What is it with us Brits and being embarrassed? This idea is used so much in films, books and television, isn’t it? I know, I’ve been guilty of using it as a device myself in my own stories. Are we all sufferers from the severe case of, “Err, um, scuse me?” I am, definitely. A case in point: there is a café that I frequent which has twounisex toilet cubicles. One of these is wider than the other and contains a washbasin. The other is narrow and you have to use the washbasin which is in the vestibule shared by both cubicles. So it is that I often find myself coming out of the larger cubicle having already washed my hands to be confronted by someone who is stood mid-ablution. Now, the rational part of my mind says, everyone who drinks and eats here knows that there is a washbasin in the larger cubicle. It’s no biggie. However, the major part of me is cringing at the supposed look of disgust from the other toilet user as I leave the vestibule, apparently not washing my hands. What should I do? Should I just use the smaller cubicle and therefore have to use the shared wash basin? Should I, if there is someone in the vestibule, wash my hands for a second time even though they are perfectly clean? Or, perhaps I should explain that my hands are germ free, clean and indeed ready for inspection?
You see my predicament?
There seems to be the inbuilt genetic defence mechanism which compels us to do what we deem to be socially acceptable. When our actions come into conflict with this mechanism, then profound embarrassment ensues.
Perhaps it has always been there? If you look back through history, there are possible examples. The English reformation is a suitable candidate. King Henry VIII found himself in a situation which he believed to be socially unacceptable. He had married his dead brother’s wife and no children were forthcoming. Feeling that he had committed a spiritual misdemeanour which would end his lineage and cause another War of the Roses, he appealed to the Pope for an annulment. However, perhaps because he was embarrassed with the situation, Henry sent his minions in his place, rather than tend to the matter himself. Perhaps, if the monarch had not been so red-faced over the matter, then he could have sat down with his Holiness and discussed the matter face to face, come to a political agreement and hey presto, one annulment, no English Reformation.
Now, this isn’t to say that embarrassment can’t be overcome. In fact, there is a simple method that dispels all inhibitions and worries: strong liquor! A few pints or a number of shots and you don’t care that you were walking butt naked down the high street wearing a pair of fake breasts on your head late one Saturday night. But, the relief from our genetic mechanism is only short-lived, especially in this age of social media and our wanton acts will always come back to bite us on the same butt that made that group of nuns tremble when they were out ministering to the homeless one cold, wintry night.
So, perhaps there is nothing we can actually do about our inbuilt need to worry and fret? Perhaps our fear that whatever we do is the wrong thing will always be there?
Indeed, the best thing we can do is just sit back, peer over the top of a large squishy cushion at our raging insecurities and have a secret chuckle at just how daft we actually are?
In case you missed it, I recently gave my short story Needs Must a fresh outing in Kindle format. My most popular story when I read at signings, it is all about a creature named Odd Bod who lives down the bottom of a dark, dank well. Unfortunately for Odd Bod, his human food supply appears to have run out and he has to climb up out of the well to see what has happened. When he reaches the world above, he discovers that he might be the only monster in the neighbourhood...
Until next time, keep looking for what lurks in the shadows.