A Slice of Humble Cheese
By Stephanie Miller
I’ve always hated this question, ‘What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?’ Because really who wants to remember that moment? And who wants to repeat their most embarrassing moment to anyone?
And then, something embarrassing happened and I thought ‘Wait, there’s a progress here, I’m not the person I used to be!’
I’m at Trader Joe’s and there’s the handsome guy standing next me. (I’m happily married but that doesn’t mean I can’t notice.) I have this split second of feeling that old feeling of wanting to be attractive to the hot guy. I think ‘Am I wearing make-up? Does my hair look good today?’ Then I snap back to reality and resume my search for the St. Andre’s cheese. A minute or two goes by and the guy taps me on the shoulder and says ‘Excuse me’ and now I’m thinking how polite he is and ‘Oh wait he TALKING to me.’ (I repeat I’m happily married).
Then he continues ‘Your skirt is stuck in the back, you might want to pull it down.’
YEAH, so I went to the bathroom and my skirt got stuck in my underwear. The hot guy is politely telling me that I’m showing my underwear to everyone at Trader Joe’s. I look him in the eye and say ‘Thank you for telling me.’ He says ‘Sure’ and then collects his cart where I now notice his adorable four-year-old daughter who has decided to ride around the store in the crate rack below the cart. He looks at her and says, ‘Comfy down there?’, and I say, ‘Really sweetie, isn’t that hurting your back?’ She says, in a completely confident voice, ‘No I like it.’
And that’s when it hit me. I’m different today. A few years back I would have huddled inside of myself in horror. I would have replayed that moment in my mind a thousand times and felt the shame of being me. I would have hidden from the guy for the remainder of my shopping trip and would never have had the ability to get out of my own head and even notice the daughter wedged happily underneath his groceries, much less speak to her.
Shame would have made me feel that I am irredeemably flawed, that of course I didn’t notice my own skirt stuck in my underwear, that once again I screwed up and finally that I was unworthy and unloveable. Shame, my constant companion for almost 30 years, wasn’t present for this experience. I was. In that moment I recognized that my own propensity to make mistakes doesn’t say anything about who I am as a person. What’s more important is that I realized my vulnerability had it allowed me to connect with the man who helped me. The fact that I didn’t spiral into shame left me feeling more a part of the human race not less. This is the quality of true humility just being one among many, not special or exempt from life's dramas, mistakes and problems. Without shame there is no most embarrassing moment, there are just human moments where I choose to join the world around me or to retreat into my own personal mental dungeon. I went to by a wedge of cheese and ended up with a slice of humble as a bonus.
So take that Shame, without You I feel whole, happier and able to experience being worthy of my place in the world.
PS. Wish we all had the confidence of the four-year-old who knows what she wants