywhere. I found out later that night that he was the team’s starting punter.

    I was so embarrassed I thought I was going to die. But unlike 16 years earlier, this time I was able to laugh it off. For about a week, I turned 10 shades of red every time I thought of the experience. Now it’s become one of those “wait until you hear what I did” stories that I normally share during first-date or get-to-know-you activities.

    I guess I finally realized that life is a collection of good, bad and mediocre experiences. And unless we can learn to laugh at ourselves, things can get pretty miserable. Life can’t always be like we want it to and it won’t always run smoothly, but if we’re willing to laugh we can at least have a good time with it.

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