I'm easily embarrassed, but that's usually because I have low self-esteem. It's silly, really, because I've accomplished amazing things in my life. I'm a great wife, daughter, and sister. I'm a dedicated student, professor, tutor, and life-long learner. I'm a creative writer, reader, cook, and lover. I'm an honest friend.
So today when I had a great conversation with someone I hadn't seen in about 4 months, I was feeling happy and sure of myself. I smiled at the right time. Made jokes at the right time. And even though I made the unfortunate and inevitable references to how busy I am (teaching three classes, studying for qualifying exams, tutoring three days a week at a writing center, etc., etc.), we had an overall enjoyable few minutes of catching up. And then it happened.
My life changed.
My timid walls of self-confidence crashed.
My heart pounded and my cheeks flushed.
She had said, "You are amazing, doing all of these things with a baby on the way. I don't see how you handle all the pressure."
I swallowed. Hard.
I said, "Excuse me?"
She said, "Teaching and tutoring and studying and expecting!"
I said, "What...? No..."
She paused. I wished desperately that the floor would swallow me whole, or that I could tesser away in true Madeleine L'Engle fashion, so far away in time.
She said, "You are expecting, yes?"
She said, "Oh, I just saw your, um...you looked, I just...um...oh."
I saw her difficulty in processing her mistake into appropriate words, and so I took a deep breath, smiled, giggled a little and said loudly, "Oh, no, not yet! We're trying to finish our degrees first before we have a family. But it's a nice thought!"
Despite my pretense, I'm sure my eyes gave away my embarrassment, because it was mirrored in her eyes. I made a quick get-away, saying a short goodbye, and turned as I blinked away tears and tried to swallow the lump that had formed in my throat. Bitter humiliation.
Just one more thing that will end up in my stomach.