A lot of my writing is about embarrassment. Not what it feels like, but how it happens, and the lengths people will go to in order to avoid it. I took the idea and ran with it in A Kind of Intimacy (the plug, even on my own blog, is kind of embarrassing too) and created a woman who was always a bit embarrassed but about the wrong things. I’ve always had the sensation that there are a lot of rules about being with other people, having conversations, going to parties and so on, that most people are born knowing – imprinted into us along with blue eyes and pretty toes – or not, in my case. I usually try and avoid those sort of things but some things cannot be evaded.
Today I took the broken car to get washed. I went up to the paying place.
‘How much is it?’ says I.
‘Ninety-five pee for six minutes of hoovering, and thirty-five pee a minute for the jet-washing,’ the woman said.
‘Right,’ I said, looking at the car, which is small, but very dirty. ‘So… um…’ (even the bits of my head that are covered in hair were blushing) ‘what’s average then, for the hoovering?’
She just looks at me. I knew she was just dying to say, ‘average hoovering times… hmmm, let me consult my on-board averageometer,’ click click click, ‘my, it seems that this week the average hoovering time has been eight point three five minutes. Will that do you?’
‘I’ll have six minutes of hoovering and ten minutes of jet-washing, please. And a packet of prawn cocktail crisps.’
I mean, what is that? Are you born knowing how many minutes of jet-washing and hoovering little dirty cars require? Pfft!
Spelling things badly in public embarrasses me, and ’embarrassment’ is a word I have trouble spelling well.
This is something I read today and my favourite bit was this:
Instead of feeling awkward about being easily embarrassed, Professor Crozier says it’s a sign of greater emotional intelligence.
“A prerequisite for embarrassment is to be able to feel how others feel – you have to be empathetic, intelligent to the social situation,” he says.