Do you have an embarrassing high school moment? Doesn’t everyone? Was yours in leotards?

I really enjoyed watching Gabby Douglas, the confident 16-year old American gymnast who brought home two gold medals. She had some disappointing moments, like finishing seventh on the balance beam, but she is the first American to win team and all-around gold in the same Olympics.  Her captivating smile following nerves of steel moves is going to take her far in the realm of celebrity endorsements. Articles are already popping up outlining the marketing of the talented young teen.

Stories were told about how she surprised everyone with her standout performances. Just five months before the Olympics, Martha Karolyi, the coordinator of the women’s national team, did not think Douglas had what it took to be an Olympic winner. But Gabby doesn’t appear to be a girl deterred from achieving her goals. There had to be something very special and particularly focused in her desire to win or how else would her mother, Natalie Hawkins, stand to make the giant leap of sacrifice  allowing her then 14-year old daughter to move  1,200 mies from Virginia Beach to West Des Moines, to train with an Olympic level coach and live with a family Gabby had never even met.

I certainly marvel at such physical capability, but I am even more impressed with the dedication, focus, and drive.

Watching Gabby and other outstanding athletes perform in front of audiences, rarely losing their cool, even after some devastating falls and bitter defeats, reminds me of one of my high school performances. I didn’t quite have Gabby’s poise!

My lifelong friend Beverly and I were in the same Sophomore P.E. class. For those of you who know either one of us very well you already know this story cannot end well. Neither of us were ever put in the athlete category and we were not taking a dance class, either–it was simply Sophomore P.E. Yet our assignment was to pair up, and self-choreograph and perform an interpretive modern dance. Sure. No problem.

Well, to the accompaniment of the Doors, The Crystal Ship, we worked out the details of our routine from our studios bedrooms. Now the choice in music does play a part in our final humiliation performance. The song was from The Doors 1967 debut album and also the B-side of the number-one hit single, Light My Fire. We weren’t dancers, but we knew how to pick out music!

Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors.

Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors. (Photo credit: Wikip

We practiced and did our best to match movement with music, moody and somber, summoning grace and courage to just get through this. Oh, and did I mention our attire? Well, that would be leotards. Of course!  Every 15 year-old has the confidence to cavort around in front of their peers wearing skin tight leotards.

The day arrived. Do I remember it well, or is it merely that Beverly and I still talk about it as though it were yesterday. I do remember enough detail to tell you the story. The day had finally arrived. No more practicing. We were as ready as we were going to be…but something was not as envisioned. There was added activity in the gym. Were the BOYS in the gym? Oh NO! It had started to rain, and it was no longer just the other girls in our class–there was a much wider and more devastatingly embarrassing potential audience.

Let me help you picture this! What do you think happens to a room full of teens when one of the most popular songs of the day begins to sing out from across the room? Of course! All energy stops! It felt like we were all in slow motion as it became clear that both male and female eyes had shifted to the source of the music. And to the words of Jim Morrison they were additionally treated to the sight of two very musical, yet extremely self-conscious 15-year old girls, dancing with free spirited motion in some form out out-of-body self-consciousnesss.

Bev remembers we got a B for our effort. I don’t remember a thing about the grade. I don’t think   I cared at that point. I also presume somewhere in the B came apologies from a teacher who could not possibly have expected anything better under the circumstances.

There are always going to be moments in our lives that are just a little bit humiliating. This, for me, was one of them.

And then today our precious Sophia started Kindergarten! She is so excited about being in the same school as her older cousin. She has looked forward to it all summer and even in the current desert heat she was fully prepared to walk away from her mommy and into what really was the unknown. She was ready and focused. And in my book, she was brave.

I’m having a difficult time with the fact that my personal time with her is going to be shortened by quite a bit! Her all-day Kindergarten schedule really cuts into my fun time! But the point is that she is ready. And in some way since she was born almost five years ago I have been looking forward to this day with her. This is her opportunity to shine and begin establishing her own thoughts, her own goals and disciplines–taking some big and necessary steps in independence.

I do cringe a bit that in leaving the safety of the nest we won’t be able to save her from every disappointment, defeat or humiliation–Oh may they be very small for years to come…high school IS a long way away!

I don’t care if she is ever a star athlete or achieves one whit of fame, but I’d love to see her develop the poise and confidence of our Olympic athletes. It would be a great asset in life to learn that disappointments are navigable and to turn challenges into achievable goals.  And some day when she’s older, maybe before she goes into high school, I’ll share my story of embarrassment, but in telling it I will  laugh uproariously at what seemed at the time to be a devastatingly critical moment– and then it passed.

I won’t tell her that Beverly and I are still just a little mortified when we think of it! She’ll have to learn some of these lessons all on her own.

“The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live “–Mortimer Adler

And if you’d enjoy a little flashback with me…THE Song.  Hope you can breathe a little lighter, too. Debra

54 thoughts on “Do you have an embarrassing high school moment? Doesn’t everyone? Was yours in leotards?

  1. I just finished reading the story of our humiliation and as I read….. a smile came to my face. What was once a horribly embarrassing moment at 15 has now become one of my favorite memories of my youth. It was a moment I shared with a friend that belongs just to the two of us (and maybe about 300 other observers that day!) Memories like these and our ability to grow through them and then remember them with laughter are what bonds friendships and gives us wonderful stories to tell to our grandchildren. Thanks dear friend for putting ours into written word and therefore, making it even more memorable!

    Signed,
    The other half of this prestigious dance team

    • You know, Bev, I still laughed the entire time I was writing this. I think if I had to choose one singular event that brings to mind the awkwardness of high school, and God knows I have a ton of examples to pull from, this one is at the top! It will be fun to still have this shared memory well into the future! We probably should appreciate that we were once able to “cavort around” and move so well in the first place! :-) oxo

  2. Enjoyed the post Debra. Gosh I didn’t know that Gabby’s Mom allowed her then 14 year-old daughter to move 1,200 miles away to train for the Olympics.

    I can imagine the humiliation as you saw the boys turn around to watch, but aren’t you lucky you grew up then? If you’d put on the performance now your dance would be on everyone’s FaceBook page :-)

    Your little grand daughter’s growing so fast. What did she think of big school?

    • Oh my, but you are so right, Rosie! If we had a humiliating moment today it would end up on youtube! Goodness! I need to be grateful this was a long time before cell phones! :-) Sophia was quite proud of herself…exhausted, but very pleased! I hope “day two” is just as exciting for her. By next week it may occur to her that this is EVERY day and perhaps not as wonderful. Debra

  3. I’m smiling about as broadly as I can, Debra. You poor girls! At 15 years of age, it must have felt like your world was about to cave in on itself. That tale will come in handy one day for Sophia, we’ve all been there. Just like you, she’ll get through whatever it is and, hopefully, she’ll face whatever it is with her lifelong friend at her side.

    • You are so right, John. We have ALL been there with personal stories of high school embarrassments! Recently I was able to spend time with a group of old friends from high school and we laughed and laughed at some of our mixed memories. And due to the fact that most teens are completely self-focused, we all had differing perspectives on some of the highlights! We did a lot of laughing. I do appreciate your thought that perhaps Sophia will also have lifelong friends to accompany her through the years and soften some of the blows. That’s a lovely thing to hope for! :-) Debra

  4. I was smiling and smiling, I can just imagine how mortified you both were. LOL. I think the younger generation nowadays, have more self confidence as they are more exposed to the world because of technology. I didn’t have the confidence or poise, was a pretty awkward teenager.

    • I don’t know how true it is that younger people have more confidence, but it seems the same to me, Marie. I look at them and see less self-consciousness than I remember, but maybe they are just better at masking some of their insecurity. They are so “public” about everything, with Facebook and constantly texting everything to one another. And “dearrosie” reminded me that if our dance routine were today, we’d end up on youtube! Yikes! So I wonder if highschool students are simply much better today at being in the limelight, in good times and when under pressure! It’s an interesting thought! Thank you for laughing along with me! Debra

  5. That American gymnast certainly was impressive. I very much enjoyed watching her perform. There is no way I could be a gymnast – it looks far too dangerous and scary, especially what they do on the beam. That’s so sad that the days with your granddaughter have been cut short by the interruption of school – what a nuisance! I hope you can have some quality time with her in the holidays xx

    • Yes, Charlie, I suggested to my daughter that I’d be willing to homeschool Sophia, but she didn’t seem to want to take me up on my offer! :-) I’ll have to do the necessary adjusting I guess! And I agree with you about the gymnasts. I would be just terrified! I always think about the falls they must have taken while first learning these complex routines. What gives them the “oomph” to get up there and do it again and again until they’re confident! Amazing! Glad you’re not bumped off your computer! I think you had a few moments of “oh no, what now!” oxo Debra

  6. thanks for sharing the memory of you and Bev….the important thing is, despite how humiliating it was, you stoically danced on—right into your own precious memory books. and now, sweet Sophia is launching into a lifetime of precious-memory building with friends she is about to meet. and there you will be to hear all about it and see some of it too!thanks, Debra!

    • Oh, thank you, Kate. You’re right. We didn’t go running from the room, so maybe we had more of the “right stuff” than I previously considered! And we do still laugh about it so often, that is a precious memory between friends. I’m really praying that Sophia makes good friends early in her school years. Friends were the reason I looked forward to school most days. I still have several friends from elementary school, not quite Kindergarten, but I do from first grade. They are a treasure. Thank you for your sweet words. D

  7. Whew … many things to comment on here, put I’ll be it short.

    How can someone not love the Gabby Douglas smile? :) It seems to genuine!

    The focus of Olympians is unbelievable … which has got to help them in other endeavors throughout life.

    Best of luck to Sophia as she starts her school journey, and good luck to her grandmother’s adjustment.

    Now the big question: Can Beverly and you still do the routine?

    • You know, Frank, I don’t think Bev and I could coordinate our moves as well as we once did! LOL! But we both watch So You Think You Can Dance and compare notes all the time. Mostly I stand amazed at the grace some young people are born with and then perfect with years of practice. Perhaps if Bev and I had dedicated ourselves a bit more? No, probably not! And thank you for the thoughts on Sophia and her first jump into the big leagues of school. From the moment we’re born we take steps away from our families and move into autonomy. Doesn’t mean I have to like it! LOL! Debra

  8. These horrifying memories are the ones that light up living, aren’t they? I love the image of you and Beverly gyrating in your leotards.

    • Doesn’t quite match the horror of wetting your pants in front of the class though, does it Andra? But it might come close! Ha! Especially when considering young teen girls and their dysfunctional body images! We survive to tell our stories. I guess that’s the lesson here! :-) D

  9. Gabby Douglas is a gold medalist to me for many reasons, including, of course, her performance and athleticism, her grace under pressure, her ability to handle failure, that smile, her determination and courage. It will be fun to watch her over the next several years and she will be an inspiration to many young girls.

    Kindergarten. What more can I say?

    Debra, you already know of my prowess in gymnastics and some day I will share my exploits in the swimming pool and regale how only I could handle a badminton racket. It was track and field that brought the worstt humiliation. It was in the days before coed gym, so most of my humiliation was just amongst the girls, but, t & f was outside, with boys’ gym going on at the same time. We were jumping the hurdles. Well, everyone else was. I think I just barely made it over the first. My memory is foggy. It was the second one that I tried and it bit me from behind. Yes. The seat of my gymsuit was pinched by the hurdle, hanging on to me like a angry mutt, trailing behind. Two boys had to help unleash it. Sigh.

    • Oh my gosh, Penny, that is both the funniest and most humiliating high school stories! LOL! How we survive these personal indignities to come back to the school the following day does say that we had more perseverance and fortitude than maybe we give ourselves credit for…if only we could have seen the strength we had way back then! From what you’ve described I think your physical education classes were a lot more intense than I remember mine being. I can’t imagine being called upon to hurdle over anything! At least dancing was only embarrassing, not dangerous! And I know you know all about how I’m feeling about Kindergarten. I cried when my own kids went to college, too, as do most parents! So it will never be easy, but it is exciting! :-) Thank you, Penny.

  10. Oh Debra, just loved this. You have me tearing up on the train this a.m. Congratulations on Kindergarten! Miss A starts next year, so I’m making a point to get as much of her as I can this year. Watching little ones grow up is so bittersweet. As for your embarrassing moment, I’m impressed you performed. I would have suddenly been overcome with sickness. Lol!

    • You know, Kristy, I’m quite sure that the only reason I went through with it was because of my friend, Bev. Somehow we did lean into one another and make it happen. Otherwise, I was good at getting out of things! I can be creative that way when I have to! Oh yes, do soak up every moment with that little precious Miss A! Aimee still has Karina at home, so we sometimes get to take these milestones in steps. I think it takes tremendous acts of courage for parents to release their precious children to the care of others, even if the teachers are trusted and wonderful. They’re not mom or dad. It’s a rite of passage we all go through! So just enjoy this year as special. I know you will. D

  11. High school years were awkward years. I’d love to relive them with the confidence I have now but that’s not gonna happen!
    I remember my mother telling me when I started school that I was a big girl now but I think there were some tears in her eyes when she said it. It’s the end of one phase and the start of a new one.

    • I think these developmental milestones, like going to school for the first time or embarrassing high school moments are so similar for each of us. The details are different, but the feelings and emotions are altogether similar. I do wish we came into the world already hardwired to just know that everyone else is equally self-conscious and that what seems to us to be really “big deals” will only be a little blip on the radar…we’ll live to have many more humiliating moments across the lifespan! Ha! Thanks for sharing, Kate. D

  12. Ah Debra, this touched me on several levels. My best friend (and we still are) and I had modern dance. I can remember that whole episode…

    And then my grandson is starting kindergarten next week. And there will be changes not just on the micro level – also on the macro level! Thanks!

    • Ah, we’re sharing the Kindergarten experience, Martha. We’ll have to compare notes! I’d love to hear your modern dance memories, too! Were yuo actually in a modern dance class? I thought the girls who were in those groups were just so graceful! I think I secretly wished I could be a dancer…I loved music so much. But alas…that thought never even got off the ground! LOL! :-) D

  13. About your most embarrassing moment… better you than me! Man, I was grinning reading about being in front of all the guys. Precious memory for sure. :) And kids do grow up so quickly. They will be away from you and all you can really count on is what you taught them to guide them through the day.

    • You’re so right MK…we have to trust that our input stays with our young ones and carries them through their day without our direct oversight! I know I’m not alone in these feelings, and I also know that i’m not alone in feeling that time just moves too quickly! Of course, as busy as we all keep ourselves, including the children, it’s no wonder we have a sense of life passing us by at rapid pace! I’m glad I made you smile with my highschool dance escapades! I’d like to say that was my only embarrassing moment, but like most of us, I have many to choose from! :-) Have a great day! Debra

    • OK, now you have me rolling on the floor (another routine) in laughter, Ginny! Can you even imagine! Our little group should have a talent show! You can bring out your baton…Bev and I will dance around the room, and we’ll have to let the others try to keep up in talent! I am going to be laughing about this for days!:-)

  14. Like many people, I spend a certain amount of energy repressing my embarrassing high school moments (I had the stupidity to go to the junior prom on a dare — I was trapped on a boat with a bad band in a Scarlett O’Hara-type-dress the year everyone else went for sleek and sexy. The prom was loud and freezing cold and there was nowhere to go but the upper deck — quieter, but colder. My date had recently escaped from Synanon with a shaved head and borrowed someone’s polyester pants for the occasion since he left his clothes behind).

    • Sharyn, I feel almost badly laughing so hard at your junior prom experience! It really did go from bad to worse! I know the feeling of showing up to something with the wrong fashion theme! My error was never knowing when it was going to be dresses or pants. I was right in the middle of the fashion changeover from girls always wearing dresses to “sometimes” pants. It was so awful if I was in any way not conforming!

      But your Synanon escapee had to be a nightmare of discomfort for you! You’ve described him perfectly and I can hardly stop chuckling at the thought. If you could possibly write this up and submit it somewhere, the whole scene would be a hilarious comedy treatment for a sitcom! I’m so glad you shared this. You win the prize of the day! :-)

      • Laugh away, Debra — it’s over now. The boy in question wasn’t even an addict — his parents put him there because he was “incorrigible.” He was a sweet, lost soul (but no one shaved their head in 1975!).

  15. Oh yes, we all have at least one humiliating moment from high school – mine will go to the grave with me! LOL

    What a big milestone for Sophia! I remember how hard it was to take my daughter to preschool and then kindergarten, but she didn’t mind in the least. She’s always been an outgoing, confident girl who looks forward to new experiences – I was the one in tears!

    • I was telling my daughter that I cried for days, really did, when our son went “away” to college. She stayed home and was local, so it wasn’t as hard! So I told her that being a mom and letting go of the tethers is hard at every stage. But we do all adjust! And isn’t it a joy when you realize your children are confident and able to move forward with their own lives, and if they do, we have done our job! Have a great day today! Hope Daisy is behaving herself! Ha!

    • Oh my goodness! I have felt a little bad chuckling so hard at each story shared here since yesterday, but each one has been so individual! Three times? The first one would have been enough. If we took some of these incidents and pooled them into comedy scripts we’d have good material, wouldn’t we? Just be glad you didn’t end up on youtube! LOL! Thanks for sharing your personal embarrassment. I wonder if anyone gets out of school without at least one of these memorable moments! :-)

  16. It was good to read Bev’s take on it too… I bet it wasn’t as dreadful as you imagined but we all felt that way when we were teens. I tried to imagine 300 people staring and boy, you must have had the jitters. Great story. ;-)
    BTW, what happened to your other 2 blog partners?

    • Thank you! Our memories of the event are very similar and it still brings the room to laughter when we decide to share it with friends. I think the actual image of the two of us actually leaping and cavorting makes it truly funny for those who know us!

    • Thanks for asking about Gail and Beth, Elizabeth. They are well, but found the rigors of blogging more than they could fit into their already busy lives. Truthfully, I think all three of us were pretty clueless when we began, and had no idea how time consuming it can be. Starting the blog was my idea in the first place, and I think I enjoy it so much I make time…as I can! Ha! You know what that means! I still encourage them, but we’ll see! :-)

      • I hear you… It is incredibly time consuming and for me with two teens at home/commuting for internships, my pursuing work, writing, wellness, working out, friends and family obligations, and my day is gone. I don’t even watch Bravo like I used to. :lol: Girlfriend, I so get it and keep fantasizing about that virtual assistant… Only problem is she has to be me. Oy vey!

  17. This reminded me of my solo performance to Eleanor Rigby by the Vanilla Fudge senior year 1968 for girl’s gym class. We were supposed to pick a 2-3 minute song, but I had secretly picked the long version which was over 9 minutes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFQhwB7GBrM) and had this whole miming routine of being in a diminishing box, then the sad song of isolation, and finally dying with my arm stretched out to the watchers. I was so terrified I took off my glasses when I did it so I couldn’t see anyone. If there had been boys there I think I would have died a thousand deaths. I was shocked when I got applause, some of the girls were crying, and I got an A+.

    But–embarrassing moment. In grade school they made us wear dresses and I was wearing underpants with broken elastic. Out on the playground–in front of the boys and God and everybody–my underpants fell to my ankles. It was like those dreams where you’re in front of the class naked, but I still had my dress on–thank goodness! Nobody could actually see anything, but I thought I would die right on the spot!

    Ah, life! The good and the bad can both be unexpected.

    • Oh Rita, I think you get the prize for having your underpants fall down! Just the thought of it would be mortifying to a young person–or anyone really! I think when we were young and things like that happened we’d be teased and certainly embarrassed, but I feel like children today get singled out for something like this and just taunted unmercifully. Thanks for the link to the Eleanor Rigby blip. I didn’t know this version at all! I love the song, and I can imagine how dramatic your performance must have been. How did you have the “guts” to do such a long performance? Most high schoolers would do anything they could to skate by on the minimum! You must have a little dramatic flare in you and enjoyed performing! In most stories shared since yesterday I’ve commented that aren’t we lucky no video exists of our moment! But in this case, I wish you had a video clip and you COULD put it on youtube! :-) Thank you so much for sharing, Rita! I enjoyed your stories, even the grade school blooper! Oh if we could only start a list how entertaining that would be! Ha! Enjoy your day! D

  18. That made for a good read. Since my school days were very unhappy, I have drawn a veil over them. A few months ago on a visit to Dublin, I actually passed the school that I had attended way back in the sixties, I shivered and put my foot on the accelerator.

    As parents the most difficult part is in allowing our children to make their own mistakes and cope with embarrassing moments.

  19. Oh no you poor girls how awful.. BOYS!! eeoo.. I understand how hard it is when the babies go off to kindy.. such a hole in your day, I am sure you will get better as time goes along.. and she will LOVE it!! c

      • Thank you for thinking of our Sophia with kind words as she starts her little Kindergarten life. I have been very moved to think of the particular role I can play as grandmother and to help her navigate so many new experiences. She is a thinker! That’s both great and at the same time weighty! I hope to really help her learn lessons of flexibility and choosing to have an open perspective in life…and maybe she can learn a bit about that sooner than her Nan did! :-) Debra

  20. A very enjoyable read! And I think I would have preferred watching you get embarrassed accompanied by the Doors than 16 year old Gabby Douglas winning gold. Your stunt seems so much healthier. Dedication is great, but at that age and at that level, I wonder how much parents or other persons have been pushing her?

    • I don’t know that much about Gabby’s motivation, Otto. I can’t imagine what sacrifices were made in family relationships and friends, as well as how hard it would be to give up one’s childhood overall. I don’t have a competitive spirit and I’m also not much of a performer! Remembering how it felt to dance in front of my classmates, I obviously didn’t have any Olympic fever! :-) I’m glad you could share a chuckle with me. What silly memories of high school! D

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