One Of My Most Embarrassing Moments Involved Accidental Public Nudity

My year in the third grade was a stressful one. My family had moved to a new city, and I took to showing up mid-sleepwalk at the foot of my parents' bed, brown toy suitcase clutched to my chest, insisting that I was running away to my real home. I tended to feel awkward around other kids, and so I was having a hard time finding my place in the new school. For months, a classmate stole anything nice I kept in my desk. I found math difficult and pretended to lose my textbook so much that I nearly failed. One girl told me that I made the periods too big at the ends of my sentences and that our teacher probably thought I was stupid because of it. Bitch.

All of this added up to me being a bit distracted a lot of the time. I really did lose my textbooks a lot. I forgot to go when a friend asked me to come over after school. I was late for everything. I lost anything that wasn't stapled to my hands. I had idiot strings on my mittens threaded through my coat sleeves.

I started having dreams in which I showed up at school naked. These dreams didn't just bother me at night. They dogged me all day, too. I felt this weird shame every time a classmate from one of my naked dreams spoke to me. I felt exposed and out of control, and I was sure that they somehow knew what was happening.

One day after recess, my friend Brad and I were talking while we took off our coats and boots. He was down on one knee tying his shoe, and I was standing in front of him blabbing on about something or other, probably some story I was reading, when I noticed how quiet the room had become. I looked down at Brad, and he was staring up at me like he couldn't believe what he was seeing. His mouth was hanging open.

I looked down at myself and saw that I was completely naked from the waist up. There were my little kid nipples all pink and staring back at him. In the midst of my usual distraction, I had gone too far when taking off my coat and had also removed my shirt.

I felt the floor come up to meet my feet as I nearly fainted from the shock of my own public nudity. In my panic, I grabbed my coat and put it on over my naked torso. I knew that I couldn't sit through class in my coat all afternoon, but I wasn't going to take it off again in front of Brad, so I fled the room, ran home to put on a different shirt, and told anyone who asked that I had spilled something on my other one.

Later during math, I asked Brad if that had really happened. He nodded that it had. He then proceeded to develop a crush on me that would last throughout our remaining five years of elementary school, which was almost as embarrassing as baring my naked chest at him, because he made it a habit to ask people to smell his finger.

It was all put into perspective for me, though, when this became only one of three or four separate occasions on which I took my shirt off in public while distracted. It's a great way to make friends and influence people.

Want to know what's even worse than that? The last time it happened, I was 33 years old.

This post was written in response to a writing challenge from {W}rite-of-Passage, a " of writers seeking a challenge, getting critique, and finding community."

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