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.

on Aug. 1 2012 at 8:36 am
I-Drink-Too-Much-Tea BRONZE, Nablus, Other
3 articles 4 photos 10 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I will do something by and by. Don’t care what, teach, sew, act, write, anything to help the family; and I’ll be rich and famous and happy before I die, see if I won’t!" -Louisa May Alcott

Embarresment is so powerful because it is the loudest and strongest wake up call to remind us that we are not perfect, just human.

on Aug. 1 2012 at 2:02 am
Writer_Jordan GOLD, Ellicott City, Maryland
15 articles 0 photos 182 comments

Favorite Quote:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

I loved this piece! I had a few embarassing moments in elementary school, and while everyone else probably forgot about them already, I cling to them!--agh. Teachers in younger grades do not know the effects of embarassing kids so young--it stays with you forever

on Mar. 23 2012 at 6:51 am
Personage BRONZE, Gilford, New Hampshire
2 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" -Mahatma Gandhi

This exact thing happened to me!

on Feb. 29 2012 at 9:19 pm
I love your story! I just love how each word has so much emotion and feeling behind it. This is a very well written story!

on Feb. 7 2012 at 2:08 pm
Amyelisee BRONZE, Lake Bluff, Illinois
3 articles 8 photos 117 comments
I love it!!!!!

on Jan. 16 2012 at 10:11 am
EPluribusUnum DIAMOND, Woodbine, Maryland
59 articles 24 photos 280 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head)."
-Sylvia Plath

I hate embarassment, it sticks with you for years. This was REALLY well written. Please, keep writing!

Unknown0_0 said...
on Dec. 3 2011 at 12:48 am
Unknown0_0, Valrico, Florida
0 articles 2 photos 253 comments
I can totally relate, I had so many embarrising things happen to me in elementary. Sometimes I actually think it is nice to look back at it all and laugh. Very well written, I actually felt like I was there. :)

on Nov. 11 2011 at 10:34 pm
MidnightNow1127 GOLD, Brentwood, California
12 articles 0 photos 46 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Christus nos liberavit!"

I can imagine how humiliating it must be for a kindergarten girl to go through that traumatic experience. I understand embarrassment, and I hate it :/ Brilliant title and very well written. I could picture it (unfortunately) the whole way through.

Lit.rox BRONZE said...
on Nov. 11 2011 at 7:09 pm
Lit.rox BRONZE, Kandy, Other
4 articles 0 photos 28 comments
Wow...seriously, this is one of the best articles i've read so the title...keep writing.

Bones96 BRONZE said...
on Nov. 11 2011 at 6:03 pm
Bones96 BRONZE, Charlotte, North Carolina
2 articles 0 photos 108 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life isn't about finding yourself it's about creating yourself-

I love the title. And you have a good point what is enbarrment? Why do we feel it? Anyway well written go story reminded me of somthing close to what happened to me.

Katelan BRONZE said...
on Nov. 11 2011 at 2:11 pm
Katelan BRONZE, Westminster, South Carolina
3 articles 0 photos 3 comments
OMGosh, never let your mom buy "them" for you... one time mine got me a pair a size too big (in high school) and I had a skirt on... my crush came over and there I was having to tighten my legs so that my underwear wouldn't fall down... talk about horrible! Great story :)

on Oct. 20 2011 at 11:54 am
TheGirlWhoDancesWithSnowflakes SILVER, Sunnyvale, Texas
8 articles 0 photos 99 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the world together."

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another,
"What! You too? I thought I was the only one."
- C. S. Lewis

Hm. Never heard of a story that included an abandoned pair of panties in the hallways. That's probably why your story is one of the best I have read in a while. :)

soldout said...
on Sep. 29 2011 at 6:57 pm

I literally have a ton to say on this:

1. Best title POSSIBLE!

2. Don't ever, ever feel like this is stupid. these awkward moments are shared with everyone sometime

3. i like how yu wrapped it up. i mean, honestly? what IS embarrassment? is it just a feeling?

4. i wonder why these horrible thoughts clog our minds so much!

5. yu should write a piece on a ( hem, hem) happy memory. just to even out yur writing

6. i'm giving this 4 stars!!

on Sep. 29 2011 at 4:31 pm
writingmagic26 BRONZE, Eureka, Missouri
2 articles 0 photos 34 comments
thank you so much!

on Sep. 28 2011 at 2:44 pm
clumsyteardropper SILVER, Roslyn, Pennsylvania
8 articles 0 photos 87 comments

Favorite Quote:
"You can't help others, if you yourself need help" -my sister ;) love it!

and i like your (tink1350) picture... cute ;)

on Sep. 28 2011 at 2:42 pm
clumsyteardropper SILVER, Roslyn, Pennsylvania
8 articles 0 photos 87 comments

Favorite Quote:
"You can't help others, if you yourself need help" -my sister ;) love it!

aww, i'd be embarrassed too!  but that was soo many years ago.
i get how you feel... my biggest embarrassment was in front of a whole audience!!  but im over it :P  VERY well done! :)

on Sep. 28 2011 at 1:19 pm
I also dont understand why we always remember embarassing moments clearer than we ever remember good moments. true we will all remember the day we won our first race, but we might not remember the time, the grade or any other number of details, yet when someone asks us to recall our most embarassing moment, vua-la!, there it is front and center, every detail of it, from the loudest laugh to the paperclip on the floor you seemed so amazed with, in an attemt to make less eye contact.... maybe we can fix this and maybe we cant but one thing is for sure, i sure as heck wouldnt want a memory like that to nag at me all my life. although i do!

bubbles said...
on Sep. 28 2011 at 12:41 pm

i love this book


bubbles said...
on Sep. 28 2011 at 12:39 pm

i love this book


on Sep. 28 2011 at 9:58 am
hobo12321 PLATINUM, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
20 articles 11 photos 62 comments

Favorite Quote:
none, there's too many, although the one about the grapefruit is good. Any by Douglas Adams

LOVED the ending especially the no words-words! keep writing!