Monday, May 25, 2009

List: Ten Awkward and/or Uncomfortable Moments

1. Like Ross in that episode of Friends: Prior to our wedding, along with getting a haircut and shedding some pounds to fit in my mom's wedding dress, I whitened my teeth. My buddy the dental hygienist hooked me up with an appointment for the trays and bleaching gel. A novice to this process, I kept the trays in for hours two nights in a row. On the third day, aching pain that made me cringe at the mere notion of air accessing my teeth rendered me speechless. I told my English classes that day I wouldn't be talking and silently endured the throbbing shame of vanity.

Upside: my teeth matched my dress on my wedding day.

2. Don't nettle with me: Tracy Chapman gave an outdoor concert in the piazza of a hillside Italian town while I was studying abroad in Florence during junior year of college. It was an extroardinary experience, only marred by the fact that as we waited for "Traaaahhcy" to appear, I had to go to the bathroom bad and there were no public restrooms in sight. Desperate to both relieve myself and not miss a single tune, I scrambled over the edge of the stone wall surrounding the square and tripped down the hillside to a reasonably secluded bushy area. And into a bed of stinging nettles my bare bottom descended. Which felt like relief followed by a warm, spreading burn.

Since then, there are Chapman songs that always bring a sting.

3. Probably should've sprung for the hotel: I traveled the Kenyan coast with a new friend during the Christmas holiday the year I lived in Africa. We were on a budget, so spent many nights camping but one particularly memorable night when a local we met over dinner offered to put us up. The evening began with beer and chicken curry, which, I described in my journal, "wasn't really curry and had a smell that reminded me of rotting dead fish." Kenyan Ben overheard us talking to our waiter about options for shelter that evening and generously mentioned that his dad and he lived in the police barracks and had plenty of space for us. I was skeptical, sniffing for a scam, but how shady could a Kenyan cop's son be? And how bad could police barracks be?

Bad, it turns out. We slept that night atop dirty laundry in a filthy, hot, airless room crawling with both cockroaches and mice and buzzing with mosquitoes--and no netting. From my journal: "I hoped the beers would help me sleep, but with chicken stomach, cabbage burps, and the entire 'ambience' at Ben's dad's place, I counted the hours till dawn instead." I've never felt sweatier, nor more trapped and crazed than I did that long night.

4. Why pregnant women coughing make me wince: I contracted bronchitis during the last month of my second pregnancy, and one afternoon a deep cough resulted in a POP! No, not broken waters, but a cracked rib. Ouch. The only comfortable sleeping position for a few days was sitting up straight, cross-legged like a Buddha.

5. Shut up while they talk about me, please: Not long after moving back to my hometown and meeting my now-husband, we went out on a date at a popular local eating establishment. At some point I realized that the subject of conversation of the party of four seated at the adjacent table was my very own family--a sort of "Who's Hot and Not." Fortunately, I had been away from home long enough that they didn't recognize me, while my husband-to-eventually-be kept talking despite my shushing, preventing me from shamelessly eavesdropping.

6. Dear Classmates, where should I begin?: In the earlyish days of email, a close friend of mine initiated and hosted our college class's listserv. Excited to touch base with my buddy, I responded to his greeting with the details of a recent break-up and my new teaching job in Southern California. When I opened my email a few days later, I found my inbox full of responses...including the message from myself. I recall the cold pit that grew in my stomach as I read email after email kindly informing me, "Hey, not sure you wanted everyone in the Class of '93 to get this!"

Thank you friends and strangers, and a special shout-out to the helpful guy who wrote me, "By the way, I'm single, and I live in San Diego!"

7. Like What About Bob, only different: I grew up taking intermittent sailing lessons and even sailed a season on my college's sailing team. "Skipper" is not a title I would ascribe to myself until fairly recently, however. Nevertheless, in 1997, when I lived in Africa and a friend came to visit, we made a trip to Lake Naivasha, and were offered use of friends' sailboat. It wasn't longer than a fifteen-minute sail before the boat capsized and my hapless friend and I were trying futilely to right it. We--and the boat--required a rescue of sorts from the hippo-inhabited water. As we recovered from our misadventure over some lunch on the deck, a young man who clearly missed the events of the morning approached me. "Hey, I hear you can sail?" Of course, we all laughed. But there was a race that afternoon, and he needed a crew. So, what the heck.

It would be my first time in a harness, and the first time this poor guy dragged his crew outside a boat, when I lost my footing for a spell. "Hold on!" I remember yelling, as my backside and I dragged in the water beside the boat, "I'm out of the boat! I'm GONE..." and his response, "Yet strangely still with us!" Then he turned the boat in a precipitous direction and I snapped back onto its side like a rubber band. He was super glad he met me, I'm sure.

8. If it sounds like a strange idea, you'll look strange trying it: My high school cross country team competed one season in an invitational meet on a course of dirt trails after several days of rain. We watched runners in the heats before ours slip and slide in the mud, and someone brilliant in our crowd suggested that we wear a pair of socks over our shoes to increase traction. I opted to try out this strategy, borrowing a pair of tube socks from a teammate. About half a mile into the run, the socks began inching their way off my shoes, creating a soggy, floppy "tongue" hanging off the toes of each sneaker. When it became clear that the situation was only going to get worse--increasingly stretched-out muddy sock ends slapping my ankles with each stride as bemused and amused spectators laughed--I paused to pull them off.

Not my best race.

9. The straw that broke the camel's back, which made me fight to get him back: The time my now-husband and I were on a break but living in the same town...After an early-morning weekend run, a friend and I lingered, chatting, on a corner equidistant from our homes. And who should drive by us right then but Almost-Not-My-Husband, with a female in his passenger seat. I remember her hair was wet. And I remember seeing the light.

10. Seriously: Did you just say what I think you said? (Sorry, Mom...): On a family ski trip over New Year's when I was in college, and my boyfriend got to come along. My parents and their old friends were celebrating New Year's Eve with champagne and fresh oysters. I'd never tried an oyster on the half-shell, so I expressed interest and was offered one. I gulped it down and looked at my mom, who is not a fan. She raised an eyebrow at me: "So. Remind you of anything?"

1 comment:

Jared and Kate said...

I'm pretty sure it was the boys in our family that were in the "hot" category and us hapless girls in the "not" (if I remember the story right) least we have hot brothers, I guess. :-)