I've long accepted that I’m always doing something embarrassing—but that I don’t always know what it is. I resign myself to finding out only later, in painful retrospect. Some few times I do know that I’m in for ridicule, of course, such as when I competed at an AAU swim meet wearing nothing but Speedo racing suit and an egg-sized hickey on my neck. Often, as with regard to regrettable clothing, I have only a nagging suspicion that I’ve missed the exit for Cooltown and ended up in Nerdsburg. On Dweeb Street. During the annual Mocking Days festival. See, e.g, the white Fantasy-Island-style leisure suit that I wore for my high-school senior picture.
Most often, though, I remain clue-lite that something I now regard as utterly acceptable, or perhaps even commendably edgy, will later give me a groan of recollection. My experiments with facial hair probably qualify on that count (though I reserve the right to reverse judgment if I ever figure out how to shake the Satan look). I recall with affection the zebra-striped shoes I wore as an undergrad—I painted them myself!—but wince when I remember that I wore them with the top from a karate uniform. Ow.
The question thus arises: What am I doing now that will later cause me embarrassment? As noted, clothing choices often merit suspicion. Maybe those flowered surf trunks that I like so much will come back to haunt me. (But they feel so comfy! And everybody wears them in San Clemente!) Or maybe it’s blogging, especially on the present theme, that will look pretty dumb in retrospect.
I think that skateboarding marks the most likely candidate for reversal on appeal, though. A 40-year-old can hardly expect to take up the sport without at least looking foolish, and perhaps even looking like he has rubbed asphalt on his face (because he has). Unless I can parlay this, the latest addition to my collection of board sports, into a decent showing at the Seniors' X-Games, I think I’m fairly likely to look back on it with some mortification (assuming that my head injuries allow me to look back, of course).
Nonetheless, undeterred by the haunting suspicion I’m going to crash into big regrets, I persist. I like learning new stuff, especially fun stuff like skateboarding. Learning to skateboard with my six-year-old daughter makes it all the more fun. I rationalize it as a way to teach her by my example (maybe) and by her own first-hand experience (undoubtedly) how initial failure can lead to eventual success. Anyhow, it’s so cute to see her rolling down the street, deep in concentration, red high-tops on her feet and braids peeking out from underneath her helmet, that I’m willing to risk embarrassment, both present and future.
Thank goodness for parenting. It removes the possibility—and thus the pressure—of achieving Coolness. We parents don’t need to feel embarrassed. We have kids to feel embarrassed for us.