Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Lessons from a Wardrobe Malfunction




Several years ago, I had this skirt I loved.  It had pockets and was a good length even when I was chasing around a preschooler and had a baby on my hip.  But it also had an zipper down the back.  (Cue Jaws soundtrack as you focus in on that for a minute.)


One day as I was out running errands and was putting baby Skyler into the back seat (which tells you how long ago this was since she is now 17!), and I had a brief moment of appreciation for this skirt, realizing how breezy and comfortable it was, and what a great purchase it had been.  And then the horrible realization came over me: I should not be feeling a breeze there.  The zipper had broken, and everyone in the parking lot now knew what color underwear I was wearing.


Fast forward sixteen years, and I’ve learned a few things.  I love wearing skirts and dresses; there is really nothing more comfortable.  But I’ve also steered (for the most part) far, far away from skirts with zippers down the back.  I don’t love when my skirt is particularly flowy or twirly, lest a breeze catch it.  And I’ve become quite adept and holding my skirt down when a little one comes along and decides to play “camping” with my skirt as the tent.  


Most of all, though I’ve learned to wear a slip.  Always.  One of my friends was shocked when I recently told her this, calling me an old lady.  But I strongly disagree; it’s just a smart thing to do.   In the summer, it provides a layer of modesty when my clothes are more sheer, and in the winter it adds a layer of warmth and protection from static cling even when I’m wearing my favorite fleece-lined tights.  They are close enough to the body that you can wear them without any four-year-old coming along and, just for kicks, decides to show everyone around your undies, and if a frisky breeze comes along, well, it’s still a little embarrassing, but not nearly as bad as your underwear showing.


Still, it’s and UNDERgarment and as such, should stay UNDER clothes.  About a month ago, I had walked to the market with the youngest two kids and was on my way back to the car, juggling several bags of produce while trying to hold onto Annalee’s little hand, all while a stiff, cold breeze blew.  I was grateful for every layer of clothing I had on.  I’d just crossed the street, though, when I found myself stumbling as if someone had something wrapped around my ankles.  Okay, that’s embarrassing, I thought to myself.  I couldn’t imagine what was tripping me up like this, but then again, I’m not best known for my gracefulness.  I rearranged the bags I was carrying and tried to keep walking, but I tripped again.  This time I glanced down and to my horror I realized that my slip had just fallen down.  It was a little old, true, but it was as if the elastic in the waist had just all of a sudden that moment said, “Nope, I quit.” and given up on its one purpose in life.


I gasped and dropped my shopping bags, calling Annalee and Wyatt to come close and provide some coverage so I could sort of hitch it back up.  Selective hearing turned on, though, and they acted like they couldn’t understand a word I was saying, nor did they, for that matter, know who I was, wandering as far from me as they knew they could.  I did this weird, bizarre shimmy of the slip up under my dress and grabbed it around my knees, hobbling and sort of hopping extremely awkwardly a hundred yards or so back to the car.  


Once I was back in the car, I pulled the slip all the way down over my boots, trying to recall if I’d seen anyone I knew in the passing cars and praying I hadn’t.  My pride had taken about all it could for one day.  I glared at the slip in my fist, “You had ONE JOB!” I said.


A couple weeks later, I was playing the keyboard for the Christmas Eve service.  There were two services that evening, because of the number of people on our base, and this was the second service.  The keyboard led the introduction to the song, and I thought all was fine until the acoustic guitar joined in.  Something was terribly off, and it took me only a split second to realize what it was.


Just before the first service, we’d decided that the last song we’d be singing, Silent Night, would be better one step down from the key we had practiced it in.  I can transpose chords on the fly okay, but I was worried that going from B flat to A, I might forget a chord, and that was one night when I really didn’t want to mess anything up, since this was leading a song for so many people.  Fortunately, the keyboard comes with a handy-dandy little transpose button, which I pressed, then played the last song no problem.  Unfortunately, I forgot to change it back before the next service.   


I know this doesn’t necessarily make sense unless you play an instrument or sing, but here’s the bottom line.  It sounded so bad.  You know the scene in A Quiet Place where the alien hears the whine of the girl’s hearing aid and loses his mind?  It was kind of like that.


I felt terrible.


Fortunately, I get to do this worship music thing with a great group of people who laughed it off with me instead of raking me over the coals.  Unfortunately, I’m afraid I set a bad tone for the service and hope and pray that’s not what the congregation remembers. 


I was reflecting on both incidents — the runaway slip and the forgotten button— later that night.  God is really trying to keep me humble! I thought first, reminiscing on how these occasions were merely weeks apart.  But the thought struck me then that actually, they had something in common more than my mere embarrassment: both were intended to prevent humiliation.  


Isn’t it funny how that happens?  Reading the news these days, we see this kind of thing happening over and over, on much larger scales.  Someone tries to hide a secret, and instead it creates an incident that blows up in their faces.  In our communities, with our friends, we hide things we are embarrassed about until they turn into ugly monsters that result in intense humiliation.


The fact is that embarrassment sells, and the media loves this.  We all seem to love this. We love to see people brought down at least a notch or two, because it makes us feel better about ourselves.


What if we didn’t?  


What if we let our guard down a little more and were free to admit mistakes and weaknesses?  What if we said things like, “I’m having trouble with this right now,” or even, “I messed up really badly”?  I can’t help thinking that a whole lot of people in the world would feel less alone and more normal.  What if we let others make mistakes without holding them in judgment forever?


As I think about this year, I’m thinking about my reaction when someone tells me they’re struggling with something or that they made a mistake.  How do I deal with it?  Am I gracious, remembering all too well the times I’ve also messed up (which is what the worship team did for me on Christmas Eve)? Or do I judge them harshly?  When I read the news about someone,  what are my reactions?  Do I immediately label them and let the story tarnish my opinion forever?  Or do I seek to find out more?  And do I hide my own embarrassing moments from people who maybe need to hear so that they can know they’re not alone?  Do I try too hard to act like I’ve got my life together perfectly?


This year, I want to be more attuned to the things I’m trying to hide and why.  If it doesn’t hurt someone else in the process, I want to admit to my own failures and shortcomings and offer a hand to others who are having a hard time too. 


If I’m going to be embarrassed anyway, I’d rather have company.

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