Front Line of Embarrassment | TeenInk

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 Sep. 6 2011 at 3:08 pm
: ) That's funny. And I like what you said at the end about "what is embarrassment?" It's so true.

on Aug. 15 2011 at 12:48 pm
emilybwrites SILVER, Villa Hills, Kentucky
5 articles 0 photos 112 comments

Favorite Quote:
last night i lay in bed, looking up at the stars and i thought to myself, where the heck is the ceiling?

i really liked this it was almost humorous! i could really feel what you were feeling! please check out my poem "forgotten domain" and comment and rate it!

on Jul. 24 2011 at 12:52 am
KristinHopkins8 SILVER, Aspen, Colorado
7 articles 0 photos 83 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If a writer falls in love with you, you can never die"

i think this story is well built and definitely makes the point you want it to. i enjoyed it!

on Jul. 2 2011 at 11:00 pm
Great_Dane SILVER, Templeton, California
8 articles 9 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

How did your underwear end up on the floor?

on Jul. 2 2011 at 10:05 pm
TheMadHattress BRONZE, Palmer, Alaska
1 article 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
~It takes skill to trip over things that aren't there. ~ <3
Some one once told me that the best things is life aren't things at all; they're the people you choose to share your life with.

You totally got the feelings on this situation right. I already know what that kind of emmbarrassment feels like but you wrote amazingly well. <3

on Jul. 2 2011 at 7:37 pm
SecretFlame PLATINUM, Portland, Oregon
20 articles 1 photo 375 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I have a life. I just choose to ignore it."
-one of my friends

I loved this. You captured that scene and the feelings of embarrassment so perfectly! 

on Jul. 2 2011 at 6:50 pm
ashleyX13 PLATINUM, Memphis, Tennessee
32 articles 0 photos 50 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I've made mistakes; not one regret." Alyssa Nicolson

in pre k i had an 'accident' and was too scared to tell a teacher so i sat in wet clothes for the entire day. i can identify! really good job!

on Jul. 2 2011 at 4:46 pm
Tink1350 BRONZE, Medford, New York
4 articles 0 photos 104 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Worries are like weights and weights keep you down, so let go of your worries and fly,"

i was in the bathroom becquse i was scared to come out by the way. haha.

on Jul. 2 2011 at 2:05 pm
radicalhonesty GOLD, Alpharetta, Georgia
12 articles 2 photos 65 comments

Favorite Quote:
There is no situation, facet, or aspect of life that cannot be improved with pizza. -Daria

yea thats what i was thinking. she said she put it back in her locker, and she said her aunt put it in her locker so it must have fallen out

on Jun. 10 2011 at 2:59 pm
Tink1350 BRONZE, Medford, New York
4 articles 0 photos 104 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Worries are like weights and weights keep you down, so let go of your worries and fly,"

Maybe it fell out of the locker. Also, they have lockers in kindergarden??????????? You learn something new every day.....

on Jun. 10 2011 at 2:57 pm
Tink1350 BRONZE, Medford, New York
4 articles 0 photos 104 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Worries are like weights and weights keep you down, so let go of your worries and fly,"

I Like ur screen name.:)

on Jun. 10 2011 at 2:46 pm
Tink1350 BRONZE, Medford, New York
4 articles 0 photos 104 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Worries are like weights and weights keep you down, so let go of your worries and fly,"

I once peed my pants in kindergarden and was in the bathroom for a half an hour! I kow how you feel! Very well written!

on Jun. 10 2011 at 9:54 am
writingmagic26 BRONZE, Eureka, Missouri
2 articles 0 photos 34 comments
Good point. . . .hmmm. . .   :D  lol, just kidding.  I do wonder, but that's personal stuff.

on Jun. 10 2011 at 9:47 am
writingmagic26 BRONZE, Eureka, Missouri
2 articles 0 photos 34 comments
really great!  everyone has embarrassing moments that they always remember, and are always ashamed of, but you hit it spot on.  I mean, in the big sceme of things, no one is going to remember such insignificant events anyway.   But why do we still remember and hold on to them?  All they do is crush our self-esteem anyway.  So why?  It was really good.

on May. 19 2011 at 8:05 pm
LovelyGray BRONZE, Michigan
1 article 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
Doth have the heart of a sparrow, no an angel, but and i beg your forgiveness, you have the face of an ogre.

Your really right, reminds of a similar time for me

on Apr. 27 2011 at 9:09 pm
little-miss-mistakes GOLD, Plano, Texas
18 articles 2 photos 70 comments

Favorite Quote:
even after all these years the sun has never said to the earth, you owe me... look at what a love like that can do, it can light up the sky

really good!! u showed your true emotions about the event, but still put and enjoyable amount of humor into it!!!

madi87 said...
on Apr. 27 2011 at 10:50 am
great work

on Apr. 27 2011 at 12:28 am
booklover104 BRONZE, Stockton, California
4 articles 0 photos 54 comments

Favorite Quote:
I have a couple of quotes i like... \"Success is not a doorway it\'s a staircase\"
2. \"Everything happens for a reason\"
3.\"Your worth consists in what you are and not in what you have\"-Thomas Edison

I loved this!! Don't worry we all have embarrasing moments and I know I do!!! It happens o everyone...Yet it was beautiful and you had courage!!!

on Apr. 5 2011 at 8:04 pm
writerinfinity PLATINUM, Arlington, Texas
35 articles 0 photos 105 comments
Love the story I really do. But on guestion burns in the back of my mind. Why was your underwear on the ground? :)

on Apr. 5 2011 at 3:02 pm
Wildlife BRONZE, Garden City, New York
2 articles 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

In a werid way I can relate to this. My friend saw someone who had to have their my come in with underwear in the middle of a lesson because he soiled his pants. Akward turtle moment.