Friday, June 22, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 16

Santa Maria Sun / Humor

The following article was posted on October 2nd, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 30 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 30

Splitting hairs

Fear of embarrassment can make you think a little irrationally


One of the things that happens to you as you get older is you really do stop caring what others think. Not about everything of course, but it’s no longer such a big deal when, say, you discover you’ve been walking around much of the day with your shirt on inside out, or when you park on the wrong side of the gas pump and have to get back in your car and maneuver about a bit to get into the right position.

I get embarrassed far less often now than I did when I was younger, but there are still some things I just can’t get past—like leaving my house messy in the morning.

It’s one of the silliest things to be embarrassed about, but it’s one of the biggest crimes in my book. I have a perfectly good excuse for walking out the door and leaving my house cluttered: I have three boys who confuse the functions of the floor, toy box, dresser, and kitchen sink.

Cups belong on side tables and sometimes on the floor. Clean folded laundry belongs on the floor in a heap, or sometimes if the dresser is stuffed, back in the dirty clothes hamper. Toys definitely belong on the floor, and the toy box is to remain empty in case there is a need to find something at its bottom. In fact, to be on the safe side at our house, everything just goes on the floor.

Even with this challenge, I’ve always feared leaving my house a mess. It’s not a pet peeve but an actual fear of embarrassment, like if I actually left the house a mess and got to work on time, someone, somewhere—like a burglar, maybe—would know I left it a mess. And this was all silly until someone actually did know.

When we first moved back to Santa Maria we rented a house. Our first couple of days in the house, the gas company refused to turn on the heat because there was a problem with the heater. So we huddled together in the living room for a couple of days in blankets, and one day I left the blankets on the floor when I went to work. When I got home my face flushed when I saw in the living room, amongst the pillows and bedding, a sink and several bathroom fixtures.

Apparently, our landlord was replacing fixtures in the bathroom and had forgotten we had moved in. Discovering we weren’t home, the landlord went ahead and delivered the items in the living room, where my housekeeping—and biggest fear of embarrassment—was on display.

For years I was told that I was irrational for feeling embarrassed about leaving my house a mess and then that irrational fear came true. Which only served to solidify the notion that my other fears could become reality.

Like whipping someone in the eye with my chin hair.

I don’t think that happened, but it could happen, and actually may have, I’m still not sure. What I do know for sure is that when you are sick for six weeks with a lung infection, you get a lot of medication and high-dose, IV-strength steroids that do weird things to your body. The other thing I know is that a long, solitary hair on a woman’s chin is way ickier than if that woman had a platoon of stubby whiskers in the formation of a 5 o’clock shadow.

This became an irrational fear when I was pregnant with one of my boys and my husband mentioned a small hair on my chin. It turns out pregnancy hormones and being attached by an umbilical chord to a little, unborn baby boy also messes with your body.

A pluck and that was done, but I’ve always been mortified that it would come back and someone who was not my husband would notice.

Because we had plans to take our kids on a surprise trip to Universal Studios and because I had enough medication in my system to treat a rhinoceros, we went on the trip despite my illness. It was miserable and hot and I couldn’t breathe, walk long distances, or talk much, but the kids were having fun.

Things were fine for the first half of our day, other than the fact that I looked and sounded like a car destined for the junk yard, coughing, wheezing, and in general disrepair. I didn’t care about that. What I did care about, what sent me into a near thumb-sucking, fetal positioned state was when I looked in the mirror to check the color in my face and noticed a 50-inch-long fine, black hair on my chin. It was so long that I could’ve put a bow on it.

The hair must have sprouted overnight because it was definitely not there the day before. Yet throughout the first half of our day no one in my family told me. “I didn’t see it,” was all they said. I think they were a little jealous because I was the one with the most facial hair in the car that day. Regardless, what trumped the fact that they “didn’t see it” was the ever-growing realization that a number of people probably did.

I retraced our steps. We had stopped at a fast-food restaurant. “This goes to the four gentlemen with the bearded lady,” I recalled the manager telling the trainee about our order. “Ma’am, please keep your chin hair tucked inside the ride at all times,” I remembered the amusement park employee saying. At least that’s how I remembered it.

I pulled my makeup case out of the car, grabbed the tweezers, and problem solved, but not before a bazillion people probably saw it and thought … something. I don’t know what, but I’m sure they thought things. Yes, I know, it’s silly to be embarrassed by such thoughts when there are so many other things I should probably be embarrassed about.

I may get embarrassed about a messy morning exit or a wayward follicle but at least I know that if I ever wave at someone who wasn’t waving at me or smile at someone with a wedge of greens in my teeth, it won’t faze me. I’m well past the age to be embarrassed by such things.


Shelly Cone also has a weird fear of having to give a speech and tripping and falling in front of the audience, so she won’t be giving any speeches soon. She can be contacted through the managing editor at

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