Thursday, June 27, 2019

Being Caught With Your Pants Down

Illustration by Isaac Cruikshank (1799)
Being caught with your pants down is a cliché that hones closely to its literal meaning. One's forced to reveal what one would prefer to hide. The emotion of embarrassment often accompanies such displays. You might have portrayed yourself as honorable when you've been pilfering from the company’s coffers or noble when a blackguard, liar and gossip. Life is particularly humiliating for a certain type of personality. You may have wanted to be a hero who would sacrifice yourself for others, but find again and again that you’re the one person who's full of the kind of fear that leads to cowardice in the face of danger. You probably read accounts of the good samaritan jumping on the subway tracks to rescue the fainting woman, but when you see someone’s hands waving for help on a turbulent day at the beach, you find yourself breathing a sigh of relief when it’s someone else who dashes into the waves. What if you had been the only person on the beach? What would you have done? You come away thinking about it and feeling bad for not dashing into the water, then you rationalize and try to convince yourself that there was no point when someone had already beaten you to the punch. Sure you would have done it, maybe not so sure. Round and round the thoughts go. You should have punched the guy who talked to you that way (or kissed him as the case may be) or not. You should have stopped the bully on the train (or not). You come away feeling lesser and deeply ashamed for not having stuck up or come on to someone. You want to crawl up into a ball and sleep forever or until you face the next indignity. These have always faded from memory, but at a certain point, they’re no longer like adolescent failures since you realize, there isn't enough time left to forget.

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