The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS - PHILIP NOLAN

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.

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