Coming to terms with shame

I’ve been in hiding for a week or so, as you’ll have noticed by the lack of posts on here. It’s not because I’ve lost any of my desire to give you witty, charming and considered tracts on life in New York (one day I hope to deliver on that dream), or because I just don’t get the love or validation that I so desperately need having been a New Yorker for all of 19 months. No reader, it’s not you – it’s me.

Embarrassment, you see, causes me to shrink into the background – to bury my head and not re-emerge until I believe that the coast is clear. Any vague sense of shame essentially leads me to retreat to my metaphorical nuclear bunker, never to return unless I think I can nip down to the shops without having my arm mutate into a three foot proboscis. Or without people pointing and laughing, more to the point.

Such enforced exiles only happen from time to time, it has to be said. Like when I was a thirteen year old and walked into the ladies changing rooms at a department store, much to the open amusement of a gaggle of schoolgirls standing outside it (less amused, it has to be said, was the woman inside wearing only a bra and a frown). Or the time when my baffled friends looked on as I told the Queen that I had two years left at school, despite having only about a week to go. And especially the time when I got so drunk at a Christmas party that I knocked the DJ’s decks off a table, causing the glitterati of London’s media world to turn around and stare. You can only imagine their looks when I did it for the second time a few minutes later.

Now New York has inflicted an embarrassment on me that has had me wanting to disappear under my duvet (or whatever it is that Americans call that thing that you put on top of your bed to keep you warm at night), and only emerge when the house is completely empty. And it’s all the fault of a slice of pizza.

A week last Friday, I decided that some pizza would be the perfect start to the weekend. Ah, the joyous combination of crispy dough, flavoursome tomato sauce and a layer of grilled-to-perfection cheese – excluding the unexpected arrival of Heidi Klum looking for a place to stay, what better way can there be to celebrate the start of two days off?

Sadly my enthusiasm became a little too much for me, and I set about the task with all the indecent haste of an AIG executive banking his bonus. Realising that it was under attack, the pizza instituted emergency procedures and dispatched an area of tomato sauce and cheese (that had clearly been heated through nuclear fission) on a seek-and-destroy mission to the corner of my mouth. Shocked and stunned by the unexpected arrival of a globule of molten lava on my lip, I could barely move – and by the time I had, my mouth suddenly featured a rather fetching crater.

For the last week, I’ve been walking around with what looks like a ridiculously virile cold sore on my bottom lip. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I always think that it’s difficult to foster an air of respect when you look like you’ve got an outbreak of herpes on your face. I try to explain that it’s actually a third degree burn that was inflicted by a maverick Italian snack product, but nobody’s having it.

Thankfully the pain and the scarring is slowly receding, but the emotional scars will last a lifetime. I’ll go out in public again one day, but for the moment it’s back to hiding underneath the bedcovers. I’ve got enough food to last me another week. I think I’m going to need every bit of it before the shame finally fades.

9 thoughts on “Coming to terms with shame

  1. Brooklyn

    There was nothing to be ashamed of. Who among hasn’t been bested by superheated melted cheese? You should have treated the blister as a badge of honor, like a Prussian dueling scar.
    (Of course, I wouldn’t go back to Luigi’s or Anthony’s or whatever, and ask for the Purple Heart with Oregano Clusters Medal for wounds sustained in pizza consumption. Unfortunately the custom of awarding that civilian decoration went out of style during the ’60’s as part of the anti-Vietnam war movement and attendant anti-military sentiment. Talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater.)

    (Uhh, also: Korean vs. Chinese vs. other Asian? I can be like a dog with a bone as to these things.)

  2. jinksy

    It would never have happened with good old English fish and chips…
    Hope the pain plus embarrassment have lessened now!

  3. carrie

    Oh goodness! I laughed out loud but felt awful for you at the same time 🙂 Hope you are able to show your face in public again soon.

  4. IanB

    That’s the most elaborate and protracted excuse to explain what is obviously a terrible case of mouth lurgy I’ve ever heard.

    Everybody knows it’s the roof of a human mouth that is perfectly designed to magnetically receive molten cheese which has acquired the correct “hotter than the surface of the sun” temperature and that lips are stocially unmoved by anything other than the filling of a McDonald’s “apple pie” (actually a form of chemical weaponry).

    Now go out and get your bell and hessian robes and repeat after me “unclean unclean”.

    Hot pizza…yeah yeah yeah….. 😉

  5. expat mum

    Oooh. At least when I did that on the roof of my mouth it wasn’t visible. I just whined a lot. And it shows you’re not turning into an American – otherwise you’d have taken numerous photos, and filed a lawsuit likethe lady who got burned with a cup of coffee wedged between her thighs (while she was driving). Just kidding Americans! Seriously, tho’ you should tell them their pizza’s too hot.

  6. Dylan

    Brooklyn – I come bearing news, and sadly it’s not great for me…they are indeed Korean, and I doff my cap to you. *hangs his head in shame*

    Expat Mum – I should have known by now that pizza is always sodding hot. But I live in hope rather than expectation.

    And IanB – it’s the truth! Just you wait until you experience it. Don’t come running to me with your pox-laden mouth looking for sympathy at that point…

  7. Brooklyn


    Thank you. I will not rub it in.

    The matter simply confirms the reliability of NYC ethnic-occupational stereotypes.

    BTW: This reminds me of a true story.

    I have a very close friend who is Australian.
    After I referred several times to “the Korean fruit and vegetable store” he made some comment about NY’s being free in using ethnic epithets, apparently assuming “Korean” was a generic term for Asian.” I had to tell him that it was simply descriptive, like calling residents of Tokyo “Japanese” since Korean immigrants had a virtual monopoly on those type of stores.

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