Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Should you or shouldn’t you?

There are many times during my day-to-day life that I find myself trapped in an internal swirling hell, continually asking myself “Should I or shouldn’t I? Should I say something or not?”
For example I’ll talk about a scenario that, despite its rather revolting nature, seems to occur quite a lot – the hanging booger. I’ll be having a conversation with someone who is generally a decent, normal (and therefore clean) person, and then I’ll notice it – a large, glistening booger that seems to be swinging back and forth with each intake of breath; hanging precariously by some other thin strand of booger glue. Like a leaf of parsley in someone’s front teeth or a king-sized white-headed pimple in the middle of the chin, I then become transfixed by this nostril lodger.

Are you still with me? Smiling grimly and nodding in surprised identification? If so, do you then find yourself – as I do – asking that awful question: “Should I or Should I not tell him/her about their boogie?” For the sake of argument, it is already accepted that you wish no evil on this person, nor do you hope that they spend the day chatting to dozens of people with a butt-sized booger and go home to discover it, thus deciding to end their lives prematurely rather than deal with the shame and embarrassment of it all…… But – and this now concerns their perception of you, which is far more important – do you want to risk seeming like a weirdo who shouldn’t have been looking up their left nostril in the first place?

This situation is worsened if the potential source of embarrassment for your colleague involves slightly too much cleavage, a stain on the arse of their trousers or an undone fly. Inside, we’re all asking “Should I or shouldn’t I tell him/her?” because we don’t want to be seen as the pervert who should have been looking in their eyes during the discussion and not at the right boob flopping out of the un-intentionally unbuttoned top…..

Now it’s confession time – apart from the booger scenario (unless no-one ever told me and it had been blown out before I saw a mirror), I have suffered the ignominy of NOT being told. In fact, these instances are so numerous than when my six year old daughter Sapphire, on a 110km car ride back home asked, “Hey Mum, have you ever been embarrassed?” she had to have a few puffs on her inhaler when we got home because she’d been laughing in shock the entire journey and brought on a slight asthma attack. For example:

  • At fifteen years old, walking down the main street of Murray Bridge doing a bit of errand-running with my Mum. I’d been eating and enjoying a chocolate paddle pop when my eyes fell upon my heartfelt but deadly secret crush, Anthony. As he was walking towards me, I gave him my most dazzling smile, feeling confident that he’d somehow notice the beauty lurking within. When I got home, I was mortified to discover that my mouth was circled in brown and sticky remnants of ice-cream, not unlike a circus clown’s lipstick work.
  • At eight months’ pregnant, discovering that I had a 3 metre long trail of white toilet paper hanging proudly from the back of my black big-belly pants. I had been standing on a platform in front of approximately fifty other commuters for at least 15 minutes!
  • Walking along the lower non-Paris end of Melbourne’s Collins Street on a windy day in a lovely (at least then, in 1996) pale blue and white longish dress. A whoosh of wind flew up the skirt part revealing my hopefully-tummy-flattening nanna undies and heavily-elasticised stay-up tights. I wasn’t at my slimmest, so my legs would have looked like mushrooms. Some bloke walking out of the stock exchange hooted with laughter….

Don’t worry for me too much, dear reader – I have been on the other side of such events as well:

  • Sitting in a posh restaurant with my boyfriend at the time, perusing the menu. I had just gotten over a bad cold and had wisely (so I thought) squeezed a few tissues into my handbag. Unfortunately I let out a huge sneeze and didn’t cover my mouth. The – um – flying phlegm ended up shooting across the floor and landing on the lower cuff of an older guy’s corduroy trousers. I was too mortified to tell him. My boyfriend’s shoulders were shaking and tears formed in his eyes as he pretended to read the menu.
  • It was enrolment time at Adelaide University and it always seemed to be at least 37C on a day of lengthy queues out in the sun. One guy, I knew by sight as a self-absorbed yuppie wanna-be pushed his way into the queue and was soon strutting out again, full of self-congratulation and feeling like a master of the universe. In one of the most poetic scenes ever in my life, he tripped as he headed down the steep set of brick stairs, bump-bump-bumping his way all to the bottom. It must have been so painful, yet he picked himself up and was preparing himself to walk away with dignity when I called out, “Ooooh geez, that must have hurt.” The rest of the queue gave in to a few laughs and whistles as the then-deflated little turd hobbled out of sight.

The worst one though was in the Flinders Ranges, September school holidays, 1978. I was on a camping trip with my family and all had been going reasonably well until the final day when Dad informed us we had the long drive back home. He had been determined to squeeze the most out of the holiday, so the drive back home had to be completed in a day because we all had school the next day. “Dad”, I asked, “Can you pull over so that I can go to the toilet and---“
“Nope. You should have gone before we left.”
A little while later I asked again, my stomach starting to ache a bit, and got the same response. An hour later, things weren’t so jolly in the bowel department. “Dad---“

All of a sudden an unwanted explosion of diarrhoea invaded the landcruiser. My brothers wrinkled their faces in horror and screamed when some of the – ahem – overflow – threatened to engulf their two-thirds of the back seat. I was a stinking, dripping mess and my poor mother was the one who had to find a bush by the side of the road; strip me and somehow sponge off the worst of it with a couple of ‘wet ones’ and a brave face. My axis jeans and undies were buried under a spinifex bush.

I could see that Dad was feeling a bit bad about not stopping earlier but it was also obvious that he was more annoyed about the time delay, so he started the engine without a word to me. A few moments of sitting in the back with my grinning brothers, wearing my too-short tracksuit pants and staring at the back of Dad’s head revealed something: a dot of my diarrhoea had somehow landed on the back of his neck. “Should I or shouldn’t I tell him?”
Nah, I thought.

So, the point of all these little stories? To ask you, urge you, beg you that yes, YOU SHOULD ALWAYS tell someone. When Deb, a girl I worked with at a bank in London returned from lunch, I whispered, “Deb! You’ve tucked your skirt into your tights!” We both started laughing but all of a sudden hers turned to tears. “What’s wrong Deb?”
“Oh my god, I’ve just realised that I’ve been to the chemist, had lunch at the Thai place around the corner and then walked all of the aisles at Sainsbury’s!”

Actually, there’s a caveat to that – you should always tell someone unless there’s some well-deserved revenge involved (sorry Dad).

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