24 March 2011

the game

As you may or may not know by now, people-watching is one of my favorite activities. As I am more comfortable observing than acting in social situations, I suppose this fascination makes sense. I appreciate the everyday interactions, and I love analyzing the larger implications of such interactions. But what entertains me most is observing people’s methods of extracting themselves from potential awkwardness.

I can assure you that my analysis is not mean-spirited. In fact, I take these golden moments of humanity as opportunities to learn from others—to determine what does and does not work.

Take, for instance, a classic example of highly visible embarrassment. The homecoming football game at my college is the only sporting event I ever attend. I’m not exactly interested in football, but I feel obligated to support my school at least once a year. Besides, large sporting events are fascinating. Emotions are high, and the entire stadium is buzzing with the prospect of public humiliation. Or maybe that’s just me.

One year, as expected, there were a bunch of shirtless guys in the front of the stands, torsos painted with the letters of the mascot. Typical bros. They were obviously intoxicated, and waaay too into the game. Of course, where there are bros, there are gaggles of giggling girls. One particular gaggle consisted of several girls wearing team paraphernalia and short skirts. Probably not the most practical outfits to wear to a sporting event (who knows what has come into contact with the bleachers). After flirting with the guys, who suddenly were not as interested in the game, they began to couple off and have individual conversations. As expected, there was plenty of hair touching and plenty of shoulder shoving.

One couple seemed in especially high spirits. The girl then decided that she wanted a piggyback ride, so she hopped up on his back. Unfortunately for her, he was too inebriated to provide a stable base, so she quickly met the ground with her face.

Keep in mind that she ate it in front of an entire section of the bleachers.

But, instead of getting upset or dying of embarrassment, she got up and pretended that nothing had happened. Of course, she was not very convincing in her charade, especially since she knew that everyone had seen, but she did her best to ignore that we had all seen up her skirt.

Was her coping mechanism an effective diversion? Considering the vividness with which I remember the event, probably not. Her total disregard for what happened struck me as extremely odd, and intrigued me to the point where I continued to watch her after she walked away, curious to see whether she would break character to one of her friends and express her true feelings. But she never did, which made me uncomfortable. Or maybe those were her true feelings. There’s no way for me to ever know.

But when I think about how I would have behaved were I ever to be in such a situation, I doubt I would have done something different. Is there a way to gracefully handle oneself after experiencing something like that?

I suppose one can take preemptive measure and not ask a drunk shirtless guy for a piggyback ride. But taking such extreme precautions may be unreasonable.


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