I sipped the last few drops of cool golden liquid from the bottle. There’s nothing like a cold beer to wash down the final mouthful of vegetable dansak. The conversation continued idly around me… Jo was explaining her lifelong obsession with tortoises, Neil was laughing rather absently as he tried to catch the waiter’s eye, and me – my thoughts had switched to slight concern, a tiny knot in my stomach starting to form over whether or not I had enough money to pay my share of the bill. And, if not, could I put it all on my card and ask the others for cash? Would they object? With one half of my mind on this and the other vaguely aware of a story unfolding about Jo’s childhood pet Timmy and the shell-painting fiasco, my hand moved up and down my empty Cobra bottle, enjoying the feel of the cold glass against my hot palms, an almost hypnotic motion to help me think through this thing about the bill.
Whhhoooooooaaaaaahhhhh! The strangest, strangest thing happened next. Was I hallucinating? Was I in a dream? A genie – a real live genie – popped out of my bottle, floating there in mid-air on his tiny airship of a cushion, arms folded just like you’d expect… I won’t bother to describe the rest because we all know what the genie in the pantomime version of Aladdin looks like and this one looked just like that. I guess it was a stereotype that was hard to break.
“I am here to grant you three wishes” he announced. Bit of a clichéd way to introduce yourself, I thought but, what the hell – who am I to judge? Three wishes… hmmm… Better make some choices I won’t live to regret.
The first one was easy. “I wish for world peace.” On that point I’m with the beauty contestants (the one and only thing I have in common, I should add).
The second one wasn’t too difficult either. “I wish for mankind to save the planet.” A bit of a tall order again, perhaps, but definitely worth a punt.
But the third one… if I was going to live in a peaceful world on a healthy planet, maybe I should keep back just one wish for myself? My first thought was to wish that I had enough cash for the curry but I quickly dismissed that one – I needed a wish that could last me a lifetime and the dansak would be out of my system and down the drain in around six hours, after all.
“OK…” I ventured, “my last wish is… I really, really wish that I could stop…STOP BLUSHING.”
The genie stifled a laugh…
You’ve probably guessed by now that I’ve made most of this up. But I honestly do WISH that I could stop blushing. It may seem silly to anyone who doesn’t get embarrassed easily, but if you’re a chronic blusher it can feel like an affliction, an inhibitor, a millstone you take with you everywhere. It feels like you’re wearing a flashing, neon saucepan-lid of a badge that reads: “I’m so shy! I might be offended! I might be guilty! I might be a prude! I might fancy you! Or you might fancy me! I’ve done something wrong!” And, in every situation where you feel yourself blushing, you’re doubly embarrassed by the awareness that the person reading this ‘badge’ may assume that those words emblazoned on it are true.
In most instances, they are NOT! It’s a peculiar aspect of self-consciousness that betrays something which doesn’t necessarily exist in the first place! I can blush purely because I’m already worrying that if I do, the other person will think I’m guilty/offended/etc. and then that fear alone starts if off. Still with me? I mean it’s a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. I can blush because it seems like it’s expected. And because I’ve been a blusher all my life I’ve put up with people pointing it out, which doesn’t exactly help. Often I don’t even realise – I’m feeling cool and vampirically pale – and then somebody says those words: “Ha ha, you’ve gone ALL RED!” Why, thank you for that. Every last drop of blood now races to my cheeks, a mental paralysis takes hold and all I can think about is blushing, blushing, blushing…
Some say that self-consciousness is a form of egocentricity, as in: what makes you think you’re so important that others are interested in you enough for you to react to that notion? I can see this is a valid point but I don’t think it’s really as simple as that. We know shyness can also indicate low self-esteem too. But I wouldn’t say I suffer from that in any real sense. Whatever the psychological cause behind the tendency to blush, once it’s a part of you it’s hard to be free of it.
I don’t let it get in the way of things - as a young child I would try to avoid potentially blush-inducing situations but later deliberately drew attention to myself (and got it!) through being a punk, etc. and enjoying looking unconventional. You just accept that you might blush and decide not to care, it doesn’t have to be a big deal. But in the back of my mind there is still this hope, this wish, that one day I could just be free forever from the curse of the reddened face.
What can one do? No genie is going to appear to grant me my wish so I guess I’m just going to have to keep working at it on my own. And I’d still give priority to world peace and saving the planet, but I’d just like to do it all without turning beetroot…
Hmmm. I suppose the first step might be to cut down on the curries – you know what they say about spicy foods and burning cheeks…
Artwork by C / Sun Dried Sparrows