Once upon a time, I learned through experience how to avoid profound embarrassment.
This enlightenment took place shortly after our baby daughter Julie was born. During her first three months she suffered from colic, a malady that caused her to cry for hours on end. Sheer exhaustion coupled with jangled nerves transformed her once good-looking mommy into a disheveled zombie averaging three hours of sleep per night. I was so zonked that I could barely stagger unaided to the bathroom, let alone apply cosmetics.
One afternoon while my husband babysat, I escaped from the house for a quiet stroll through the mall. It was delightful wandering in and out of stores, quietly browsing. However I just couldn’t shake the nagging suspicion that I’d forgotten to do something important.
I was standing in the Hallmark store giggling over the birthday cards, when someone’s infant began wailing.
As a sudden gush produced two large wet blotches on the front of my shirt, I remembered what had escaped my memory.
I hadn’t put disposable nursing pads inside my bra.
The more the little tyke cried, the soggier I got. Though what was happening to me was a common occurrence among nursing mothers, it was clearly time to make like an atom and split.
I stuffed the card I was reading back into the rack and fled for the door, praying no one had observed my predicament.
Just when I was about to make a clean getaway, a pleasant voice behind me called,
“Michelle is that you?”
(Critical error here. I stopped running.)
Whirling around, I was eyeball to eyeball with my old school chum Mandy Peterson, who had just been crowned Miss Seminole, and was preparing for the Miss Florida pageant.
She looked every inch the beauty queen, with long, shiny auburn hair, skintight blue jeans, high-heeled black boots, and a lovely peach colored cashmere sweater perfectly complimenting her glowing complexion.
And there I stood; a makeup-less train wreck, zits on my chin, eyes bugged out in disbelief, messy blonde hair reminiscent of Shredded Wheat, clad in faded maternity duds, my horrified mouth catching flies as I gawked at her like the village idiot.
To say I was embarrassed was an understatement. If it were possible to perish from humiliation, I’d have dropped dead on the spot.
Somehow, I managed to pull myself together. We chatted briefly, each valiantly straining to hear the other over the howling baby. My mind was fixed on one goal, a beeline for the nearest exit. I had a mental image of my bosoms spewing like opened fire hydrants, drizzling their contents down my legs, and puddling in my Keds if I didn’t make hypersonic tracks, which I did moments later.
From that day on, I’ve been a changed woman.
Since someone somewhere in the great beyond delights in arranging mortifying reunions with old loves, old friends, and beauty queens if I dare venture from the house looking less than my best, it should come as no surprise that I’m ready for them.
I won’t even take out the trash without applying fresh mascara, lip-gloss, and running a brush through my hair first.
After all, one never knows whom one might bump into while dragging a Hefty bag.