This freshman slipped in vomit at her first school dance. Will she ever live it down?
Own it, says our elder. And remember that success is the best revenge.
Dear Elder, something so embarrassing and disgusting happened to me at my school dance this week. I was at my very first high school dance. I’m 14 and this is my first year here, so I’ve been trying to make a good first impression and not embarrass myself so much like I did in middle school, but while I was at the dance with my friends, I was walking over to the snack table when I slipped and fell in a pool of vomit. It was just sitting there, and no one had told the custodian about it. There was vomit all over my brand-new dress and my arms. The worst part is everyone saw what happened and a lot of people started laughing at me, I tried to hurry up and get up, but I slipped again and that made everyone laugh even harder and louder, so I hid in the bathroom until my older sister came to pick me up and even she laughed at me. I’m so humiliated. I don’t know how I’m going to show my face at school next week. I’m always embarrassing myself like I have a curse on me. I wish I could have one school year where I don’t make a fool of myself, everyone even calls me Miss Calamity, Klutz, Queen of embarrassment and stuff like that when it’s not like I do it on purpose, it just seems to follow me. What should I do about kids at school? What am I going to say to people?
I feel your discomfort and understand it. We all want to fit in, and occasionally we all do things that cause embarrassment. I have two thoughts about these situations.
How we handle them is an opportunity for grace. And how other people respond to them reveals more about them than about us. It shows who they truly are. First things first.
Yes, slipping and falling is often embarrassing. Sometimes the best thing to do in a situation like this is to own it. You could say something like, “Oh, this is gross!” or “Someone get me a hose!” or “Now who put that puddle there?” or “Bet you’re glad it was me and not you,” or “No photographs please” or “Now who wants the next dance?” or whatever you can think of in the moment (not easy, I know). By being in the moment and acknowledging that you know this can seem pretty funny, then you have people laughing with you rather than at you.
People likely laughed because they were either embarrassed for you or were glad it didn’t happen to them. We humans tend to laugh at situations where people slip and fall (think the Three Stooges). I don’t know why. If you think you tend to trip or find yourself in these types of situations, I see three choices. You can fight – yelling at people who react to your predicament, you can flee – quickly run away, or you can flow – laugh at yourself, with others around you, and make eye contact and say something acknowledging the moment (“there I go again” or “oops, that was clumsy” or whatever). You might even want to think of a few responses in advance that you would say if/when it happens.
Forgive yourself. These things happen. If people call you names like Klutz, you can own it. Say “Yup, that’s me,” or “That’s Miss Klutz, to you.” If you own it, you keep your power, and people can’t use it against you or make fun of you if you are already making fun of yourself. That diffuses the situation.
In addition, you will outgrow this stuff. So, make friends with people who see the real you, who have your back, and who stand up for you and with you. And let the rest of the stuff just roll off your back, with humor if you can. And success is the best revenge, so excel in whatever you can at school (grades, sports, theater, debate, writing, whatever your special talent is).
You can’t change other people, but you decide how you feel about yourself, and how you react to the world. I think this is a great moment to reclaim your power to be who you see yourself as. Be that person. And over time, others will see you as you see yourself.
It may sound like a cliche, but the teen years are challenging. Take deep breaths, hang with those who you trust, and tap your inner powers to emerge stronger and wiser.
Article #: 473569