Tuesday, November 8, 2011

On Blushing: A Lady Rant

I blush. I blush hard and I blush unexpectedly. I blush when I’m embarrassed; I blush when the attention of a group spontaneously shifts to me; I blush when I make presentations; and sometimes I blush for no reason at all (or at least none that I’m consciously aware of). When I exercise, my face takes on the color of a fresh beet. My blushing doesn’t have a cute “blushing bride” or lady-like flush effect. Rather, I look like I am suffering from an intense fever, or sometimes, when it overtakes my chest, I look like I’m breaking out in hives. I have never understood the concept of blush (the cosmetic). Why would you want to add more?

Once, I asked my doctor why I blush, and if I could make it stop. He laughed and said, “You have very fair skin and good blood circulation.” In other words, “You’re screwed.” Yep, I just looked this up on Wikipedia, which I should not have done. “Severe blushing is common in people who suffer social anxiety in which the person experiences extreme and persistent anxiety in social and performance situations.” Sweet, it’s a physical manifestation of my chronic awkwardness! Thanks genetics!

I have two flavors of blush. When I KNOW that I’m embarrassed or uncomfortable – say, when 5 or more pairs of eyes turn to me suddenly in the midst of a conversation or meeting, or when I accidently say something inappropriate, like blurting out “that’s what she said” in a meeting, I can feel the blush. It’s hot and I can feel it washing over me. There’s nothing I can do to stop it, and it’s the worst. I try not to make eye contact, and I try to cover my face with a hair mask.

The second kind of blush is the sneaky blush, which usually appears when I am giving a big presentation or the adrenaline is flowing (super awesome for that executive presence we talked about). It takes over after I get my eyebrows waxed, scaring the hell out of my esthetician. This blush is the worst, because I can’t feel it, and I carry on like everything is totally normal. My skin doesn't feel hot, and I’m generally unaware of its’ presence until I look in a mirror and realize that I look like Tammy Faye Bakker did my makeup.

The blushing is not subtle, and other people notice what’s happening to my head. The only thing I can do in the event of a blushing fit is to wait it out, take a few deep breaths, and accept what I cannot change. However, there are a number of people and situations I’ve encountered that make this impossible, and extend the life of the blush by at least twofold. Want to help me out? Here are a couple of things to avoid/understand about The Blush:

  1. It’s not a game: I have encountered a number of people that think it is just downright hilarious that they can make me blush. They tell semi-embarrassing, definitely blush inducing stories about me in large groups. If they notice me trying to avoid attention, they attempt to draw all eyes in the room to me. These are the people that forcibly pull me to the microphone at a karaoke bar. I think these people believe that my blushing is a compliment to them – like, “oh, fair maiden, you simply can’t control your undying fondness for me!” I hate to bust your ego, but the blushing is all about me, and how much I hate being the center of attention. So don’t be a jerk and play games with my sympathetic nervous system. 
  2. Thanks for telling me! A lot of people think it’s helpful to point out that I’m blushing. I recall that I wasn’t even aware of the severity of my red skin until I left a basketball practice in high school, and two kind Samaritans exclaimed, “Damn girl, you are RED!” Umm, thanks for noticing? In either scenario – hot blush and sneaky blush – this only makes things worse. Let’s all just ignore what’s happening to my face and pretend that everything is normal. Nothing to see here, moving right along. 
  3. I’m not really THAT awkward: The worst part about blushing is that it makes a moderately awkward situation way worse by displaying physical evidence of my slight discomfort in a way that makes me seem like I’m going to die of embarrassment. My body is a total drama queen and is completely overreacting. So, as uncomfortable as my red face looks, please know that I’m not completely socially inept, and emotionally I’m only a little bit anxious. It’s my damn body that’s acting like Alex McCord at a RHoNY Reunion.
So yeah, despite my rant here, blushing isn't that big of a deal. I know that things could be way worse. But if I said that blushing hasn't in some way shaped my personality, I'd be lying. Why do you think I turned to blogging as my chosen form of attention mongering? Attention without eye contact, y'all!

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