Adj. 1. humiliated – subdued or brought low in condition or status;
Adj. 2. humiliated – made to feel uncomfortable because of shame or wounded pride;
When I was about 14, I was part of an inter-school competition for smart kids and problem solvers. My team from the girls school was fun, but also pretty quiet, kinda mellow. I was all about expressing my extroverted self. We were staying at a campsite out in West Auckland, in bunkrooms that had connecting doors.
Imagine my delight when the door to our bunkroom opened and on the other side – was a group of smart, funny and entertaining boys from Kristin School on the North Shore. This central city Epsom Girls Grammar girl was delighted with the opportunity to converse and laugh and spark with like-minded but very different teenage males.
One of the group ringleaders went by the name of Adam, a dark-haired rascally type who was clever and witty and political aware (as you are at 15). I found him somewhat enchanting and interesting. And I thought he did me too. We spent long dinners and afterhours programmes laughing and joking.
The other members of the group were full of fun too, except one kid, who even know, I can’t even remember. He was the geek, with body odour, glasses. He was pretty quiet and definitely not highly regarded by the rest of the team.
After the heated final competition, Adam and I traded numbers and promised to ‘stay in touch’. Already my delicate teenage self-esteem had bloomed a little in the short few days of attention. But I wasn’t foolish enough to assume that I would hear from him.
It genuinely took me by surprise when he rang within the week, to invite me to a BBQ his parents were having the next Sunday.
Sundays were always difficult days in my house. They were Dad Days, usually begun with some measure of tension and stress from the maternal end, endless waiting and hoping for Dad to arrive (invariably always late) and then spent in the nervous tension that the eldest sibling lives in .. wanting to make sure that everything’s ok for everybody. So I nervously asked Dad if he would drop me out to the address in Greenhithe, which in those days was simply forever away.. over the bridge. For my often-unemployed and very often broke Dad, I felt the burden of the gas, the journey, the time. It was a really big call.
So the morning came, and I had invited my friend Tere to come with me. We picked her up and Dad dropped us off. Me, being foolish and shy, asked him to drop us off at the top of the driveway. And down we walked.
Adam had given a precise description of the house and the surrounding garden, which featured a large flagpole. I’m not sure why that sticks in my mind but it does. We got to the door, knocked on it, and who should answer.. but geeky, smelly kid.
And when we explained what we were there for – assuming that Adam must have invited his friends from school as well, he looked more and more confused. He blushed redder and redder and went inside. It seemed like an age of confusion before his mother came to the door.
She brought us inside and explained that there was no BBQ, that this wasn’t Adam’s house. She looked at me first with incredulity, disbelief and anger until she finally came to see that I really had no idea what Adam had been playing at. Then the pity in her eyes took over.
Soon, it became obvious what was going on. Not only was the geeky, smelly kid the victim of Adam’s bullying, but I was too. I wasn’t meeting with a like-minded friendly funny guy, but actually had been the butt of a well-played joke. Adam had revealed to his cabin mates late at night during the competition week, a plan to ‘trick’ the girl from next door into really liking him, then playing a prank.
Geeky, smelly boy revealed all under the prodding of his mother. Poor kid hadn’t realised that he too, was going to be the butt of this practical joke. he had thought it the perfect scam.. win over the ‘ugly fat-face stupid slut’ as he had called me to the others, then really make her feel a fool by sending her to Geeky’s house under false pretenses, thus humiliating both myself and his schoolyard prey.
Finally, a phone call to Adam’s house revealed nothing but a laughing teenage boy on the other end. While Geeky’s mother promised to ring Adam’s parents and get an apology, I never heard another word.
Worse still, was the inability of contacting my Dad. His cellphone (at that time a brick) simply rang and rang and rang. I rang my mother but she didn’t answer the phone. In the end, in utter humiliation, having already suffered this crisis in front of my best friend who had heard me excited and full of enthusiasm for this teenage crush, we then had to call her mother to come and retrieve us then wait the 45minutes it took her to get there.
How I wanted my dad to come and rescue me from that moment. By the time I got back to school on the monday – the story had travelled plenty far. I so needed someone to crackdown on the arrogance, impudent boy. I needed someone to be furious at the injustice of a young boy’s prank. I needed someone to act quickly enough to restore the crushing blow to my self-worth and refute the words “ugly fat-face stupid slut”.
The Power Of My Helplessness
The feeling of public exposure, the feeling of my foolishness at being duped into the fraud, of somehow not perceiving the lie, the rathood of the cad, the visiblity of my shame.. being exposed in front of those that knew me.. those whose opinion mattered most. The shame of the rejection, the cruelty of the names and the lack of their refuting… that is the power of my helplessness. I end up crushed into humiliation and remember that girl, so frail, so tenderly holding onto the ledge of value and reputation. I remember the trust that was broken and rebuke my own stupidity. I remember the loneliness that stuck in my heart in that moment… the sorrow of unworthiness that crept into me.
There Are Moments Of Memory
For so many reasons the past few days have been full of insecurity, and it’s at these times this memory creeps up on me again and I remember Adam and what he did to my Eve. In her blossoming hope, how he devastated her.
I sometimes wonder if I have spent the last fifteen years waiting for Adam to strike again, wrestling me into public shame again. I know that this is my moment with Christ in front of the Pharisees, where I am the woman of shame brought before their judgement. It doesn’t matter whether I’m a criminal or not, just that the humiliation and fear of public rejection is equally strong. The ‘not being loved’ lie that crept in so young… renders me sometimes undone, and I have to restitch myself with words of truth.
Who is the Christ? Where is the defender, truth-teller, lover?
I don’t shy away from the utter revelation of self.. public humiliation I wear and have worn in the public eye before… but don’t leave me standing alone. All revelation is secure in the eyes of the one who stands despite the Truth.. whether it be my lack of beauty, my overpowering strength, my weakness, my sin, my sorrow… know all of me, every breath and beat and embarrassing truth.. and stay.
Stay and your love conceals me, covers over my sin and heals me.
Stay and your love reveals me, all that is beauty and truth and goodness.
Song Of The Moment : My Lover
by Melissa Etheridge
No one conceals me like
No one reveals me like
No one can disconnect
No one can resurrect
Like my lover
My lover makes me weak
Gives me breath to speak
My lover takes me home
Cools the rolling stone
My lover’s thorny kiss
The reason to exist
No one can saturate
No one manipulates
Like my lover
My lover needs to seize
Bring me to my knees
Reads me like a prayer
Calls the spirit there
Strips me to desire
No one can visualize
No one can make me rise
Like my lover
They dream of paradise
They’ll never ever pay the price