In DESIGNS FOR LIVING, columnist Marlowe Granados dispenses sound advice in a noisy world. Send your rants and pleas to [email protected] for Marlowe’s consideration.
Two nights ago, I went out for the first big night of the college year, got blackout drunk, and embarrassed myself by going after a guy who I have vaguely fancied from afar but do not know. I can remember virtually nothing, but I know that I was telling this mediocre boy how handsome he is and generally humiliating myself in front of all of him and all of his chill friends.
I am generally a pretty “together” person, but this has definitely done damage to my reputation, at least amongst this group of guys, and I genuinely do not know how I can face them—and especially the one I was pursuing—for the rest of the year. My university is pretty small, so I will inevitably see them regularly. They also have a lot of clout, and people talk, so do with that information what you will . . .
I am excruciatingly embarrassed and, as angsty as it sounds, I genuinely wish I could disappear. I should stress that I truly do not remember most of this interaction, so God knows what embarrassing bullshit I was spewing. My tummy is in knots just thinking about it. How can I cope? How should I react when I see him/his friends? Crucially, how can I salvage my reputation?
With desperation and gratitude,
Fear & Self-Loathing
Dear Fear & Self-Loathing,
We have all been there, that’s a given. Anxiety and shame only serve to aggravate already bad hangovers. But in the grand scheme of things, you don’t have anything to be embarrassed about. Maybe you are generally a “together” person and occasionally, after a few drinks, a wild streak comes through—and thank God! What a freeing and fun moment, to spice up everyone’s night by giving them something to talk about. This is the perfect time to let a previously unknown element of your personality out. Maybe you are someone who has passing whims and speaks on them as she likes—like if The Three Faces of Eve was less noir and punishing to the multiple personalities of a housewife and kept to the wild and saucy side of Eve, where she buys provocative, sparkly clothes.
Anyway, that boy should feel lucky to have had a moment of your attention—and that’s how you should play it. Just because you called someone handsome does not mean you’re a wanton woman (though that role is not without its excitement). Sanctimony in college is a lot of things, but, crucially, it’s boring! As Brooke (played by Greta Gerwig) exclaims in Mistress America, “There’s no adultery when you’re eighteen. You should all be touching each other all the time!” To start fretting endlessly over your reputation can restrict your world in a way that is counterproductive. Every one of these people you’re worried about will have done something worse than you by the end of the semester—I guarantee it. Any finger-wagging about harmless behavior is for those who lack imagination, and this also goes for how you regard yourself. In my experience, the only time I can get a little ashamed about my behavior is if I was mean in any unwarranted way. Anything else, well, that’s just me letting my hair down. As Marlene Dietrich says in Shanghai Express, “Don’t you find respectable people terribly . . . dull?”
Since you can’t remember the interaction, know that you are most definitely imagining the worst. If your friends are recounting it to you, know that they are most likely exaggerating by, at minimum, thirty percent. There’s nothing more irritating than one of your good friends calling you the next morning to say, “You were so drunk last night.” Pay them no mind. Me and my friends usually just laugh to one another when one of us has gotten a bit out of hand. Any details are kept secret between that lost memory and the night.
As someone who is frequently clumsy, know that it really is a choice to be embarrassed. I fall over all the time. Rather than being embarrassed in that moment—which often radiates to those who witness such a scene (and feel embarrassment on your behalf)—I nip the feeling in the bud and laugh instead. It acknowledges that I know it is embarrassing, but I think it’s funny. Most things are. Once I walked directly into a branch in front of my ex’s new girlfriend. I knew her eyes were on me, and instead of trying to recover, I just threw my head back and laughed. What could she even say? As for the matter of how to approach this group of so-called “Influential Boys,” I would be a little cheeky. Hint at hidden reserves: “You should see me on a real night out.” If these silly people have struck anxiety in you, it’s only right that you should inspire a little fear in them.