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 Mar. 15 2011 at 2:13 am
SickImage SILVER, Klamath Falls, Oregon
9 articles 1 photo 74 comments

Favorite Quote:
The room was very quiet. I walked over to the TV set and turned it onto a dead channel-white noise at maximum decibels, a fine sound for sleeping, a powerful continuous hiss to drown out everything strange."

me or the author? lol

lokh said...
on Mar. 14 2011 at 11:10 am
You have great figurative launguage and i liked the simaly the thought was stuck to me like a piece of gum

ldxx said...
on Mar. 14 2011 at 10:24 am
hello.i come from china.i want to make friends with name is ldxx.i'm in grade1 in liaoning province shiyan high favourite subject is physics.if you want make friends with me,reply soon,please.

lucky said...
on Mar. 14 2011 at 10:20 am
i really like how you described how you were feeling

Reydar SILVER said...
on Feb. 20 2011 at 8:05 pm
Reydar SILVER, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts
7 articles 0 photos 22 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Every storm runs out of rain"

This is honestly amazing. It's so true and it reminds me of similar horrifying memories. Gorgeous writing!

on Feb. 20 2011 at 6:58 pm
InsaneKitten BRONZE, Miami, Florida
3 articles 0 photos 24 comments

Favorite Quote:
Even shadows need light..... "Melissa Marr, Ink Exchange" :D

LOL im laughing so hard... not because it was humiliating because for me it's not shameful or embarassing at all; idk the way i get over being humiliated is just knowing for a FACT that everyone's been embarassed the same way i have or even worse >:) It's the circle of (social) life, eh if it makes u feel better i have had TONS of times ive been embarrased. and i manage to climb right back to the top of the food chain and laugh it all up ;D

on Feb. 20 2011 at 12:43 pm
badwriterbetterreader101 GOLD, St. Louis, Missouri
19 articles 0 photos 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
"To have something you've never had you must do something you've never done."

wow this was so good! I wish I could write as well as you!

on Jan. 29 2011 at 8:39 pm
Alex_Durham GOLD, Vineland, New Jersey
14 articles 1 photo 234 comments

Favorite Quote:
Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

waaaah, my name's not ariel... jk jk!

anyway, great story - i remember wanting to be in the front of the line. and now that i think about it, i'd rather be in the middle, because people are sorrounding me and there's more people to talk to.

Riley_C GOLD said...
on Jan. 29 2011 at 7:43 pm
Riley_C GOLD, Gaithersburg, Maryland
16 articles 8 photos 16 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There is simply nothing worse than knowing how it ends." -Brendon Urie

I see a promising career in writing with your kind of talent! Two thumbs-up!

on Jan. 29 2011 at 4:13 pm
Selimile BRONZE, Brooklyn, New York
3 articles 0 photos 10 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Night seems darker before the dawn."

That story was awesome, and went right to the root of being ashamed, and why.  A++!  Keep up the good work!

limelove said...
on Jan. 29 2011 at 12:12 pm
limelove, Gresham, Oregon
0 articles 1 photo 38 comments

Favorite Quote:
Memories last forever.

I love this story too.

limelove said...
on Jan. 29 2011 at 12:11 pm
limelove, Gresham, Oregon
0 articles 1 photo 38 comments

Favorite Quote:
Memories last forever.

This is a vrey strong story.

Anime freak! said...
on Jan. 29 2011 at 1:07 am
you are an awesome writer! you totally put your heart and soul into it, good job!! and DON'T feel ashamed. because I think this piece of your memory is something you should cherish, as this is REALLY adorable! keep it up! yay youuu!!!! XD

on Dec. 17 2010 at 7:35 pm
Ariel_Rosario BRONZE, Port Saint Lucie, Florida
1 article 0 photos 19 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Be yourself, everyone else is already taken" -Oscar Wilde

AWESOME!!! :D!!! Ariel's unite! bahahaa :))

on Dec. 16 2010 at 9:43 pm
McsBlue3 BRONZE, Unalaska, Alaska
3 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
To the world you might be but one person, but to one person you might be the world.

I totally connect! Connecting to the audience is always a major factor to pleasing them. Thank you for letting me know I can connect. In kindergarten, a MALE FRIEND (putting boy and friend in the same sentence was shunned until junior high... -_-;;) gave me a box of chocolates on Valentine's day. Everyone whispered and looked at me. A lot of kids poked me and wiggled their eyebrows like nuts. they teased me for weeks.

Ariel_Z(: said...
on Dec. 16 2010 at 3:39 pm
This is amazing(: My name is Ariel too(:(: Also, this seems like my friend's writing style. (Her name is Ariel D) :DD

on Dec. 16 2010 at 12:33 pm
You are good. You raised a lot of questions, and answered them. Being one of the top twenty klutzes of the universe, I have to say that I've been there and done that too often to care much about being embarrassed any more. But memories do cling to you too much sometimes.

. said...
on Nov. 24 2010 at 9:47 pm
This is true writing.  When the reader can feel the authors emotions and really see the scene.  This is really amazing!

on Nov. 24 2010 at 2:49 pm
Ariel_Rosario BRONZE, Port Saint Lucie, Florida
1 article 0 photos 19 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Be yourself, everyone else is already taken" -Oscar Wilde

This is FANTASTIC!!!! I love your use of vocabulary! I can completely relate to everything. Not the underwear part, but being in front of the line, clinging to embarassment from years ago etc. Keep writing, you're truly amazing at it!


PS- My name's ariel too :):)

Sandra3 said...
on Nov. 24 2010 at 4:02 am
Lmao! Oh, my, this is outstanding! I loved every minute! You sounded soo cute as a kid, haha. Adorable nonfiction thanks for posting! Your style of writing is amazing, very mature. LOVE THIS!