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My current WIP has the main character doing a lot of self-reflection. Okay, it has a few characters doing a lot of self-reflection. And since I try to connect part of me to each of my important characters it means I am doing a lot of self-reflection lately. Which isn't always easy. So I decided to start with simple things and try to remember times I had done things in childhood that ending up in embarrassment for me and how I coped with them. There are four that stand out in my mind.

In the 5th grade we were having a talent show. At the time I was totally hooked on the song Do You Know the Way to San Jose? made popular back then by singer Dionne Warwick. I do not have a Dionne Warwick voice. I do not have a voice at all. One ex used to beg me to not sing in the car with him. Another, a musician, told me if I worked at it really hard I could have a voice like Melissa Etheridge, well at least like the part when she mostly screams. So me, a singer? Not.

But I wanted to be. So I went to the audition and and turned on the background tape and proceeded to sing my litte heart out. You know those contestants on idol where you cringe and wonder what in the world made them even think they could win such a thing? That was me. It was horrible. Before I even got finished the kids waiting for their turn were booing me and yelling at me to shut up. Finally some boy ran up on the stage and stood in front of me and told me to just SHUT UP.

I went home in tears and never tried out for another talent show again.

The summer between 6th and 7th grade I went camping with a friend to Crazy Horse Campgrounds. It was my first exposure to square dancing and I loved it. It was so much fun and everyone helped everyone else learn the steps and just have a good time. Later that summer but before school started I saw a flyer for square dancing class. It was a ways from home, too far to walk, so I had to beg my mom to drop me off. She did and I walked into the auditorium of the school and everyone was all dressed up in matching square dancing outfits. I had no idea that this was a long-established club that had been meeting for years and years. I was a kid. I had just had a good time square dancing and wanted to do more of it.

They asked if I had ever done square-dancing before and I said yes. The caller gave me a funny look and pointed me to a square with a missing person. Then they started up without a single word to me. He switched out, faster and faster and faster and of course I had no idea what to do. He kept changing things and speeding up and I finally realized he was trying to get me to quit. It worked. I left in tears (again) and waited outside for 2 hours until my mom came to pick me up.

In my sophomore year I moved from Mt. Diablo High School to Ygnacio Valley. I didn't have any friends there, except for Kevin, and so I decided to join a club to try and meet people. I saw sign-ups for a play and decided to try out for drama. I don't remember the play at all but I do remember that when I tried out people laughed (and it was supposed to be serious) and the adviser told me that I would be better off if I went and found something else to do with my spare time because there was no way I could be an actress.

Also in my sophomore year... I started off the year with one boyfriend, Kevin, that I went to my first prom with but by the end of the year when there was another formal dance I was dating someone else named Matt. Matt asked me to the end of the year dance and I remember this time getting a dress that was blue dotted swiss with a bit of a petticoat underneath. I remember my mom posing us for lots of pictures in our tiny apt and how Matt had to sit down for most of them because he was way over 6' tall and I was barely 5' tall. My mom couldn't get us both in the picture. I remember the dance was at some golf course and we drove a long way up a hill to get to it. I remember walking in the door and then Matt saying, "see ya!." And walked away. We had only gone out a few times and it turned out that he never wanted to take me to the dance after all. It was more of a dare to get me there and dump me, which he did. I walked all the way down that hill myself, in my fancy dress and white heels, and waited for my mom to pick me up. Not quite a Stephen King/Carrie moment but close. I never did figure out what I had done to him to make him do that to me.

I guess in addition to embarrassing moments these are also be moments of intense disappointment. Mostly what I remember, as a kid, is that I just wasn't good enough. Never mind that I I hadn't had lessons or practiced or experience, the message I got was that I wasn't good enough.

Now to figure out how to attach some of the emotions this drudged up to my characters. Your turn. What moments of embarrassment and/or disappointment do you remember from childhood?
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 28 comments — Leave comment )
May 19th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
Oh, Susan. These are such difficult memories. I'm sorry you experienced them but I also want to say I think you're really brave for revisiting them.

A HUGE raspberry to all those who shot you down.
May 20th, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks Tracy. Looking back I can see that except for the prom one, it was when I was trying something new and I find it no wonder that now I have a hard time doing something for the first time because I don't want to look stupid.
May 20th, 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
And don't ever forget how courageous you are for trying those new things. Including WRITING AND PUBLISHING BOOKS!!! (Possibly the bravest act of all).
May 21st, 2009 05:28 am (UTC)
It IS a brave act, isn't it? Thanks for acknowledging that Tracy.
May 19th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, you want trampling stories! You should just ask. ;)

So, I was eleven. Had finally graduated from chair to crutches. I was happy with crutches. Sure, I still had to be helped a lot but hey! More mobility! I could go to the library and look on my own, rather than be dragged around by various family members.

Anyway, the youngest of my elder brothers was leaving for Parris Island. He was going to follow family tradition and join the military, and be awesome as a Marine. So, my parents got everyone together (that could be gotten together, I think a couple of the brothers were unable to get leave, or something.) and decided to have a big sending away party for the future Marine, just as they had for all my other brothers.

But, they had the party at the beach. Ever try to walk in sand on crutches? Not happenin'. But, I had thought that they were going to have it up at the pavilion, and said nothing, because, Brother was excited, and I didn't want to ruin his day.

Come the day? They told me to go find a place to sit, and get comfortable. So I did. In the pavilion. While the entire family went down the beach, and had a fire, and hung out and everything. (Brother came from a different direction, and not through the pavilion.) Two hours later, when I was practically in tears, and had a nice sun burn started, one of the brothers' wives brought one of the kids up for a drink or something and asked why I was sitting there all alone. I tried to explain about not being able to walk on sand in crutches, but managed just to stammer a lot.

Yeah, she went back, told Mom who proceeded to berate me for being a 'downer'. Later that night, at church, she made me apologise to everyone (friends, family, church members), for "not attending". So, I stood in front of the church and stammered out an apology. What made it even more mortifying is that I stumbled on the stairs with my crutches and ended up dragging down one of the flower arrangements.

There are more, if you want them. :)
May 19th, 2009 11:00 pm (UTC)
Oh my! How can family be so cruel! I'm sorry you experienced that.
May 20th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
Oh Cat.

I just want to hug you after reading this one.

Tell me again, you are putting these in your stories, right?
May 19th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
My mistakes and humiliations would be too tedious to list--suffice it there were many of them. Success has usually been in my imagination.

When I ran talent shows for the school, I made SURE there was no competition, or criticizing. Ensemble only. I could usually find something for the kids who had no talent but wanted to perform--I'd write skits for them.
May 20th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
Yeah, after I listed these I started remembering more of them. And someone mentioned below that they would have made her mad not embarrassed but I find that while my adult self gets mad, my kid self still remembers the laughter.

Good for you on the talent shows but then I'm not surprised. You're that kind of person. ;)
(Deleted comment)
May 20th, 2009 07:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Melodye.

It all goes into the writing now.
May 19th, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC)
Wow!! All these things and more have happened
to just about everyone. Anyone that says they don't have
a childhood embarrassing moment isn't thinking hard enough.
Try this one and I can tell you because I am so far away:

I was in hospital after my 4th operation when I was 8 years old
and unable to get out of bed with my legs in plaster.
In those days you didn't take your own PJ's and things
they put anything on you. I had my hair cut short
and they had blue PJ's on me, the nurse brought me a bottle,
to go to the toilet when I looked at her and asked her
"What am I supposed to do with this?
She proceeded to tell me before I eventually told her
I was a girl. I will never forget it so embarrassed even at that age

- Anne McKenna
( I could write a book on my embarrassing moments !! Now there is an idea !!
May 20th, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
Oh boy, Anne. That is some embarrassing moment!
May 19th, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
I just have to say I'm so sorry that all those people were so unbelievably cruel to you.

It reminds me of an incident during one summer of probably junior high time frame. There was a new house being built across the street from us, on a one-block-long street that could only hold 6 total houses. So it felt like a small community. My brother had the Make Friends Easily skill, and he became friends with these people who were doing most of the work on the house themselves. One particular day there was a big push to do cleanup and detail work like wallpapering and painting and the like, and I got caught up in the excitement thanks to my brother, and went over to help. It was mostly friends and family of the people who would live there and at one point late in the day they all ended up taking a break and talking in the kitchen area. I had been in another room and happened in just in time to hear them ridiculing the neighbor girl who was "helping". Unfortunately, the only way I could get out of the house involved walking right past the entire group. I did, and went straight home and cried the whole rest of the day.
May 20th, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
Oh I hate those overheard conversations.

In my next life I want the ". My brother had the Make Friends Easily skill" please.
May 19th, 2009 11:05 pm (UTC)
I think we have the beginnings of a NF anthology here... (!!!) OMG.

I'm wimping out. I can't post any of my own. I spent years trying to forget them.
May 20th, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC)
LOL. I keep remembering more but glad I stopped at just a few.
May 20th, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC)
It's hard for me to believe you can't sing. You have such a beautiful speaking voice!
May 20th, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for saying that.

I dunno, maybe if I trained at it and had someone who believed in me helping me find my key (like Slatts mentioned before) but I have to say that not being able to sing hasn't stopped me from singing...it just limits my audience. :)
May 21st, 2009 10:44 am (UTC)
I have alimited audience, too. Because they all RUN AWAY!
May 20th, 2009 01:17 am (UTC)
Number One....
The problem with music is KEYS. The GOOD singers sing in the key that's BEST for THEM. The OTHER singers try to sing in THEIR key and we ALL sound miserable. Well, not ALL of us. There are OTHERS who are GOOD singers too.

But you and me, we need to find OUR keys.
May 20th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Number One....
I can believe that. Before the alcoholic musician in my past became more alcoholic and less of a musician, I got a tiny sampling of what that might be like. If I ever feel I can afford it, I might like to take some singing lessons just for my own pleasure, to see if I could find my key.
May 20th, 2009 12:56 pm (UTC)
Susan, those put a lump in my throat. How cruel people can be! Sorry you had to go through this.
May 20th, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks Jill. At the time, of course, each one hurt. But kids (and people) are often cruel and now I figure I have some good emotions to access for my writing.
May 20th, 2009 01:13 pm (UTC)
It strikes me that these memories wouldn't embarrass me if they were mine - they'd make me mad as hell. What embarrasses me is when I do something stupid or wrong or thoughtless. These are stories in which the protagonists behave with enthusiasm or hope and other people, deliberately or carelessly, crush them. Okay, maybe not the drama try-out, but even there, Susan did nothing embarrassing, she just tried and failed.

I hope Matt reads this post and withers up inside realizing what in incredible jerk he was to an innocent girl he could have really had a good time with.

And I hope the poster with the crutches and sand confronted her family about this later. That makes me so mad I want to go back in time and chew out the entire family. Possibly with a cat-o-nine tails.

May 20th, 2009 08:11 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Peni, the grown-up Susan can look at it as I tried and failed but the kid Susan just heard people laughing and felt stupid.

Thanks for getting mad on my behalf. Now to put all this emotion into my writing.
(Deleted comment)
May 21st, 2009 02:22 am (UTC)
Yes, it is them and not us.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that.

Sorry you had some of those same sorts of things happen to you too.
May 21st, 2009 04:52 am (UTC)
Embarrassing childhood memories? That's like my ENTIRE childhood. How to narrow it down? I started piano lessons "late" (at age 10), and my piano teacher always did a big recital at the end of the year where every one of her students played a piece. When I was 14, the piece I picked (it was a Bach invention, but I don't remember which one - one of the EASY ones) was also being played by another student, one who was 9 years old. That's embarrassing enough. To make it worse, I blanked out on the last 4 meters. I froze up and barely escaped peeing all over the bench. And I heard one of the parents whisper, "Oh my God, she completely forgot." My piano teacher said afterward that she never saw such a horrible case of stage fright, and I was thereafter exempt from all recitals because yep- it was that agonizing to watch me.
May 21st, 2009 05:29 am (UTC)
Egads, I had that same kind of piano recital only substitute almost peeing all over the bunch with almost puking all over the bench.

I was also excused from any future recitals.
( 28 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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