Sunday, June 6, 2010

Shameful Memory #1: An Errant Errand

As I said in my first post, I am trying to let go of things that haunt me. There are a set of memories which are particularly bothersome, ones in which I felt humiliated. These are often not memories of my actual wrong-doing; those events I certainly regret, but usually I deal with them more directly (by confessing, asking forgiveness, seeking reconciliation of some sort). The memories I am talking about have no such resolution. Even so, they are very minor incidents...and some of them happened so many years ago that it is a wonder I remember them at all. For anyone else involved, I am sure they were never even thought of twice, but I can't stop thinking about them. I forget what they all are, but they will come up eventually, triggered by something else in life, and then I will replay them in full detail and feel the same shame as they originally evoked. Often, these memories will cause an outward reaction such as cursing aloud, shuddering, groaning, or burying my head in my hands.

The first of these came to mind while enjoying a pleasant walk outside in the sunshine with my daughter. Out of nowhere, there it was. I could feel the familiar sinking, the dread growing inside. The sequential images flashed in my mind and left me, for probably the hundredth time, feeling like the most ridiculous girl on the planet.

I must have been around 17, old enough to drive and living at home. My mom asked me to take a bag of clothes to some friends of ours; the husband was in need of a suit for a formal function and my mom had offered a few of my dad's things to try. She told me - as I remember it - that "L__________ wants to see if any of these will fit D_________," nothing more specific.

I drove the few miles of country back roads to our friends' house with the garbage bag of clothes sitting on the seat. Upon arriving, I brought the bag to the front door and was greeted by L__________ who invited me inside, gushing with hospitality and friendliness as she always does.

A few very specific things about the scene here: L__________ was in a bathrobe and was acting slightly distracted, I inferred that she was in the middle of getting ready for said formal function; the eldest son of our friends was in the living room near the main entryway, lying on the couch, reclining his head on one hand. L_________ chatted with me for a few minutes, the son joined in the conversation too though he did not rise from his position on the couch. Eventually, L_________ made her excuses and said goodbye because she needed to finish getting ready. Courtesies all around.

While L_________ left the room, I turned to the son and shrugged, laughed nervously, then stated, "Looks like it's going to be awhile." You see, I was under the impression that I was supposed to wait around to find out if the clothes fit or not so that I could bring the remaining items back home. I remember taking off my coat - I was wearing overalls and a long sleeved black and yellow striped shirt, my "bee" shirt - and plopping myself down casually on the couch opposite where the son was lying down. I felt cute; for whatever reason, the overalls and bee shirt did that back then.

Now about the son, B________, as he is called, is about 8 years older than me and - at least at the time - was very good looking. When we were littler, my sisters and I all had crushes on him. So picture that: I am roughly 17, he is roughly 25. We are meeting probably for the first time in several years and the last impression that I have of him is of unrequited childhood affection. This was my chance to talk to an attractive guy and to bridge the gap in our ages by establishing myself as grown-up, therefore nullifying any last impression that he may have had of me. And we did talk, though I have no idea what about.

Inwardly, I was congratulating myself for handling the social situation so well - small talk never was one of my strong points. I remember feeling anxious and wondering how long I would have to wait to get those clothes back so I could make the drive home. After a few minutes, L________ came back into the room. She startled at the sight of me. "You're still here!" she said with surprise.

This is when it hit me. "I thought I was supposed to wait for the clothes," I stammered, understanding immediately that I was in the wrong and that, of course, this was a drop-off-only errand. I made my apologies in haste, not wanting to look back over at the son (still lounging) to expose my embarrassment, and left.

To them both, it was most likely nothing at all. Perhaps they had a chuckle at my expense when the door closed behind me, or maybe L________ mentioned it to my mom later on and laughed then. At the very worst, maybe the son went away thinking, "Boy, that Gustafson girl is weird." But I doubt it. They're nice people, friends of the family, and it was just an honest mistake. People don't generally hold honest mistakes against you. I hold them against myself. Somehow I think I should be above mistakes.

The reason that this memory continues to make me feel humiliated is not because I still have a crush on the son, but it is because - at such a tender age, when self-confidence is already at a low, and the world of the opposite sex is just opening up - I was a fool. A teensy, tiny, barely noticeable fool. I puffed myself up for a moment, just to look silly the next. My anxiety, contrasted with the extreme of his repose, heightened the embarrassment. Most things are more dramatic when you're 17, disappointments in "love" especially.

I'm now 30 which puts this guy around 38. We're both married, we both have children, and our paths are not likely to cross any time soon, if ever again. Even if they did, this incident would have absolutely no bearing on that hypothetical encounter. There is no reason that one momentary embarrassment should have any lasting effect on me. It really is time to let go.

Besides, writing this out makes me realize how much of nothing it was; I don't even think it makes a good story.


  1. FYI, I think my crush was on D____ . ;)

  2. Really? Interesting! I always imagine young B______ as a River Runs Through It-era Brad Pitt. That's probably inaccurate.