Monday, July 8, 2013

Love is Sharing the Awkward

Embarrassment is an emotional state of intense discomfort with oneself, experienced upon having a socially unacceptable act or condition witnessed by or revealed to others.

When I was in my early teens, my family had dinner at Pappadeaux for the first time. At the end of the meal, our waiter took our left-overs to the kitchen to package them. A few minutes later he returned with another waiter from the restaurant. He explained to us that the other waiter had lost our left-overs, and insisted that the other waiter apologize, making certain that we knew it was not his fault. It was so insignificant a moment, but my emotional response was so strong that it has always stuck with me: I felt disgusted that our waiter was so evasive of blame as to cause more embarrassment than necessary for the waiter who lost the food. It was such an unimportant thing--losing the left-overs.

This memory pairs with a later one in my mind, when I was staying with a friend of a friend and accidentally broke a ceramic bowl. I was so embarrassed and felt so awkward. My friend, one Lisa York, joined in my mistake by telling the other, "we broke a bowl," thus relieving me of my embarrassment.  That is a good friend. 

Have you ever seen it when one partner in a couple is clearly embarrassed by the other? One partner may tell a joke that doesn't go over well in a crowd, and rather than laughing anyways, the other partner rolls his or her eyes. Such a response to an awkward moment not only reveals discomfort with the hypothetical embarrassing partner, but a lack of loyalty or compassion in the relationship. I know when I see this pattern in other couples I'm usually more bothered by the partner rolling his eyes than I am by the partner telling the lame joke.

Awkward Engagement Photo
Yet, sometimes being the eye-roller is tempting. When your partner says or does something that you would never do-- maybe dancing badly or giving away a little too much personal information
-- it feels like others will attribute the awkward behavior to you, and distinguishing yourself as separate from the behavior is the natural reaction. 

When we give into the temptation to separate ourselves from something embarrassing our partner does, we create separation not only from the behavior, but from the partner (and being unsupportive of our partners doesn't look very good to onlookers either). Is trying to save ourselves from a little embarrassment really worth divisive actions?

Joining in on an awkward moment and acting as if it isn't awkward or embarrassing at all not only avoids divisiveness, but creates a stronger partnership over all. Let the world laugh. What does it hurt?

"There's a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. If you can sit happy with embarrassment, there's not much else that can really get to ya." Christian Bale

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