I was Jesus.
You heard that right, people.
I was far from arrogant; I was too young to know any better.
Vacation Bible School was ending and I was about to experience my first taste of The Stage. As none other than the King of Kings. The play was The Good Samaritan. I had one line. One tiny little line. Most likely that was the reason the part was appealing to me. That should have been a big red flag.
One tiny little line. I had it down. I had it up. I had it upside down, inside out, and skateboarding on my head around the corner while eating peanut butter. The whole neighborhood had it. Maybe that should have been the second clue.
For my character's sake, it was ONE LINE! Why involve the neighbors?
Sure enough, big ole butterflies kicked in the night before the big show. Mom was there to reassure me and make me feel like I could do no wrong. Love you, Mom! But apparently, that just wasn't enough.
Our small church stage had magically morphed into The Globe Theatre! At least that was the pressure that I had put upon myself. All I could think about were all of those eyes on me (all sixty or so).
I got all hot. Sweaty. Nauseous. I gulped it down and held it in. I watched everyone effortlessly and beautifully deliver their lines.
My cue summoned me.
My knees didn't buckle. Score!
I successfully escorted my shelter-seeking friend to the Inn Keeper. Yes! Big points for not tripping while walking the mile that was the width of the stage.
And then I went blank.
Except, of course, for the excruciating and scorching pain of humiliation and terror.
Speak?!? I couldn't even breathe! Just as the tears were about to let loose, the Inn Keeper (and my dear friend who just so happened to also be the Narrator, fully equipped with script in hand) fed me my line.
Public Speaking: my number one public enemy. This was my first memorable show down and far from my last.
Following that fateful summer, I was selected in the spring to recite a story I wrote. In front of the entire school. Let me just say this: I lived in a big city and my elementary school had moved into the old three story tall high school. Our assembly room was not the gym. It was a freaking fully loaded auditorium!
I did much better this time around. I had my paper. I read from it. I remember only looking up once and the stage lights were so blinding I could barely see the mass of faces before me.
This girl can read. Give me a script, and I'll read the heck outta it.
*** Fast forward a couple of years ***
Did you know they don't supply you with a script in a Spelling Bee???
I found that out in fourth grade. New state. New school. New opportunities for mortification.
I was a rock star in spelling. I could spell chrysanthemum forward, backward, inside out, upside down, and skateboarding on my head while eating peanut butter. As long as it was on paper.
Naturally, I made it into the school Spelling Bee and was quite proud of myself.
Until I got that old familiar feeling.
Let's just say I knew damn well how to spell bookkeeping, but the pressure of those unfamiliar eyes all boring into the New Girl got to me and I chose to misspell it to be released back to the safety of my seat.
*** College ***
By now I had faced my foe many times and had learned how to wrestle him into a sleeper hold so that I could be a successful student. I was by no means a good speaker, but good enough to maintain an honorable GPA and even give a few decent performances sans script.
Performance being the key word now. Give me a script and character to learn and I'll give you a damn fine mediocre performance.
But alas, not all of my classes were Shakespeare. There was also the lit class on Harlem, Haiti, and Havana. And the doctor of my certain doom who led this class. He was pretentious jazzhead who was always looking down his nose at us and exposing our ignorance with utter disdain.
So this one time I got up to do my presentation on some obscure Haitian poem that I was supposed to deconstruct. I hated the idea of standing before Dr. I'd Rather Be Playing My Bass.
More than that, I was suddenly terrified of voicing my own ideas about a foreign subject that I could only presume to know anything about. I suddenly could barely breathe again.
I did have a "script."
Silly girl! You think a script will bail you out of this one? Mwahahaha!!
There was another insidious plan taking shape. Dr. Expert on All Things Haitian (even though he's the whitest guy you've ever seen) began the ambush of questioning. I did fine for the first round.
Then the snickering began. It came from one person near the front.
And then another.
I fumbled. I lost my place. I stuttered.
Script! Script! Get back to the script!
I went back to the script.
Denied. Dr. You Will Not Dodge My Interrogation probed further about my comparison. He wanted a cited example. Of course he wanted support. So did I!
I just repeated my previous half-baked response in different words. He relentlessly pushed for more. I couldn't think clearly. My face was burning and my stomach was turning.
The snickering duo were now red-faced from attempts of holding in their maniacal laughter. And it was spreading. I never wanted to bolt out of someplace so badly in all my life. This was my
My indubitable tormented state was beyond awkward for the entire class by this point. Or at least my inability to come up with anything coherent that wasn't already written down was, because Dr. Doom of Deconstruction finally let me go ahead and finish my presentation from the paper. And I did that as quickly as possible.
After I made my way to my seat in the back of the room, I got a couple of words of encouragement and sympathy from my friends. Mostly in the form of, "What an asshole!" or "That was so wrong,"etc.
When class was dismissed, the classmate who started the whole humiliation process came over to me to apologize and explain that it wasn't me that they were laughing at but that there was a bug on the teacher. He seemed aware of the personal catastrophe I had experienced and appeared sincerely sorry for having played a key role. But I was sincerely pissed by that point and accepted his apology less than gracefully even though there was relief in knowing I was not the center of their joke.
That was eleven years ago.
Although I still prefer to hang around the edges of a room and deal with small groups, I can handle the heat of the spotlight much better now thanks to those experiences.
This was a double-dippin' entry into Mama Kat's Writer Workshop.
1.) Childhood fears you’ve taken into your adult life.
3.) Why were you mortified? Write about a true embarrassing moment as though it was happening in slow motion.