I love to swap embarrassing stories. It’s a strange pastime, I know. They say laughter is the best medicine though, so let’s just say laughter is my drug of choice. Whatever ails you, a good dose of laughter can make things better–even if for only a moment. So today I’d like to share my favorite drug with you. Open wide.
Long before Janet Jackson inspired the phrase “wardrobe malfunction,” I had perfected the art. It’s an art which is guaranteed to rob you of your dignity and leave in its place a sniveling blob of embarrassed self-loathing. My experience with wardrobe malfunctions began in high school. I was a naive fifteen year-old the day I first experienced such humiliation. Our local high school had received a bomb threat, and they evacuated the building. The threat turned out to be a prank, probably from some hoodlum hoping they’d cancel school for the rest of the day. However the administration was on to them and instead of sending us home, they marched all five hundred of us to the local armory, about a half mile away. The armory featured a large all-purpose room about the size of a gymnasium. Once we arrived we were told to sit down and wait. Great, that should be loads of fun.
Anyone who teaches high school, or has a high school student, or has ever heard of high school students, can imagine what happened next. And it didn’t involve sitting down and waiting. Fairly quickly we began forming groups and devising all sorts of random games and obnoxious time-killers. This was back in the old days before high school students carried cell phones, so we had to get creative. I linked up with a group and pretty soon we were playing Freeze–a fairly safe theatre improv game usually found in drama classes, comedy sports bars, and late night reruns of “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” The concept of the game is fairly simple–two people create a scene utilizing interesting body positions. Someone yells “freeze” and the two actors freeze. The person who called out “freeze” enters the playing area, taps one actor on the shoulder and then takes their place. The new actor begins an entirely different scene beginning with the same body positions that the characters were frozen in. As our group began playing, pretty soon a crowd formed around us –this was free entertainment. I played out a couple of scenes, switching in and out of the game with my friends. And then it happened. I entered the frozen position and created a scene involving jumping on a trampoline. As we joked around we jumped up and down like crazy people, bouncing on our invisible trampoline. Everyone was laughing hysterically, and I could see the crowd growing. “I’m killing it!” I thought. “I’ll probably be asked to join “Saturday Night Live” before I turn sixteen.”
But as I continued with the scene, I began to feel that something was not quite right. I glanced down. Houston we have a problem . . .
Now would be a great time to pause the story. Press the rewind button. Earlier that morning I woke up, washed my hair, and decided to put on my favorite outfit. It was a cute little romper with loads of little white buttons. I loved it because I was convinced it made me look skinny. I only weighed 125 back then, but I went to school with all of Kate Moss’ long lost sisters who weighed about 90 pounds each. Next to them I was a beached whale. (If my fifteen year old self could see me now, she’d be mortified!)
Fast forward . . . I began to feel that something was not quite right. I glanced down. Every single one of those adorable white buttons had come undone. And when you’re wearing a romper, that’s a lot of buttons. I was mortified. I tried to cover myself and began screaming out for someone to call “freeze” which, of course, no one did. Instead they responded with more laughter. That same laughter which I was sure signaled my rise to fame now cruelly mocked me. I began frantically begging someone to take my place. I’m not sure why I didn’t think to just run out of the room. Probably the die-hard actor in me trained that no matter what “the show must go on,” or something like that. That instinct would get me into a lot of trouble in life. But that’s for another post.
I can’t really remember how it ended. Perhaps I reached my maximum level of wardrobe malfunction tolerance and finally ran away and hid in the bathroom. Or maybe a teacher finally got curious why hundreds of students had formed a tight circle and were laughing hysterically. Whatever happened has been blocked out of my mind from the magnitude of my embarrassment. One thing is certain. When the day ended and we were finally dismissed, I went home and buried that romper where it would never see the light of day again. And somehow I managed to get up and go to school the next day and face hundreds of people who had gotten quite a show from me the day before. And for that, I am certain I should have received an award.
And thus began my introduction to the art of wardrobe malfunction. Over the coming years, I would have many more opportunities to practice this art. But I think, perhaps, you may have exceed the recommended daily dosage of laughter for today. So you’ll just have to come back tomorrow. The pharmacy will be reopening then.