Some People Carry Blankies…

When I was a sophomore in high school I was dating a boy who I was seriously infatuated with and constantly wondering if he liked me as much as I liked him. We were hanging out before a basketball game one evening at the school. We decided to leave the gym right before the game started and as we were walking across the gym floor in front of a packed house (which isn’t saying too much at my small school) – I fell.

I was so terribly mortified and overwhelmed with an incredible desire to be killed by a bolt of lightening…I immediately understood the term, “Died from Embarrassment.” That’s what I wanted to do in that moment…DIE. I was that embarrassed. Utterly and intensely mortified.

I don’t know if it was that early on embarrassing experience that made me so sensitive to other people’s awkward situations, or if I was just born sensitive and that’s why that moment was so painful for me. Either way…I have a very inherent and strong need to avoid any awkward situations. This is why I can NOT, under ANY circumstances, watch those first few weeks of American Idol. I feel the embarrassment too vividly to suffer through that willingly. I even stopped watching the entire show years ago because there were too many times when the judges called out really bad performances in ways that made me want to DIE. Not just for the singer, but for ME. That’s how easily I empathize.

On other shows, like So You Think You Can Dance, I’ll fast-forward through potentially embarrassing or awkward parts of the show. This drives my family KRAZEE. I can’t help it.

Recently…someone somewhere (and I swear I tried to hunt it down so I could give that person credit) used the term, “Embarrassment Pillow.” In reference to that pillow you grab from next to you on the couch to cover your face when something awkward or embarrassing happens on TV. I need to carry an Embarrassment Pillow around with me in my purse because it’s not just on TV that I cringe for others.

If I’m standing in line behind someone who’s card get’s rejected? I want my Embarrassment Pillow. That one is very vivid because I’ve been there too many times to count…on the DENIED! end of the situation. Whenever it happens in front of me I’ll busy myself with my cell phone, or my kids, or my hair…anything to pretend I haven’t seen the person get told their credit card doesn’t work.

When socially awkward people do embarrassing things in social situations…I often want to crawl under the table and hide. I’ve had a few people in my life like that throughout my years and I ended up simply avoiding being in large groups with them. I couldn’t take the risk. Oh…how I truly wish to really be able to have an Embarrassment Pillow to hide behind. Especially if it came with Embarrassment Headphones to block out the sounds.

In short — my intense sensitivity towards other’s experiences stretches from TV to real life. And can I tell you a secret? It has also stretched to the internet.

Any time there’s any sort of conflict in the blogosphere, whether it’s mild or severe, I totally avoid all discussion about it. Sometimes I can’t avoid it entirely, but I do everything in my power if I see an entry heading towards the topic of conflict…I totally stop reading. I’m always afraid if I dig too much into the story I’ll end up feeling awkward or embarrassed for one or all of the parties involved. I’m betting 9 times out of 10 if I just read about the debate I wouldn’t feel awkward or embarrassed, but since I feel those things so intensely? The risk is too much. I avoid any situation that brings back feelings of me tripping across my high school gym floor with my boyfriend standing there next to me.

Even if that internet drama relates to a celebrity…I avoid it like the plague. When Britney shaved her head? When Vanessa Hudgens had embarrassing photos leaked? When ANYONE had a sex tape? I avoid any website or video or blog discussing those situations because I feel so terribly bad for this person…that I do not even know. And don’t even get me started on the Gosselins. I never watched their show and the crazy drama around their split? And their 8 kids? I know nothing about it. Because I can’t read or listen to anything about it without wanting to stab my eyeballs out.

Because I am weird.

Please tell me I’m not alone. Would you use an Embarrassment Pillow to hide in uncomfortable situations? Just for TV? Real Life? Internet Drama? Or am I the only one who would like to have one permanently attached to my body?

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Roso is trying to hide his butt to avoid being embarrassed by his own nudity on my blog.

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37 Responses

  1. Wendy Yohe says:

    You are definitely not alone. I’m an “empathizer” too. I thought I was the only one who did this! Wow, it’s nice to know I’m not the only weird one around. =)

    I don’t watch reality TV because of my aversion to watching someone humiliate themselves. I also can’t watch horror films. To watch another person get hurt is unbearable to me. It actually causes me physical pain. Don’t like it. Hubby is a horror film freak and he doesn’t understand why I can’t watch them.

    I’m also “sensitive” in other ways. I’ve seen and interacted with spirits for as long as I can remember. I can walk into a place and see and feel things others can’t. Do you have those experiences too?

  2. Bren says:

    I feel the exact same way as you. Maybe growing up with the super thick glasses and lazy eye (which thankfully is fixed) I was always more sensitive to other people in sticky or embarrassing situations. I can’t watch AI for the first few weeks or any show (real or fictional) that highlights someone’s faults. Heck, I will get upset or teary eyed if I see people ignoring an elderly person. Empathy is a wonderful gift that I sometimes think I was blessed with WAY too much of!

  3. cagey says:

    Huh. I don’t understand the embarrassment of a card getting rejected. Oh sure, I have had my care rejected before, mistakes happen. When it does, I shrug at the cashier and say I guess I will have to come back. But I am not embarrassed, I don’t care what the other folks think. I am more irritated than anything.

    As a high schooler? Everything and anything embarrassed me. WALKING in front of a crowd embarrassed me. Thank goodness I go over it since I was in marching band and eventually went on to do cheerleading. Heh.

    Zoot, have you seen that site called Peopleofwalmart.com? Now, THAT? Makes me cringe in sympathetic embarrassment!

  4. zoot says:

    Cagey…I’ve gotten my rejected dozens of times because it’s over the limit…or late on payments. There was a phase where I would just hand in cards and wait for one to work…cringing each time in anticipation. And now, the few times it gets rejected for other reasons not my fault? I think back to those times.

    And I don’t ever ASSUME their card is rejected for those reasons, b/c I’ve also had mine rejected for okay reasons…but it still brings back all of those times I was waiting, hoping to see if it would go through. And if it didnt? I hid in shame!

    AHHH…the tribulations of those with poor money managing history (grin)

  5. cagey says:

    Also, when I was in college and would have a card rejected for valid reasons, I would still pretend like it was a mistake. :-)

  6. Fraulein N says:

    When it comes to TV, I don’t mind watching people embarrass themselves unless they’re slow or too young or in some other way lack self-awareness. But douchebags and cocky bastards embarrassing themselves? I can’t get enough of that!

    What I do need is a Busted Pillow. You know, when somebody’s about to get busted or something else happens that will make the situation super awkward, I can’t look, whether it’s on TV or in real life.

  7. Bekki says:

    Oh my gosh, I though I was the only one! I can’t deal with any embarassing situation, even if I’m not involved in any way what so ever. It makes me so uncomfortable, I actually can feel it in my stomach. A certain, recent Twitter “disagreement” between two people I do not know made me so antsy, I decided I couldn’t read their updates, for fear it would keep going.

    Do you also have the problem where you just assume everything you do will offend someone or make them mad (even though by most accounts, I’m a very kind and unoffensive person)? I do. I’m so weird

  8. Amy W says:

    Um, that part in the Hannah Montana movie where she is trying to be Miley and Hannah all at the same time?

    I totally have to cover my eyes. And hum a tune so I can’t even hear what’s going on.

    Pathetic, really.

  9. Corina says:

    Oh, I could sooo use a little purse-sized embarrassment pillow. Real life embarrassment is bad, but things on the television or movie screen, that cannot possibly affect me at all, are somehow the worst. Movies like Meet the Parents (what I like to call humiliation porn) make me so squirrelly I have to just turn them off. American Idol, not an option for that reason. It doesn’t matter who’s being humiliated and how much they objectively need to be brought down a peg, I feel that humiliation viscerally and just cannot take it.

  10. amber says:

    I love the phrase “Embarrassment Pillow”. I really wish I wouldn’t notice other people’s “moments” as I’ve always referred to them, but I do. Even though I studiously look as though I’m completely and blatantly ignoring that they are having any problems.
    I have been trying to stop myself for years from physically shuddering every time one of my personal memories of embarrassment or someone else’s happens. So far, it’s not been good.

  11. stacey says:

    hmmmm I think I get less embarrassed as I get older, that is if it happens to myself….If I trip and fall, I make sure I am not seriously hurt (happened earlier this spring) and then went on my way. I am at the point that I don’t care what others think, others that I don’t know that is. Friends and family? yes. Other’s not so much. LOL

  12. I don’t mind when celebrities embarrass themselves at all. For one, they wanted to be famous. 2, it shows they’re human. Just like us! heh. In all seriousness, it’s kind of like a car crash that I can’t take my eyes away from, unfortunately.

  13. Jessica says:

    Whenever I see awkward/embarrassing situations, I tend to look away or turn my music up louder. I love the show The Office but that is ALL awkward situations so I tend to burrow my head like an animal into my couch or cover my face with my hands. Because I firmly believe in the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.”

  14. Kerri says:

    I am the exact same way. I have to look away. I was watching Gene Simmon’s Family Jewels yesterday and knew it was coming up to the point where his son was gonna be evicted from his first apartment and I kept looking away.

  15. Alias Mother says:

    I absolutely do this. Like others above, I watch absolutely no potentially embarrassing reality TV because I cannot handle it. No AI, no dancing, no dating, no horrifying VH1 shows (okay, that’s also a moral and taste stance). I nearly died while watching DVDs of the British version of The Office and have never watched the American version. Real life is the same way. When something embarrassing happens, I stare fixedly at a table until the moment passes.

    But the internet is different. It appeals to my dark sense of humor and schadenfreude. I dive right on in to read every angle, sometimes with glee. I guess it is distant enough for me to deal with. I’m not proud, but there it is.

  16. Emily says:

    Wow, I’m really glad to know that there are other people like this. I love the term Embarrassment Pillow! I’ve NEVER been able to watch AI or any of those competition style reality shows. I tried a few years ago and couldn’t make it through the first episode.

    And The Office is one of my favorite shows, but I watch pretty much the whole episode with my hands (or a pillow!) in front of my face and I always fast forward when Michael starts getting really awkward.

    I’m with you on the celebrity stuff, too. I just avoid YouTube completely at this point.

  17. Jessica says:

    I could have written this post myself! I NEVER watch the first few weeks of Idol, I also have a hard time making it through an entire episode of “The Office” and it’s fictional and MEANT to be that way!

    I always find myself burying my face in my husbands arm or squeezing my eyes shut and plugging my ears or (thank you DVR) just fast forwarding any time something is that awkward. I need an embarassment pillow, too!

  18. WonderSpot says:

    I have an embarrassment pillow! My husband laughs at me sometimes for it, but I just cannot handle it. I won’t watch TV without it.

    In junior high I remember blushing for other people if they did something awkward, or if they got called on in class but didn’t finish their assignment.

  19. Della says:

    I can’t watch magic acts because I am so worried that they’ll make a mistake and the audience will sneer at them. So I totally get your fear. I have no idea where my empathy with magicians came from, but if I see one at a party–those wandering ones that are like at fairs sometimes?–I have to leave the area, or if I can’t, I have to look away and block them out. It’s not that I don’t LIKE magic acts, I just fear for their success.

  20. Susan says:

    I fast forward through the embarrasing moments on the show The Office. I love that show, but when things get too embarrasing for one of the show’s characters, I do the same thing you do during Idol auditions. But, I love the Idol auditions — strange. I guess it’s because the embarrasing situations on The Office are usually just so over the top that I can’t handle it. I expect it on Idol.

  21. nanann says:

    ha! I didn’t read through all the comments but see right above me that Susan mentions The Office — ACK on that show! I think it definitely can be funny, but I am so often hiding behind my hands or have me ears plugged with my fingers that I can’t be completely sure! That show makes me cringe and laugh.

    I ALWAYS get embarrassed about TV, I don’t care that it’s a scripted show! I’m not bad about the Internet and only so-so about real life, but my embarrassment factor with TV is HIGH.

  22. I do get horribly embarrassed for others. In real life, I want so badly to make them feel better or convince them I didn’t see/hear whatever it was. I also fast forward through awkward things (although I love AI auditions – maybe I have a mean streak).

    And your story reminded me of one of my most embarrassing moments ever. I was a sophomore at a brand new school. A huge school (600 per graduating class – my old school had been about 120 per class). Each class had to gather in one place to be assigned home rooms or something. I didn’t realize there were 2 gyms and went to the wrong one only to discover the juniors were there. All 600 juniors were sitting on the bleachers. I walked across the floor to the huddle of teachers (just that felt mortifying) to ask where the other gym was located so that I could find the other sophomores. I had on brand new (and really cute) shoes. They were slippery. I proceeded to fall on my butt in front of all 600 juniors. Even the teachers were struggling not to laugh at me. I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. THEN I went to my first class to find I was the only sophomore in a room full of juniors who had just witnessed me falling on my ass. And several were kind enough to point out that I was the one who fell.

  23. Jenera says:

    I don’t watch many shows for the same reasons. When someone is singing horrible, I change the channel. Even on TV shows when some one is spilling their guts and you just KNOW it’s going to turn out bad, i change it.

    I’m not as bad in real life but I’ll still avoid embarrassing things.

  24. Lisa says:

    Delurking to say one I love your blog, and two…

    Well, like wonderspot I used to blush for other peoples embarrassing moments too. I also used to hate in work, if someones card got denied, or they didn’t have their purse on them, or not enough change, or I have to ID someone who doesn’t have ID I feel so bad and probably more embarrassed than them!

  25. Marieka says:

    I want one of those pillows, oh yes…

    (And I can’t stand to watch American Idol for exactly the reason that you detailed.)

  26. Ha, I’m totally with you! I can’t handle watching people in embarassing situations, TV or real life. I can’t watch American Idol or America’s Got Talent, and I have to fast forward through the bad SYTYCD auditions. And it extends to fictional stuff too. “Meet the Fockers” nearly killed me dead.

  27. junkie says:

    oh girl, this season of BB must be killing you! michelle is so socially awkward it’s even hard for me to watch at times.

    but i LOVED last night’s episode when everyone was falling every five seconds in the HOH challenge…that was freaking awesome! :)

  28. Layla says:

    Ha! Watching George Kastanza on Seinfield I cover my face with a pillow.Oh and also Ben Stiller. I love it though!

  29. Liana says:

    I’m similar- not the same, but similar. When I was younger I would sometimes run from the room during movies or t.v. shows- not just at scary parts, but at awkward or misunderstanding/embarrassing parts, too.

    Yeah- I’m sensitive. And I hate conflict and raised voices. I physically react very strongly with the fight/flight response -heart beating faster, blood rushing (including to my face, often), stomach feeling quaky.

    I wish I had an embarrassment pillow that I could carry around, not ONLY to hide behind, but that would also have the technology to teleport me away from any situation I deemed uncomfortable, for myself or others.

  30. Wendalette says:

    If you all will be my venture capitalists, maybe I could make and sell those pillows and we’ll all get a piece of the profits….

    Seriously though, yes, I need an embarrassment pillow sometimes when I’m out with my best (guy) friend or my mom. And that is also why I don’t watch AI and sometimes can’t even watch Top Chef.

  31. meg says:

    Yes thank goodness for tivo. May I ask, does your husband enjoy watching you squirm?

  32. Erin says:

    I used to work in a retail store and would die of embarrassment every time I rang up a customer and their card was declined. EVEN WORSE, sometimes the customer would ask me to call the credit card company and I’d be all DUDE don’t put me in the middle of this aaahhhhhhhhhh the embarrassment!!

  33. Maria says:

    I don’t embarass easily. Growing up with my mother I eventually became immune to it. Very little embarasses me these days. I do however cringe for others and would use the pillow for that.

  34. Amy says:

    I’m a singer so watching others performing if I know their having a hard time makes me so sympathetic for them that I’m torn between wanting to disappear or rooting them on so fiercly that I want to carry them. Either way it can be exhausting.

  35. MargieK says:

    This is a post where I couldn’t help but go “Wow, really?” I’m not at all like that. Sure, I’ve been embarrassed before (who hasn’t?), and I like to think I can be empathetic.

    I can watch AI (hardly ever do because my family’s not into it), and while I can feel a little bad for people when they’re told to go home (or when they obviously can’t sing and are oblivious to that fact), it isn’t bad enough to avoid or hide behind a pillow. It’s part of the “game” they opted to play, something they signed up for.

    But I’m definitely not sensitive. I’ve been a scout leader, a PTO officer, and numerous other things where I had to get up in front of a group and have made mistakes, or had to sing or be the brunt of a joke. If I ever was sensitive to all these things you’ve mentioned, I lost my sensitivity it a long time ago, and that can make it hard in social situations. I’ll say something that I’m not sensitive about, or ask a question that seems innocuous to me and have no idea that the other person is embarassed, offended or hurt (unless they tell me, but that rarely happens; instead I’m shunned). I’m clueless, and believe me, it can be a handicap.

    Obviously you’re not weird; you have a lot of company. I just wish I could find others like me to commiserate with, people who put their foot in their mouth (and have no idea they’re doing it, even after the fact).

  36. MissB says:

    this is hilarious. I could NOT watch The Office for years and even when I did I had to leave the room (SO was watching it and loved it).

    I’m the same way, though. Maybe not to your extreme, lol, but not being able to watch shows? I’m the same way about American Idol. And I sympathize in real life, too. I get embarassed for people and I hate it because my face always turns red, lol

  37. Alicia says:

    When I was in college, for a final project in a psychology class, my friend and I developed a survey to measure what we called “vicarious embarrassment.” We were shocked that we couldn’t find anything on this concept because we were both so easily embarrassed, especially for other people.

    We also had this running joke that we could take every item on the survey and just end it with “and then you shit yourself.” Like, rate your embarrassment on a scale of 1 to 5: “You’re standing in line at a grocery store, and the credit card of the person in front of you gets denied. And then you shit yourself.” Bwahahaah.

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