A Brush with the Blush

I count myself among the most accomplished of blushers. At nearly forty years of age, I usually have a blush a day – which is about ten blushes less a day than when I was a teen, so my blushing skills have dwindled somewhat. Good or bad? Mostly the former. Blushing used to be a constant source of embarrassment and fear with me in the old days, and even though I knew I wasn’t alone (I could spot a fellow blusher miles away – or at least within the radius of my stellar eyesight – no visible blush necessary either), I absolutely hated how I had no control over the raging red flushes that marred my face at the most inconvenient moments. If you are a blushing one, you know the kind of situations I refer to:

– an adult looks at you
– an adult speaks to you
– it’s your turn to order
– it’s your turn to speak in class
– you look at that boy
– you look at any boy
that boy says something to you
any boy says something to you
– a teacher calls on you and you can’t come up with an answer
– a teacher tells you the essay was good
– on the bus, you have to hand over money to the driver
– on the bus, the ticket controller comes on board
– you stumble and someone sees you
– you have to say your name in a crowd
… and the list could go on and on…

I grew up. I gained confidence. I got used to certain situations, and I blushed less. What a relief!

I no longer hide my blushing. I can make fun of it, and not take it that seriously. I even point it out, especially since the most frequent situations where I blush these days happen in the classroom. YES, I blush a lot at work. In particular, I blush every time something remotely racy or sexual and such come up in class. I don’t know why exactly, because back when I was sixteen or seventeen, I hardly ever blushed if sex was a topic. I think this might stem from me thinking that I would never ever get to have any sex. The whole concept just seemed so unattainable, really, back in the day, despite me thinking about it a lot. You know?

We read a lot of stories in class that involve human relations of different kinds, you know… A few weeks ago we read a story from Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decamerone where a young girl is seduced by a hermit. I told my students straight up that this was not the kind of story I could read out loud without blushing and giggling at some point. They know me by now, so read the story on their own when I told them to. I don’t think they liked the story very much, except they rightly thought the hermit was a bit of a creep. I guess the next time I teach this story, I’ll have to get over myself and provide some entertainment in the form of my blushing while reading the story in class. Maybe they’ll pick up on more of the blatant innuendo then. Next year, though, with this group, there’s another challenge in the form of a very good short story with a title that I absolutely can’t say out loud because it is very crude, and contains my least favourite word for female genitalia. Blushes galore, in other words. Will I read it out loud or not? Or even say the title? Time will tell…

Anyway, today was another day of blushing at work – this time I blushed twice in public, and then some more on my own. The source of my blushing was… my own novel. Yep, one of my students brought my novel to class. We were watching “Gladiator”, and after a break, my book popped up. Totally unprepared, I succumbed to a rapid blush and would have disappeared through cracks in the floorboards if I’d found any. And then I had to sign the book, of course! Plus I mentioned that the library has bought the book too now, so another student rushed off to get it, and came back triumphant = another thing that took me off guard. Gah, I ended up a sort of frantic unprofessional and babbling mess. I feel so utterly uncomfortable when the focus is on me as a person rather than as a teacher, and I freaked out a bit thinking about my students reading the swearing and drinking and references to sex that make up much of the book. (And oh my God, I have other yet unpublished books which go much further on those topics! And yes, I sometimes blush when I write.)

I guess I have to get over it. Expose myself more to that kind of attention. It’s a pretty steep learning curve.

Makes me proud, though, to know that I have students who are curious about my book. And the students in that class, my class, are pretty adorable, to be honest.

I’ll never stop blushing, but that’s fine. I kind of like it these days. It’s me.