Proof positive that no matter how in touch and comfortable you are with your sexuality, even a sex goddess can live an embarrassing moment now and again.
So I was taking my 5- and 7-year-old daughters to the airport and decided, last minute, to pack a “toy” for the trip in my carry-on bag. We weren’t five steps through the sliding glass doors when, wouldn’t you know, the damn thing started vibrating!! My 5 year-old asked what was shaking in the bag. I told her it was mommy’s electric toothbrush. I know. I know. But really, I was a little caught off guard?!?
In any event, we get to security, and, of course, the guard wants to look inside my bag. Sigh. Here we go . . .
The guard takes out my silver bullet and smiles like he’s found gold. His only response? “Ma’am??”
My 5-year-old daughter blew her disheveled pig tails out of her face, drew her rainbow dog-eared beary close to her chest, and, indignant that her mother be questioned, LOUDLY replied, “MY MOMMY USES THAT ON HER TEETH!!”
Needless to say, the guard–and everyone within a ten-foot radius–started laughing uncontrollably.
Not like I don’t have several. There was the time, right after college, when I was transitioning into a fairly serious relationship with this guy. In fact, I had decided to introduce him to my grandmother–one of the most deliciously ornery, intelligent, wonderful women I knew and have ever come to know.
Nana called my apartment just before Mark was scheduled to drop by. I heard him let himself in and proceed to the bedroom where I was spread out in my jammies. It wasn’t long before HE started getting ornery, and I decided I couldn’t handle him and a phone conversation with my grandmother at the same time. I said goodbye to Nana and reminded her we’d be there for dinner.
Several amazing hours later, we walked through the door at my grandmother’s home, and I introduced Mark to Nana. She greeted him kindly and asked him to throw his coat on the chair in the back bedroom. When he could no longer be seen, she turned to me, eyebrows raised, and with earsplitting voltage said, “All that time and screaming over THAT, Robbie???”
I couldn’t decide whether it was more embarrassing to know my 80ish-year-old grandmother had been listening to me having sex, or that my then boyfriend was undoubtedly finding out my 80ish-year-old grandmother didn’t think he was worth the sex in the first place. Laughing. Yes, I can laugh now. But it was an interesting dinner.
Embarrassment serves a purpose in everyday society. Just the fear of humiliation often keeps people over the 20-something and under MTV crowd well within the realm of established mores. Forget about the reverse cowgirl; see if you can place yourself into these positions . . .
“Bob and I had just started dating. We ended up at his parents one night while they were out and had sex in their bed. Didn’t have any lube, so we used olive oil from the pantry. Imagine my shock when his father–meeting me for the first time–said that I indeed looked like the outline he’d already seen. Apparently, olive oil stains sheets . . . ” Barbara, Los Angeles, California, age 48
“Michelle and I were having sex at her apartment. For whatever reason, I looked up and saw a picture of her mother on the dresser, and my cock went soft on the spot. If that wasn’t bad enough, when she asked me what was wrong, I called her by her mother’s name. Awkward isn’t the word!” Mitch, Sun Valley, Idaho, age 34
“So I decided to push myself and see if I could deep throat my then fiancé. Guess I didn’t realize how strong my gag reflex was. I ended up throwing up all over him. Have to say he didn’t request blow jobs for quite a while!” Carrie, Chicago, Illinois, age 41
Are you laughing yet? How about a few more?
“I was in my 20′s and attended a wedding with my then girlfriend, now wife. It was a really stressful situation for me. I don’t do crowds well, and I had yet to meet most of her extended family.
Well, we ended up having sex outside in the car right before the reception. I walked into the ballroom, still lost in the previous moments, and managed to eat an entire dinner before I realized I felt a little cold down under.
Guess what? I had only fastened the button on my pants, I didn’t zip up. Not only that, but I somehow managed to forget to tuck myself back in as well! So there I was with my penis hanging out of my fly, having walked around with it like that.
What else could I do? No way to hide what’d happened. I just tucked it back in quickly and carefully, and zipped up. Must say it was the only time I was glad I didn’t have a large member.” Danny, Indianapolis, Indiana, age 56
“I was trying to spice up my marriage after the third baby was born and decided to try sexting. I sent my husband a really racy picture of me that I’d taken the night before. He immediately responded with a question mark. Hurt, I asked why he didn’t want to play along. After all, I was doing nothing wrong. He sent a few sarcastic texts, and I kept trying to entice him with racier and racier thoughts. Finally, he asked if I knew who I was texting. Uh, yeah, it was my husband’s brother!!” Lori, Ontario, Canada age 43
Okay, so maybe you’ve not found yourself in these situations. That said, we’ve all been there. We’ve all wanted to put our tail between our legs and find the nearest corner to hide. But why get embarrassed about bodily functions and primal urges? Will the world really fall apart if we don’t completely dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” of societal mores in the bedroom?
And why do therapists consistently choose to focus upon shame as opposed to embarrassment when it comes to sex? They’re not the same concept at all.
Each culture has its own set of the above mentioned social rules by which members are expected to abide. Follow the rules, and all is good. Well, supposedly. Don’t follow the rules? Society punishes law breakers with standardized penalties. That’s where shame comes into play.
Ever hear the chastisement of someone who’s broken the rules? “YOU should be ashamed of yourself!!” Note that the chastiser clearly distances himself or herself from the chastisee by using a “you” versus “I” message. The implication is clear. YOU knew YOU did something YOU weren’t supposed to do. And YOU should be ashamed.
Contrast shame with embarrassment.
“OMG! I am so sorry you had to go through that. You know, the same thing happened to me once . . .”
This message is completely different. Here, the communicator acts to console a self-injured party. An “I” message is utilized, indicating a willingness to associate with the message’s recipient. That’s because, unlike shame, embarrassment occurs when rules are unintentionally broken.
Now I’m not going to get all Freudian here. And, no, I don’t feel like reviewing Erik Erikson, Helen Block Lewis, or any of the other biggie shrinks. I’m fully aware we’re often made to feel ashamed for situations beyond our control and beyond the scope of our responsibility. But, taken with a wide brush, shame occurs when we intend to break the rules. Embarrassment occurs when we don’t.
So what does all this have to do with nooky? I have a theory.
Embarrassing situations fall somewhere between following standardized practice and not. They’re kinda like social more limbo. We don’t really have any unwritten laws for what to do in an embarrassing intimate moment, because, well, they’re not supposed to happen.
And that’s what makes them the ultimate test of a relationship.
Throw up on your partner’s penis, and he laughs? You’ve got the right guy, honey. Throw up on your partner’s penis, and he can’t cope? Time to take out the trash along with him and his judgments. Ever really thought about what you look like when you’re having sex? What about the noises that are made? Isn’t it all a little ridiculous anyway? Really?
The key to good sex is having a partner who will laugh with you, not at you. Someone who will build a relationship, not tear it apart by always having to be “right” and expecting you to do the same. You don’t need much else, except maybe a strong windshield. Just ask Martha, 41, from San Diego, California . . .
“I know I’m going to win the most embarrassing moment hands down. John and I were in high school. We took his dad’s brand new car out to Homecoming. Well, let’s just say we didn’t go straight home.
It got REALLY hot and heavy. I like really physical sex. Always did. So, I didn’t think anything of it when the force of it all through me into the windshield. That is, until I realized my ass had almost completely cracked it!!
John and I were just laughing about that night the other day. We were celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary.”
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