Front Line of Embarrassment | Teen Ink

Front Line of Embarrassment MAG

December 1, 2008
By Ariel Dempsey BRONZE, Jenison, Michigan
Ariel Dempsey BRONZE, Jenison, Michigan
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Humiliated to the point of tears, I stepped out of line. My kindergarten peers giggled and whispered. More than anything, I wanted to disappear, melt into the ground. I stared at the floor, desperately searching for an escape. As the seconds passed, my stomach twisted into knots. The large and frightening second graders walked past. Their laughs bounced around the walls of the hallway and pierced me. I was blushing apple red and my face felt so hot that maybe, hopefully, there was a chance I’d melt away. To say that I was embarrassed would be an understatement.

Even now as I’m remembering that moment, I feel uneasy and self-conscious. Ten years have passed yet I still struggle reliving the event. I’m horrified even at the thought of another person reading this.

Though part of me wishes to forget that day, it is stuck like unwanted gum in the corner of my mind. I can still remember my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Baine, ringing the bell to end recess. As she vigorously waved the bell in the air, her entire body shook. I abandoned my hole in the sandbox and sprinted toward the door. As I dashed past my classmates their images blurred and my eyes locked on my destination.

I had a theory. For the last few days, I had noticed that there was a connection between winning the foot race to the door and being chosen as Leader for the Day. And my theory was proven right. As I stood ­victoriously at the front of the line, Mrs. Baine held up a yellow popsicle stick with my name etched into the wood in large, shaky writing. She declared that I had been chosen.

I was overwhelmed with pride. The position was highly respected by all kindergarteners. The Leader for the Day had extra cookie rights and spinning-chair privileges. This honored person was entrusted to call everyone’s name for attendance. But best of all, Leader for the Day led the line all the way down the hallway.

I was determined to have a great day. My first few hours were wonderful. I was giddy and excited. These feelings climaxed when Mrs. Baine lined us up for gym class. I proudly assumed my position at the front of the line. Spinning hundreds of circles in the comfy chair and gorging on extra cookies was great, but ­neither of these could compare to leading the class through the hallways.

Looking back, I don’t understand what was so ­magical about being in the front of the line for this two-minute walk. True, the first person had a more scenic view, but judging by the way we fought over it, there must have been more. A sense of excitement filled me whenever I was in front. I guess every other kid felt that way too. We invented ways to trick others into letting us cut in front of them. “What do scissors do?” was one such trap. The jealous person second in line often jeered, “First is the worst, second is the best!” Feeling left out, the third person might shout, “Third is the one with the treasure chest.” Despite everything, the Leader for the Day was guaranteed a position in front. Everyone knew and revered that fact, even if they were jealous.

Smiling and waving to friends behind me, I stepped through the star-covered doorway. Smugly, I marched forward. Nothing but open hallway was in front of me. Then my teacher stopped and I obediently did too. Mrs. Baine had a disgusted look on her face. Something wasn’t right. Suddenly, I felt vulnerable and defenseless with so much open hallway around me. She appeared shocked as she pointed toward the ground with a plump finger. Then she loudly asked, “Whose underwear is that?!”

I cringed, recognizing it instantly. I closed my eyes, hoping that when I opened them my underwear would be gone.

It was still there. On the floor. In front of everyone.

I stared in horror, and the Winnie the Pooh printed on it returned my gaze. I was ashamed. In my mind, Winnie the Pooh was babyish. Why, of all underwear, did it have to be that pair? Why did my aunt put it in my locker? I told her not to! I tried to hide, but there was no one to hide behind – I was the lucky person in front.

Around me, kids giggled and whispered. Mrs. Baine’s voice crescendoed. “Whose underwear is this? We’re not leaving until someone picks it up.” Her unease increased with the amusement of the class. I dreaded what was about to happen. I bit my lip, held back tears, took a deep breath and stepped out of line. As quickly as possible, I snatched it up.

My class howled in laughter. The second graders walked by and pointed, laughing. I quickly shoved my underwear into my locker. With what little dignity I had left, I slunk back to the front of the line and proceeded to lead my class to gym. My cheeks burned. Humiliated to the point of tears, I longed to disappear, shrink, hide, and sulk. The embarrassment I felt was so enormous, it hurt.

With ten years to heal from the trauma of this event, I now feel in a position to ask What is embarrassment anyway? As I think about it, the part of me that isn’t horrified by my kindergarten misery is laughing. Whoever is reading this thinks no less of me after hearing this story. What power does embarrassment have? It is just one moment of thousands in a person’s lifetime, happening to one out of billions of people, living on one planet out of many in the universe.

I am not the first person in history to suffer the distress of underwear displayed publicly. This has happened to someone else before – yet no one remembers it. The history books surely won’t record that in 1996, Ariel’s underwear was lying in the middle of the hallway. In fact, I bet not one other person can recall the humiliated kindergarten girl. So why do I cling to that shameful memory? Why do I still blush when thinking about it?

Maybe it’s because I remember that feeling. No words can do it justice. It was discomfort, distress, and disaster. It was crushing, self-conscious confusion. It was frustration, shame, and unease. It was embarrassment. Or maybe I still blush because part of me remains that vulnerable kindergarten girl, proudly leading the line down the hallway.

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This article has 122 comments.

Elyx3 said...
on Nov. 2 2010 at 2:13 pm
Lol, oh god. I loved this. I can totally relate to you about the whole leader being a godly position. My friends would do a "karate cut" and I remember that "first is the worst" saying. Everyone goes through something. I peed my pants several times in kindergarden. Ahaha, I wonder what we were thinking back then!

SOabby said...
on Nov. 2 2010 at 12:49 pm
i'm homeschooled so ive never been ambaressed in school but i have been embaressed a great many times before somehow you never can forget it. 

Curly_Sue said...
on Oct. 11 2010 at 4:19 pm
Curly_Sue, Sand Springs, Oklahoma
0 articles 0 photos 75 comments
i know what you mean about embaressing moments coming back to you. in 7th my friend/enemy somehow found out who i had a crush on and told the whole school. 2 years later, no one remembers but me and my best friend.

on Oct. 11 2010 at 6:50 am
sleepinginthegarden BRONZE, Kingston, Massachusetts
2 articles 0 photos 66 comments
the same thing happened to me in kindergarden even with whinne the pooh

lyl123 said...
on Sep. 19 2010 at 9:29 am
Very well written and ralatable.Wonderful job.

on Sep. 19 2010 at 7:46 am
deus-ex-machina14 BRONZE, Stewartsville, New Jersey
1 article 0 photos 439 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There are two main tragedies in life. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it." -Oscar Wilde

Remembering embarrassment is something I think we all do and no one really knows why since anyone who laughed or stared probably has forgotten all about it. You communicated it really well!! Check out some of my writing if you have time!

KelsieYellow said...
on Aug. 28 2010 at 5:51 pm
this is wonderful

ILIKE2DRAW said...
on Aug. 28 2010 at 2:02 pm
When I was in Kindergarden i went on the wrong day and was very embarressed, so embaressed that i hid until my mom came to get me.

on Jul. 15 2010 at 10:09 pm
DarkTruth BRONZE, Houston, Texas
2 articles 0 photos 14 comments
i really like your perspective its really intresting

on Jun. 1 2010 at 7:30 pm
AelitaReloaded PLATINUM, Scottsdale, Arizona
22 articles 0 photos 179 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The pen is mightier than the sword" author unknown (to me)

Embarrassing experiences help you grow as a person.  If it sticks out in your mind, that may actually be a brain mechanism for making sure you don't repeat mistakes that were particularly upsetting- just a theory!  Great writing!

on Jun. 1 2010 at 3:05 pm
LaughingGirl GOLD, Ocala, Florida
13 articles 0 photos 49 comments

Favorite Quote:
Play the music not the instrument. -Author Unknown

I like that a lot! LOL, but sorry about the embarrassment.

on Apr. 18 2010 at 9:05 pm
foreverever008 BRONZE, Portland, Oregon
1 article 0 photos 35 comments

Hee Hee!! 

You had lockers in kindergarden?!!?

Good job, though!

on Mar. 27 2010 at 7:05 pm
LihuaEmily SILVER, North Kingstown, Rhode Island
7 articles 3 photos 196 comments

Favorite Quote:
"It is said that there's no such thing as a free lunch. But the universe is the ultimate free lunch." -Alan Guth

This article is marvelous, truly brilliant. Kindergarten can be one of the toughest years. My teacher was a witch. She hated children.

Rhoswen BRONZE said...
on Mar. 27 2010 at 1:44 pm
Rhoswen BRONZE, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
2 articles 0 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Is it dead?"

I don't quite understand how or why, but as a first grader not one girl in the class wanted to play with me. If my memory stands correct, I insulted the leader of the pack, Brittany. Of course, it was very ironic when the boy she probably had a crush on befriended me, LOL!

on Mar. 8 2010 at 7:15 pm
celloizmylife PLATINUM, Atlanta, Georgia
27 articles 0 photos 72 comments

Favorite Quote:
Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long.
We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious.....And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
-Walt Disney

I've had embarrassing moments that were much later than kindergarten or first grade. Throughout third grade, our class had the mystery of who peed on the floor during the reading tests on Fridays. Obviously, it was me. On a standardized test day, just three or four days after my birthday, I did it again. The room was so quiet, I could see everyone's faces turned to me. Since that day, I always made sure to go to the bathroom before a test, and by the next year, I had a bladder of steel. That year still haunts me though. I'm sure my classmates still remember it (considering it was less than a decade ago). Keeping busy and getting newer embarrassing moments over the years however has helped me to forget. Until now...

on Mar. 5 2010 at 12:01 pm
LoveOfWords BRONZE, Ascot, Other
4 articles 3 photos 48 comments

Favorite Quote:
I reject your reality and substitute my own! -- Adam Savage

Oh, bless you! Were there any ramifications for the little boy?

on Mar. 5 2010 at 12:00 pm
LoveOfWords BRONZE, Ascot, Other
4 articles 3 photos 48 comments

Favorite Quote:
I reject your reality and substitute my own! -- Adam Savage

I'm always jealous of the Ariels of this world. No one remembers their trip ups because the Ariel dosn't care. It's strangly difficult not to be self-concious for some and not others.

Those are just my thoughts on it. Great job on the piece!

mandygale77 said...
on Mar. 5 2010 at 11:46 am
AWwwww! Great piece! I've never had an embarrassing moment worth sharing, and reading this, I'm kinda glad. Awesome story!

on Mar. 5 2010 at 11:33 am
Chuckney BRONZE, London, Other
2 articles 3 photos 16 comments

Favorite Quote:
"You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with. " Wayne Dyer.

Quite brilliant. I love the way the single story spreads out into a wider theme, and your writing style is entertaining and enjoyable to read.

on Feb. 11 2010 at 5:39 pm
emilymurphy BRONZE, Fairfield, Connecticut
4 articles 9 photos 3 comments

i absoulutey lovedd the ending. great job, and congrats on the mag(: