On the prowl for embarrassment

Hoping for more stories to tell

I hope my second year is a doozy. Like every other ambitious little college goblin, I’m always on the prowl for opportunities to achieve academic and personal success, but deep-down, at my core, I’m really looking forward to all the embarrassments this next year must have in store.

I should explain myself here, and to do that, I have to tell you a story. It’s a story born of embarrassment. It’s the kind of story I would love to have more of.

When my sister and I were preteens, my grandmother had a stroke. She was paralyzed on one side of her body and confined to a hospital bed in a nursing home in Gwinnett County, Georgia. She couldn’t walk. She could barely talk.

You won’t — and perhaps shouldn’t — believe me, but this is going to be a funny story. Scout’s Honor.

A week after the stroke, the whole extended family collected in my grandma’s room to visit a sharp, caring woman in this new sterile space, the scent of expired potpourri mingling with and masking traces of disinfectant. Clustered around my grandmother’s bed, the family formed a semicircle. My parents, cousins. Aunts. Uncles. Me and my older sister.

Around the same time, my sister was about 13 or 14 years old and just beginning to dabble in photography. She’s a talented professional photographer now, concentrating mostly on portraiture in the American South, but at the time she was just trying to whip out her pre-owned Nikon COOLPIX and take some top-notch glamour shots of herself. Throughout middle school, she curated an impressive portfolio of surprisingly attractive self-portraits (think Miss Teen Texas 2010 beauty pageant headshots here). As her begrudging photo assistant, I always silently prayed it would end soon so I could finish my Friday evening eating toaster waffles and google imaging Chad Michael Murray as God intended.

Anyhow, my Mother had bought some newfangled electronic frame to give my grandmother, loading it with family pictures to help her through her recovery. As the whole family gathered around my grandmother’s bed, my Mom placed the frame in front and started the photo presentation. Aw, it was a photo of all the cousins at my granddad’s farm! Look, a little me eating boiled peanuts with my grandma! There were photos of family reunions and birthdays and then, suddenly, my sister in a tiny red cocktail dress, looking back at it.

It was dead silent. The slideshow continued with more wholesome family photos until, just as we were all unclenching our lips, another pin-up style photo of my sister appeared. This time she was in a Halloween costume interpretation of a sexy cowgirl. Tied-up plaid and cutoffs with fan-blown hair. One after another, the photos flooded in as we all realized that someone had made a mistake when uploading the photos. The slideshow concluded with an image that will forever be seared into my brain — a young, braces-wearing me in feathered boa, murdering an innocent chocolate-covered strawberry and winking into the camera.

My grandmother, unable to speak after her stroke, struggled out three words.

“Make. It. Stop.”

This story never fails me. It universally kills. Not only has it come in handy at numerous parties and dinners this past year, but I even told it at my tryout for the University’s mock trial team which I am now a member of. It’s funny, sure. There’s an element of dark humor there, but I would argue what makes this story a personal favorite is the element of embarrassment that everyone can relate to. It’s that element of embarrassment I’m looking forward to inevitably encountering in my second year.

I’m locked and loaded for some red-faced, sweat-stained embarrassment because I’m looking forward to achieving the ultimate goal in life — accruing more stories to tell. When you view every flub as an opportunity to make someone else laugh down the road, it’s hard to ever regret the stupidity of a singular moment. What’s more, people who never experience the occasional royal mess-up tend to be bores. Frankly, if any such people attend this University, I would ask that they continue being well-adjusted far away from me.

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