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Front Line of Embarrassment This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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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.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 122 comments. Post your own!

Panda500 said...
Oct. 11, 2010 at 6:50 am:
the same thing happened to me in kindergarden even with whinne the pooh
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lyl123 said...
Sept. 19, 2010 at 9:29 am:
Very well written and ralatable.Wonderful job.
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Macx14 said...
Sept. 19, 2010 at 7:46 am:
Remembering embarrassment is something I think we all do and no one really knows why since anyone who laughed or stared probably has forgotten all about it. You communicated it really well!! Check out some of my writing if you have time!
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KelsieYellow said...
Aug. 28, 2010 at 5:51 pm:
this is wonderful
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ILIKE2DRAW said...
Aug. 28, 2010 at 2:02 pm:
When I was in Kindergarden i went on the wrong day and was very embarressed, so embaressed that i hid until my mom came to get me.
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DarkTruth said...
Jul. 15, 2010 at 10:09 pm:
i really like your perspective its really intresting
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Aelita said...
Jun. 1, 2010 at 7:30 pm:
Embarrassing experiences help you grow as a person.  If it sticks out in your mind, that may actually be a brain mechanism for making sure you don't repeat mistakes that were particularly upsetting- just a theory!  Great writing!
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BookOwl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 1, 2010 at 3:05 pm:
I like that a lot! LOL, but sorry about the embarrassment.
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Liozay123 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 18, 2010 at 9:05 pm:

Hee Hee!! 

You had lockers in kindergarden?!!?

Good job, though!

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BaiLiHuaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 27, 2010 at 7:05 pm:
This article is marvelous, truly brilliant. Kindergarten can be one of the toughest years. My teacher was a witch. She hated children.
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Rhoswen said...
Mar. 27, 2010 at 1:44 pm:
I don't quite understand how or why, but as a first grader not one girl in the class wanted to play with me. If my memory stands correct, I insulted the leader of the pack, Brittany. Of course, it was very ironic when the boy she probably had a crush on befriended me, LOL!
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celloizmylife said...
Mar. 8, 2010 at 7:15 pm:
I've had embarrassing moments that were much later than kindergarten or first grade. Throughout third grade, our class had the mystery of who peed on the floor during the reading tests on Fridays. Obviously, it was me. On a standardized test day, just three or four days after my birthday, I did it again. The room was so quiet, I could see everyone's faces turned to me. Since that day, I always made sure to go to the bathroom before a test, and by the next year, I had a bladder of steel... (more »)
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LoveOfWords said...
Mar. 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm:
I'm always jealous of the Ariels of this world. No one remembers their trip ups because the Ariel dosn't care. It's strangly difficult not to be self-concious for some and not others.
Those are just my thoughts on it. Great job on the piece!
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mandygale77 said...
Mar. 5, 2010 at 11:46 am:
AWwwww! Great piece! I've never had an embarrassing moment worth sharing, and reading this, I'm kinda glad. Awesome story!
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Chuckney said...
Mar. 5, 2010 at 11:33 am:
Quite brilliant. I love the way the single story spreads out into a wider theme, and your writing style is entertaining and enjoyable to read.
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emurphzz19 said...
Feb. 11, 2010 at 5:39 pm:
i absoulutey lovedd the ending. great job, and congrats on the mag(:
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ps101 said...
Feb. 11, 2010 at 11:05 am:
i can so relate
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beatles<3 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 11, 2010 at 10:36 am:
this is really well written and so great!!! its so easy to relate to because im like the queen of embarrassing moments, and i hate them more than anything. every time i think of something embarrassing that's happened to me, even if it's been five years, ten years, whatever, i get this knot in my stomach and i'm humiliated all over again. you did a great job putting that indescribable horrible feeling into words, and i really liked this article (:
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simplyalone said...
Jan. 20, 2010 at 9:29 pm:
In kindergarden I had a mishap. I was on the monkey bars/jungle gym swinging from pole to pole my feet dangling high above the ground and then from out of nowhere a little boy (who happened to have a crush on me at the time) grabbed on to my legs and swung. As he fell my shirt remained in his hands until he hit the ground. Luckily my underwear had stayed in place. I lost my grip and fell. I grabbed my skirt from him, slipped it on and ran away crying.
ps101 replied...
Feb. 11, 2010 at 11:06 am :
OMG! that must have been so embarassing
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