I seem to have an endless reserve of embarrassing moments that I have no qualms about sharing on this blog. So here it is: the Anseup scale from 1-10, 10 being the height of humiliation. (After reading this, it may become readily apparent that I am easily embarrassed or you will agree that I’m a total clown).
One memory is from more than a decade ago when I lived with my infant son and husband in a shabby but cozy apartment in midtown West. A stunning Korean-American couple lived in our building with their son who was a few months older than ours. The mother, a petite woman with a classic, perfectly aligned face had quit her finance job to parent and devote her time to achieving physical perfection (two worthy ventures). She was at all times resplendent, be it Sunday morning in her apartment or on her way to an opera; I marveled at her matte skin, painted lips and designer clothing– nary a wrinkle or stain in sight. I may have envied her hard-earned radiance for it was a miracle if my hair was fully combed every morning. Her husband, also in finance, was a smooth-skinned looker with a dizzying array of expensive-looking narrow-hipped suits, shiny shoes and commanding watches that surely a connoisseur would recognize. In the elevator, he would smile at me polite and curt, his lips closed and his head in bow. A high-school girl Isabelle (who used to babysit my son) and I once anointed this dashing couple “best dressed.” (You might think this was a wide open field in a dinky pre-war building but there were a surprising number of stylish tenants including the arrogant actor who played Blake Lively’s father in Gossip Girl. He took newsboy hats/fedoras and jeans to new heights in our elevator every morning).
My few exchanges with the mother (for drama’s sake let’s call her my nemesis) always ruffled me. Stumbling home from work, I — my hair whip-lashed, my skin wan and perspiring from the subway crush–sometimes bumped into my nemesis on her way out for the evening. She’d look up at me–for she was a shorty–with a pitying gaze and say ” you look soooooo tired!” Fighting words! I once asked her if our boys could have a play date to which she responded ” Isn’t your son two months younger than mine?” –her peculiar way of saying no. Another time, I saw her at Nixon In China, a purposefully unique opera, and she saw me at intermission and said “it was so, uh..different” and scrunched her nose in distaste. I, of course, had to mock her to my husband; for, duh, being different was very much the point! How fun to hold her in contempt for once.
But my flash of arrogance/feeling of superiority was short lived. When my son was around five-months old, I locked both of us out of our apartment on a weeknight around 6 p.m. Some details are obscured in memory, e.g., why I was in the hallway in this vulnerable state. I’m guessing I was dumping my garbage in the hallway bins. My son, not yet walking, was in my arms either half naked in a diaper or fully naked. I wore nothing but underwear and a terry cloth bathrobe that had an impish belt that never stayed tied. (My husband, was on a three-day work trip and my phone was inside). In retrospect, I could have knocked on a neighbor’s door and asked them to call our doorman John on their intercom but my post-natal mind was euphemistically adrift. Holding my son to my chest for dear life to assume a measure of modesty and to keep me warm (It was a blustery winter), I chanced to get an empty elevator. When the door opened at the lobby, I stuck my head out–lemming style– hoping to wave John down discretely without subjecting anyone to my own version of American Gothic. He was, of course, MIA. I had to hold the lurching door open with one hand and clutch my bulbous son with the other hand. I realized, grimacing, that with each passing second, the likelihood of someone eyeballing my fleshy child and an-in-the works- half naked me, increased significantly. My son, perhaps sensing my heightened state, took this moment to squirm wildly in my arms and let out an urgent wail, which forced me to hysterically clutch the folds of my robe and those of my progeny while jamming one foot against the door to keep it open. When I looked up, no doubt flushed, I faced the unthinkable: John, seated behind his desk by the lobby door grinning at me, and by his side– the impeccably dressed Korean couple from apartment 5A with their mouths wide open. I am not imagining that one look at me made the husband bow his head to his shoes–his chin tightly tucked to his chest. Needless to say, my mortification, and therefore my memory of this moment, is forever etched in my mind.
3: Once on a romantic night out with my husband at a fancy restaurant in Hong Kong, I greedily slurped a bowl of spicy brown soup only to be politely (but incredulously) told by the server that I was, in fact, guzzling the sauce meant for the chicken dish.
2: In college, I wrote a final paper for a political science class called “Poverty and Public Policy.” I discussed The Tyranny of Kindness by author Theresa Funicello and other books. Seemingly oblivious to the concept of editing my work, over thirty times I misnamed the author and referred to her as Annette Funicello–the famed brunette Mouseketeer. My professor drew a smiley face next to all 33 misnomers.
1: I have major geographical amnesia, which I blame on going to so many different schools growing up.( I like to think in the year they taught geography, I moved to another school). I recently referred to Scandinavia as the Netherlands to my husband and was corrected, to minor embarrassment. (I do know the difference but with some regularity, I mix up these white people territories). After almost twenty years of marriage, he perhaps now sees my kinship to those pedestrians you see on Tik Tok/Instagram videos who are shown commonly known national flags only to draw a blank or more comically, mistake it for an equally iconic flag. (I’m no flag expert but egads, mistaking Canada’s maple leaf flag for France’s? I judge).
Tell me your anseup memories!