Embarassed for You

Ale Benjamin, Opinions Editor

I can handle a little embarrassment.

I have tripped over my own feet too many times to count and worn a cow onesie to an airport.

The throwback-to-freshman year selfies my friends post on my wall for my birthday are unprecedented.

By now, I have reached what the most enlightened of philosophers would call a state of acceptance. We all need to learn to laugh at ourselves at some point, and in my case I haven’t found much that some good old healthy repression couldn’t fix.

Well, at least with my own embarrassment, that is.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a public service announcement. I am here to tell you about the real life struggle of second-hand embarrassment. Urban Dictionary defines the affliction as, “when you feel so embarrassed for someone else’s actions that you feel the embarrassment for yourself as well.”

Synonyms include “my life.”

Perhaps I have just been cursed with an ungodly burden of empathy for the pain of others, but to me, there couldn’t be anything worse than watching my friends’ uncomfortable interactions with ex-boyfriends or hearing someone in my A.P Gov. class ask aloud if Winston Churchill helped write the Federalist papers…just a century or two before he was born.

Whether the victim is in TV or real life, the embarrassment of others is just something I can’t witness. My cheeks flush, my heart rate accelerates, more often than not I’m tempted to curl up in the fetal position.

Let us all recall the quintessential pinnacle of awkward: Michael Scott, standing in front of a class of underprivileged high school seniors, after promising them all his payment for their college tuition. Meanwhile, the students applaud his generosity, chant his name, and praise the inspiration Michael gave them.

The viewer, of course, knows Michael has no such money, but all the while can’t help but share in the pain of his pitiful situation.

Teachers too, have contributed to my embarrassment assaults.

In my English class last year, while reading “Catcher in the Rye,” we arrived at the part of the book where Holden, shall we say, seeks some friendly company.

My teacher asked a girl in the class to tell her what a prostitute was.

The girl turned every shade of cotton candy pink to cherry red, and I froze at my desk, praying for a swift and immediate death.

Go ahead, laugh at my distress, but there’s science on my side.

According to a study by German and British researchers, observing others in embarrassment actually activates the centers of the brain that trigger pain (anterior cingulate cortex and left anterior insula if you’re fancy like that) .

Can I get a service dog for a medical condition of such severity? A pass out of gym?

The latter would certainly help, considering the majority of second-hand embarrassment offenders in my life are the ones dive-bombing each other in an all-too-serious game of capture the flag, only to limp away with a raw and bleeding turf burn swelling up one leg (tell me that isn’t embarrassing).

The battle is real. And if you’ve ever been writhing with agony in your seat while watching the on-stage puke scene in “Pitch Perfect” and you just can’t hide behind the extra-large popcorn tub any longer, remember this my comrades:

You are not alone.