Embarrassment Is Nice
He was white, a little chubby and had the worst outfit in the whole club, but he was dancing with more passion than everybody in the club had combined.
It looked like his hoodie was white, or was at least supposed to be. The hood was pilled and covered some of his face.
He was sweating like crazy.
There was no way he smelt good under there.
He swayed his way to whichever pretty lady was within two feet of him as if he were to say “Want to dance?”
They inched away with disgust and fear.
I guess not.
He had a real smile on and his tongue was poking upwards on the side of his mouth.
I think it was helping him stay focused on the rhythm.
The whole club was laughing at him.
He looked silly.
He didn’t fit in at all.
His chunky off-brand, off-white sneakers scuffed the floors and when he did a spin I noticed he was wearing a white headband.
Girls in tight dresses buckled in laughter.
Guys with gelled hair pointed at him with their beers.
Everyone seemed entertained.
He was entertaining.
The passion in his dance moves was so obvious and real it was embarrassing us.
It made all of us with our expensive clothes and impressive jobs confused.
Who did this guy think he was having so much fun?
Didn’t he have more to figure out?
Didn’t he need to be cool like us to experience that amount of freedom?
I sat in silence as the rude remarks kept coming.
They were getting more clever as time passed by.
Every comment made me stare longer and wonder about this man.
Who was he?
What was his past like?
How did he end up here?
A new song came on and he started to do a grinding motion that we were all surprised he had in him.
At least he was on beat. I mean, he was no Michael Jackson, but you can tell he was letting the music swim in his veins.
I tilted my head to the side.
His commitment to his own jive just looked, so, free. “Why are you watching this loser?”
A man in a tacky blue button up shirt came up to me.
“You should be dancing with me.”
“Should I though?”
I recognized this guy from the group of men who were pointing at laughing at my new dancing friend.
Why was this guy getting punished?
Was it because we couldn’t handle someone completely surrendering?
Was it because we were afraid of giving ourselves the freedom this guy was giving to himself?
He wasn’t even bothering anyone.
He was just dancing…. with all his heart.
I grew up in New York City, so every time you sing on the top of your lungs inside of your apartment, there’s a good chance someone will yell “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”
So as much as I wanted to, I was always afraid of singing all the way.
I was afraid of dancing all the way.
I was just always afraid to go all the way.
I think that’s why everyone hated this man.
Because he was allowing himself to go all the way.
He was allowing his body to move to all the little sounds in the songs.
He was so into it, his cheeks jiggled as he moved.
Both set of cheeks.
Even when he didn’t get his foot to step at the same split second of the beat, you could tell he tried to get it there on time.
His effort was hard to watch.
It pulled at our hearts.
It made all the dancers and singers inside of us pound on the walls of our skin to get out.
We had to be mean to hold it together. But feet wanted to tap. Heads wanted to draw, back but dammit, it just wouldn’t look cool.
I believe that the people who dance badly, sing off key and say what they feel are the most envied people in the world.
They get stared at through the holes we’ve poked through our masks with jealousy and wonder.
We work on detailing our elaborate masks all day long only to allude our peers (and ourselves) into thinking this is it.
This is me.
But it’s not.
And all the skin under there suffers and gasps for air.
It takes the cuts and absorbs the bruises we are not foolish enough to show, because if we let it show, everything would change, then we’d have to change and nobody wants to do that.
But that’s what makes grace so rare and mesmerizing. It’s finding somebody who actually walks around without the mask.
This man used to wear a mask like us and finally decided he couldn’t live like that any more.
I think we were all watching him trying to figure out how in the world he did that.
What about what everyone would think? What about work? What about…everything?
As he swayed and sweat I could tell he stopped asking himself questions like that a long time ago. He was only asking “Well, what about me?”
What about us?
How many dance moves have we held in? How many songs have we not sung? How many words do we not say? What are they doing inside of us?
All of this is in fear of looking stupid, or weird or dumb.
But when you see a man dancing like this, when you see what freedom looks like, you start to feel stupid, weird and dumb for not joining.
He looked like he had wings. He looked like he laughed a lot.
He looked like if one of our mean asses just went up to him, and said “Hello” he’d have the most interesting things to say.
I imagined he developed a different relationship with embarrassment then the rest of us. He sat down with her and decided that they’d have to get a long.
That instead of her being the evil monster out to destroy everyone’s life, she was actually just a really outgoing friend that helped you opened the gates to yourself. He was willing to take our laughter for an exchange of his freedom.
Is that all it takes to get my freedom?
Do I just have to sit down with embarrassment and say…
“Look, I know I’ve been running away from you since that one time in first grade when I got the answer wrong but I think we need to talk.”
What will she say?
I decided to ask.
“Oh don’t worry. I’m used to it.” She giggled.
“This is how it’s going to work. You’re going to express yourself, like your real self, not this….thing you’ve been doing.”
“Then, I’m going to come in and you’re going to feel this really intense wave of emotions take over your body but after you’ll feel fresh and clean. I promise.”
Embarrassment seems like a nice chick. I took her advice. I danced. I sang. I laughed. I cried. I let words that normally swirl in my head come out.
She was right. I felt a rush of emotions wash inside of me. I felt like I was standing inside the ocean and that my body turned into a net and waves were sweeping through me.
Maybe this whole time I was a damn net, but filled with too much gunk to know.
Being clean made me feel so exposed.
It was the perfect time for someone to punch me in stomach because it was the first time in years that I moved my hands away from in front of my gut.
Soon after, the ocean feeling melted down into small playful waves softly lapping at my feet.
It washed me. I felt fresh. I felt clean. I felt like myself and I somehow knew it was myself even though I had never really felt it before.
“Embarrassment!” I called out. “Your advice worked. I’m feeling better! I’m feeling alive!”
She responded. “No worries Alex!"
"Oh and hey, call me Authenticity. Embarrassment is just my middle name.”