Friday, October 24, 2008

I'm a little embarrassed to say this, but

I'm a little embarrassed to say this, but, I get embarrassed easy. And, I should. I have had more embarrassing things happen to me than I could shake a sorry stick at. So, because top ten lists are so appealing to me you now get treated to the top ten most embarrassing moments in my life, whittled down from the top 1000. In fact, there are so many, I'm going to just have to do the school years right now. They are in chronological order, not order of greatest embarrassment.

The only problem with this daring expose of myself is that you are going to think I am a freak by the time I finished. Follow now the ghost of David's past:

Number ten: I am eight years old. I am in Summer camp. Not feeling real confident about myself as I am realizing that my family, including me, are considered a little weird (I actually overheard a group of counselors discussing this). But, I do have something in my favor. I'm considered smart. That's not so bad, right (although, at camp it soon became a stigma I didn't handle well for the rest of my life)?

We have a camp spelling contest. I am wowing them. I spell "b-r-a-i-n" and they all go "Oooooh". Everyone is eliminated except me and and one nice little girl. She leans over to me and says "You know you are going to win." My head swelled a little bit. I was a pretty good speller for an eight year old. Recognition.

We each spell a few easy words. Then, "David, spell 'H-o-o'". That was easy. I think I actually pictured an owl on a branch and a little bubble coming out of its beak with "H-o-o" coming out of it. So, I spelled it.

"No," he says, "David, 'Hoooooo.'" What was up with him? So, I spelled it again. Happily, I recall. "No," he says. What? I'm thinking. It is her turn. She says "W-h-o". That bitch. Actually, to tell the truth, the sweet little girl actually turned to me and said, "You know your still a better speller than me." Nothing so profound as eight year old mortification.

Number nine: A memory from my childhood. It's grade school. I'm in a class filled with future valedictorians, Ivy Leaguers, brainiacs, Professor Perrywinkles and Poindexters. Ironically, they've put me in this class thinking I'm going to fit in, when, I've already pretty much set a course of not doing a damn thing in school as long as I can get away with it (and that lasted through law school).

We are assigned a science project. Understandably, I spent a month or so not doing anything. The night before it is due, I make the mistake of mentioning to my mom that I have a project. I was young and still prone to doing dumb things like that. She insists that I do SOMETHING whereas I'm prepared to do NOTHING. She wins because I still need a place to live.

Of course, what can you do in one night? Eventually, we (meaning she) settle on an elevator made from a paper milk carton. That's right. An elevator milk carton. I make one (or she did -- I can't remember everything). I go to school the next day. One kid made a working volcano. Another made a working diarama of an atom. You get the idea. Somehow, I'm last. Everyone is staring at me. Slowly, and with exquisite anguish, I remove the milk carton elevator from the brown grocery back I brought it in.

I crack up. The teacher cracks up. The entire class cracks up. I am completely mortified, but, fortunately, it was so freakin' funny I and many others actually had tears in our eyes. I have been embarrassed before, but this is the first of the great ones.

Number eight: Seventh grade. Junior high. So many more people to be embarrassed in front of.

I take french. My french teacher is thirty years old (my imaginary target age group) and really cute. I have my first crush and she is the lucky lady.

Unfortunately, I am also the worst student in the class. One day she calls me up and in front of everyone accuses me of faking illness to miss a test. Now, to paraphrase Harry Chapin - another kid might have been angry, another kid might have been sad -- I cried.

Yup. Seventh grade and I cry in front of my class. I'm cringing right now thinking about this. Here was the first woman I like and she is not only mad at me but she is questioning my integrity. Plus, I'm a bit of a cry baby (this actually cured me of that until my late 30s and 40s where I now get misty at every movie -- even comedies).

I do the walk of shame back to my seat and everyone is staring at the baby crying. There is a kid in the class who lived on my block. Never really liked him, although, of course, we were friends. He says outloud - "He cries all the time." Thanks, buddy. That makes it so much better.

This one was not funny. It really humiliated me.

Number seven: I'm a little fuzzy on this one. We are in high school, tenth grade, to be exact. I am still afraid of girls. Not literally afraid, just painfully shy afraid. A girl talking to me makes me stutter and possibly drool and not just because I'm excited. I'm also horribly awkward and repulsive to myself and drooling just happens when you least want it to.
The teacher announces that we have to team up with a partner and dissect a worm. Hmmm. The person sitting at the table with me is a girl. I've known her since kindergarten or first grade - something like that. Maybe I've spoken to her once to torture her in second grade. I think she has already teased me about being shy. I'm really more into girls in their 20s and 30s at the time (not that I'm getting them), but, I have to admit, she is really cute in a high school sort of way. Which, of course, makes me feel really shy and anxious about the project.
I take the worm out of the bottle. I move it slightly in her direction. She screams as loud as possible. I'm talking Megadeath loud. Everyone stares at us. Other than girls, having everyone concentrating on me makes me next most embarrassed. A friend, sitting behind me, says loudly. "Get over it, David, you have to talk to a girl sometime." Much laughter.
It gets worse. If having to work with a girl, having her scream, having everyone stare at me and having my friend point out my awkwarness with girls, isn't bad enough, the teacher now yells at my friend, seemingly to emphasize that not only am I a total dork, but that I can't even defend myself. Nice.
Number six: It's eleventh grade. I am in some class or another. My seat is between two female friends of each other, both who are normally cool with me and who often talk past me to one another. As usual, I had brought my Silly Putty to school with me (yes, I realize that Silly Putty is not appropriate for a boy in eleventh grade, but, you see what I'm talking about).
What do I do with the Silly Putty? I fold it around my thumb in my pocket and then seal the hollow ball, creating an air pocket. Then, I pop it and do it again. And, again. I guess someone sitting next to me might think I am playing with something else, but, I know what I'm doing and who would be looking at me anyway?
Suddenly, the teacher is standing in front of me. She holds out her hand and says "What are you playing with? Give it here." Remember the part about me not liking everyone paying attention to me. So, I take out my Silly Putty and give it to her.
Of course, I am now an eleventh grade boy who has just taken Silly Putty out of his pocket and given it to the teacher. There are so many levels to be embarrassed with here. I'm playing with something in class. I am actually playing with a child's toy. I am being singled out and remonstrated against in front of everyone. And . . .
. . . of course, there is worse. The two girls on either side of my, best friends, convulse in hysterics. You can say I'm paranoid, but I don't think they were laughing because I was playing with Silly Putty. They were laughing because they had been sure I was playing pocket pool, if you get my drift. You can die so many ways without actually dying. Oh, that was bad. Of course, it also made me laugh.
Number five: It's junior year. I politely say to my grandmother that I like her mink coat. That's probably the one time I ever said anything like that as I definitely wasn't the best grandson in the world, being awkward with my relatives too.
So, of course, she buys her shy, stupid, uncomfortable grandson, a fake full length mink coat. If you are lost, let me point out some facts to you. I was in high school. I had already failed every test of fashion or even caring what I wore. But, one thing I know. Wearing a mink coat, even a fake one, is death in high school. Think about it.

So, I feel like I have to wear it to school. Why? I still can't figure that one out. What was I thinking? My grandmother didn't live with us. She wouldn't know. I think the answer to this riddle is -- guilt. I felt guilty not wearing the coat. Also, I think I felt a little self loathing about caring what anyone else thought about it.

That didn't mean I was crazy. I didn't wear it into the school. I would take it off long before I got there. That actually wasn't that weird for me. I wasn't just shy, I was also strange. I often would take my coat off before I got to school so when I got outside I didn't feel too warm. Lost in the logic? But, if drove anywhere with me nowadays and watched me turning the heat or a/c on and off and opening and closing the windows, you'd understand better. I still do the taking off the coat thing sometimes.

So, one day, it's I'm walking to school (yeah, people did that in my day up to a mile away) wearing my unbelievably faggy mink coat. It's raining. My neighbor's father pulls up in his taxi and offers me a ride. I have to say yes. One, it's raining, which normally doesn't mean much to me, but, you know, the coat. And two, I don't know how to say no. One thing I do know is that it would be mortifying to drive up to school in a taxi. Why? Because I'm in high school, and I and everyone else there are idiots, that's why. I will just ask him to drop me off a block away. I'll take my coat off and curl it up as usual and . . . .

He says "Don't be silly" and insists on driving me up the front driveway right smack in front of the school. Now, there are a lot of people I don't want to see me getting out of a cab or wearing a mink coat. The amazing thing was, that even though it was raining, so many of those people were standing in front of the school, getting out of their parents' normal cars and wearing normal clothes. And there I am, pulling up in a cab with my mink coat on like young Liberace. Oy.

Last time I wore the coat. Guilt schmuilt. I was mortified.

Number four: This one might seem mild, and, I guess it was. But, this one was one of my funniest embarrassing moments. The Summer before twelfth grade I finally am able to get myself into a R rated movie.

So, there I am one night, out at the movies with a friend. We walked about a mile or so to the Raceway Theatre. I say walked, because this was before the time when all kids, at least on Long Island, get a ride everywhere. We were standing in the crowded lobby. I say crowded because this was before the days before someone got the idea to make multiplex's with huge lobbies and you used to pile in.

We were crushed up against the refreshment stand. I reached over and took a handful of popcorn out of the carton and put it in my mouth. Out of the corner of my eye I see some shrew glaring at me as if I touched her inappropriately. I ignore her and took another handful. "Do you mind?" she shrieks. Not my popcorn. Her popcorn. Now that was embarrassing, but so funny I'm cracking up right now.

Number three : Another friend (his name matters - "Rick") and I are at his house after school in twelfth grade. We are boys. So, we are doing what comes naturally for us. We were taking darts and throwing them at each other. We weren't really trying to hit each other. We weren't crazy or mad at each other. Just unbearably stupid in the way young boys are.

So, there I am. I'm hiding behind his bedroom door and he has a dart in his hand. I believe it was red and pointy. I'm opening and closing the door so that he will throw and I will be able to collect the dart when it lodges in the door. He lobs the dart. I see it fly through the air. I don't close the door in time. The dart sails over my head.

From just behind me, I hear of familiar voice -- "Thanks, Rick. Thanks a lot." I jump into the room and fly onto his bed. I have to say before I go on, I swear this is true. The door opens and his mother is standing in it. We are cringing. In her shoulder stands a dart. It is quivering up and down. She approaches the bed and lets loose with a string of invective that some crazy court these days might find abusive. Personally, I think it was big of her not to kill us both. But, as long as she screams that dart is bobbing up and down.

Everyone of a certain age remembers the torture of needing to laugh uproariously when circumstances didn't permit it. Like in church or school. This was one of those times. I literally, not making this up, bit a hole through my bottom lip. It was bleeding. As soon as she left the room we dissolved into laughter.

Of course, you may be saying what has this to do with embarrassment. You know, nothing much, but I had to tell this story and there was at least something like embarrassment. P.S. The next week Rick continues the game outside with another friend. This time, he hits his mother's car tire and deflates it. I swear.

Number two: Strangely, this is another coat story. I'm in college now. I talk to girls. I even have a girlfriend. But, that doesn't mean I'm not attracted to other girls and hope they are attracted to me. I meet a few and have the usual flirtations. Meet one girl and think she is really cute. I make what I consider some conversation. I don't think she is interested.

I'm walking across campus. As usual, I am peeling off my coat (not mink or fake mink either) a little bit before I get to the building I'm going to. I know it's strange, but just go with it. I'm wearing a tight red sweater I actually think I look pretty good in (and that in itself is a rarity). I see the girl I like come around a corner of the building and I look at her thinking, "Hey, baby. Check me out in my tight red sweater." She and her friend take one look at me and immediately convulse in laughter. Hysterical laughter.

My mind races to come up with a reason they are laughing, but, the rational bastard inside of me has to acknowledge they are laughing at me, and, I suppose, my goddamn ^&;$#@ red sweater. Rats. I think my hair is standing on end.

Number one: In law school I am actually not considered that weird. For some reason, I was weird in grade school and college, but, in law school, some people considered me "unique," although that may have just been a nicer way to say weird. When I became a professional lawyer, I went back to weird again, but, there are lots of weird lawyers. Trust me. And, it doesn't matter as long as you can do your job.

I make some friends, more in one day than all through college. One, who is still my friend to this day, tells me that basketball is his sport. I say, it's my sport too. I never played on the school team and certainly wasn't about to try out, but I felt pretty comfortable playing back then. In college I would play every once in a while during the summer. Not so much though.

We organized a pick up game. My friend played. So did I. I sucked. Whatever I could do in high school I could no longer do. This one may seem mild compared to the others, but, it was pretty embarrassing, if only to me. It was the start of an adult lifetime of finding out I couldn't physically do what I used to, and had prided myself on.

That's it. Pretty mortifying, huh? Somehow, I actually enjoyed my childhood (minus the actual school part), actually quite a bit. Denial does wonders.


  1. Oh the fun of a trip down memory lane. Though I do think your self-editing left out some of the best ones. Number one was not even close. We've all had our off days as would be athletes, and you did redeem yourself in a game with him later on. The Dr. B coat story should have made the cut.

  2. For the uninitiated, the Dr. B story is as follows.

    I am in eleventh grade. Dr. B is an older and very personable teacher. She is highly frustrated b/c I won't do any work. She even stops assigning me report topics at one point b/c she knows I wouldn't do it anyway. We don't have a love/hate relationship. It's more a love/what's wrong with you relationship.

    One day I come to class after going home from lunch. I am, as usual in class, sitting with my parka on (for you youngsters, this is a hideous and bulky winter jacket we used to wear before hi-tech thermals existed) and my head on the desk.

    For some reason I look up and Dr. Bandiero gives me a scowl. "Eisenberg - open your coat." I do.

    "You have no shirt."
    "Uh, yeah, I know."
    "Go to the office."

    I'm not sure what the offense was, but I go to the office and see my guidance counselor who asks me why I am there. I unzip my jacket.

    "Where's your shirt?"
    "In my coat pocket?"
    "Why isn't it on?"
    "Well, I was walking back to school and it was to hot to have my coat and my shirt on, but too cold to have just my shirt on. So, I took my shirt off and just kept my coat on."
    "Can you put it back on?"
    "Go back to class" (which mercifully ended before I got there).

    It didn't make my list for one reason. I wasn't embarrassed. My relationship with Dr. B and the personalities in the class made me actually feel relatively comfortable and the whole scenario was so amusing to me that I rather enjoyed the whole thing.

    My last memory of Dr. B was after I took the regents that year. God knows what my average in class was (I refused to right essays on tests which drove her nuts) but if you pass the regents (which was very general and easy if you had a minimal IQ) you passed. I got an 80 something on it. I walked into the marking area to return my text book to her. She picked it up and hurled it back at me. I successfully ducked. That's how I knew I passed. She wasn't mad I passed, just that I successfully avoided doing work all semester and passed.

    Ah, Dr. B, are you alive? You must be in your 90s now if you are. You'd be so proud to know that I still dress inappropriately.


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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .