Last week, I got a Thai massage at a new place in town and had an embarrassing episode trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with the pink sheet the woman handed me before disappearing behind a curtain. The sheet turned out to be pants…big enough for an elephant leg…which I ripped trying to cinch up. I finally just bunched up the pants around my waist and laid down, feeling foolish for the first five minutes of the massage. But that’s when I realized: These moments—the hilariously uncomfortable ones—are what life is all about. And they happen to all of us.
You know, when you’re stuck in a stall with no toilet paper. The bathroom door doesn’t lock. The bathroom locks so well you get stuck inside and and have to knock from the inside for help. The restaurant’s front door won’t open when you pull it, and all the patrons on the other side of the glass get to watch you struggle with it. Inside the restaurant, you don’t know whether to wash your fingers in the bowl of water or drink it. Or your date (like mine once did), mistakes the wasabi for a split-pea hummus and eats a tablespoon of it in one nasal-burning gulp.
I will never forget the day I got trapped in a dress inside a dressing room stall. The dress I was trying on was supposed to flow over and under the arms and around my back like a runway piece; it did on the mannequin at least. But when I tried to wiggle into it in the dressing room, somewhere between sticking my arms up and pulling the dress down…it got stuck. Like, really, seriously stuck.
I couldn’t bend my elbows to pull it further up or down, and with the fabric of the bodice covering my face, I couldn’t see into the mirror to figure out what the heck I was doing wrong. I spent five minutes wiggling around like Houdini in a straight jacket. But I was getting nowhere except tired and unnecessarily panicked, in an “Oh my God, I might suffocate and die!” kind of way. Apparently my will to live was just too strong.
“Hello?” I asked feebly through the cotton/silk blend in front of my face. “Is anyone in here?”
“Yes?” I heard.
“I need help,” I whimpered. “I’m kind of…stuck.”
We played a little dressing room Marco Polo until she found me. But with my arms stuck at my ears in “tree pose” inside the fabric, I couldn’t unlock the door. The woman got an employee to open the door and the two of them untangled me from the fabric—which then left me, of course, standing naked in nothing but the ugly baggy undies I wear when I don’t plan on strangers seeing me naked. Standing there bare, blushing and embarrassed, I said something like, “Wow, styles today, huh?” and tore the hell out. But by the time I got to my car to leave, I was laughing out loud.
Yes, these embarrassing moments make us feel uncomfortable and out of our element. But guess what? They’re a sign we’re living life! If you never have a moment where you feel like you’re on unfamiliar ground and you don’t know how something works, you may be stuck inside your element and have gotten too comfortable. Routine, of course, can be lovely; I think there’s great happiness to be found in the same hot cup of tea every day. But it’s also healthy for us to put ourselves in places that challenge us, to persevere through it until you land safely back on familiar ground.
The same goes for dating: It’s healthy to step out of our element by going to new places with new people. All the eek-worthy dates, the awkward moments, the blind date nervousness, and the odd online requests? They may not add up to a perfect date, but they’ll make you feel alive. That’s life, my friends, at it’s best. Embrace your embarrassments, because they’re a sign you’re expanding into new elements, breaking new ground and really living. And when the blush fades, hey, at least you’ll have some hilarious stories to share with your friends. And please, oh, please, share them with me, too.