THE WAY I SEE IT
Afew weeks ago, I went to the local shop to buy milk and the paper ( I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell you which paper). The young man behind the counter was very chatty and we talked about the weather, and football, and the government, for a couple of minutes. He took his time getting around to giving me my change – so long, in fact, that I couldn’t remember if I’d paid him at all, and so I got flustered.
Flustered isn’t good but I find it happens to me more often nowadays than it used to. So by the time he handed me the few coins, I already was rummaging in my wallet for another fiver. He stared at me quizzically and, so as not to look foolish, I quickly said goodbye, and without looking grabbed what I thought was the door handle, and basically tried to leave the shop through the Coke fridge.
Well, obviously, I never can go back. He was doing his best to be kind and not collapse laughing on the floor kicking his legs in the air and clutching his stomach. I just felt a warm heat rising until my face felt like it had been exposed to the sun for about a year.
And it brought back horrible memories of my teenage years, which I seemed to spend in an almost permanent state of blushing. Back then, it was called a ‘reddener’ and it was the ultimate sign of schoolboy weakness. If someone shouted ‘wouldya look at the reddener on that!’, not only was it the cruelest taunt imaginable but it also acted like coal being shovelled into a furnace. It fuelled the reddener to the point where my face no longer could take the strain and so dispatched all the excess redness to every visible part of my body. When you’re so embarrassed that your neck and arms go red, you know it’s time to man up.
And so I did, casually absorbing innuendo, refusing to look stupid when I actually was being stupid and, if truth be told, finding that a couple of drinks are pretty much the best antidote to blushing that exists.
But after the incident in the shop, a thought struck me. Is blushing a thing of the past? I certainly can’t tell you the last time I saw anything more than a mild pink flush on someone
My face felt like it had been exposed to the sun for about a year. In my teenage years it was called a ‘reddener’
else’s face, never mind the sort of epic reddener that would make the neighbours think that July had arrived in November.
Children, especially, seem utterly immune to embarrassment. If something racy came on The Late Late Show and my parents were in the room, parts of me would wither and die. If there was the tiniest flash of cleavage in a film, I would squirm (much to their amusement, I later learned) before lighting up the living room like a passing meteor and losing the ability to breathe. If I said or did something stupid and was called out on it, the entire Dulux catalogue, from Coral Bells to Poinsettia, would flash across my face. If I was found out for having done something naughty, there was no point in trying to deny it because my cheeks were like a signed confession, an admission of utter guilt.
To be honest, it was an agonising time and they are days I just don’t miss at all. Working in newspapers helped; everyone was older and no one took any prisoners, and unless you toughened up, you would spend entire days looking like a fairly saucy street in Amsterdam.
But what I still don’t understand is why no one really blushes any more. Maybe children have been raised to be more confident, which is a good thing – or just more brazen, which probably isn’t. Maybe they just don’t think that they’re ever less clever or wise than anyone else in the room, or maybe they have a much more open attitude to all things sexual, or maybe they just can’t entertain the idea that they’re ever wrong, or naughty, or could do anything foolish at all.
And that’s something of a shame, because when the blushing subsided after I left the shop and returned to the car, via the real door this time, I laughed until tears streamed down my face. A little self-awareness is no harm and if the price of finding out that you’ve done something ridiculous is a reddener to compete with an Ibiza sunset, then one thing is for sure – you know that whatever it is you’ve done, you’ll never do it again. At least, that’s the way I see it.