What is one of the most embarrassing things you have ever done? This was a question I was asked recently and it wasn’t hard to answer. As an expat I sure know how to make a fool of myself abroad; expat life gives you lots of opportunities. Then again, you don’t have to live abroad to make a fool of yourself, I’m sure you know. No? You’ve never found yourself in situations where you were embarrassed or mortified? You must be a very boring person. Anyway, let me regale you with one of my cringe-worthy experiences:
Imagine you have just moved to a foreign country, a very foreign country. Your husband is the new boss of an economic development project and the office has organized a welcome party for him, and for you, because you are the wife of the new boss.
Okay, this was us, my man and me, in Armenia, a former Soviet republic, where we ended up living for 6 years. We did not speak the language. We couldn’t even read the alphabet.
The party was a typical Armenian affair (we attended many of them in the years to come) which involved a lavish dinner in a restaurant, with loads of food set out on long tables, and lots of drinks and music and the offering of many toasts. Toasts to the motherland, to peace, to mothers and fathers, to children, to the future, to friends, and of course to the new boss and his wife.
This was all new to me. I was fascinated by all that food, the music, the women dressed to kill – tight clothes, stiletto heels, expert make-up, fabulous manicures. Lots of bling and glamour galore. I felt like a frumpy hausfrau amid all this female gorgeousness.
What a show!
In between eating and drinking (Armenian wine and lots of vodka!) there was the recitation of poems, the singing of songs, and the dancing of dances. Armenian parties are fascinating cultural affairs!
Everybody danced — alone, in circle groups, with partners, men with men, women with women, anything goes at an Armenian party. Now watch the women dancing: Very, very seductively with much gyration of hips, and curving of arms in the air, with hands sexily turning at the wrist and fingers twirling as if screwing in light bulbs. Do you get the picture?
So, there I sat at the table, eating, drinking, watching, in awe of the seductive hip-swinging and twirlings of these sexy women, the women working at the office of my husband.
Then this happened
One of the hip-swingers came up to me, smiling with challenge in her dark eyes, grabbed my hand and pulled me up out of my chair and motioned me to come to the dance floor with her.
Talk about not being in your comfort zone.
Had I known this was coming, I’d have fortified myself with more vodka. I experienced a wave of panic, or maybe two or three.
I had to do something. I had to say no, no way! I don’t know how to swing my hips and twirl my fingers. Please, please, just let me sit here.
But then what would that look like? What would they think? That I, the new boss’s wife, did not know how to party, was too stuck up to have a bit of fun?
I knew what I had to do
I had to make an utter idiot of myself in front of the whole group, knowing that all the eyes would be on me. I had to save myself by drowning, so to speak.
And so, I did
I tried to imitate the women, gyrated my hips, lifted my arms, tried to twirl my fingers — me, in my low-heeled shoes, in my un-glittery, un-glamourous clothes. Everybody was looking at me.
I was mortified
And then I decided to just let it be what it was: What the hell, who cares, just do it. So, I swung my hips a little harder, twirled my hands a little more, until finally, the music stopped. And people smiled at me and said I did great and they all lied. But nobody thought I was stuck up.
And nobody took a video. As far as I know.
There were other times, of course, when I entertained others with my idiocy. I once danced the hula on a table top in an American restaurant called The Crab Shack. In Armenia (later on) I once pretended to be a chicken, clucking and flapping my arms like wings. Okay, here’s the story: How (Not) to Buy Eggs in a Foreign Country.
And now it is your turn: Tell me about how you made a fool of yourself. Hit that comment button below and entertain me.