…but maybe it’s not such a bad thing that people assume I’m so naïve. There was certainly a time when they were absolutely correct. I remember hearing what sex was from a fellow student in sixth grade. She suggested that the district could forgo hiring a new sex-ed instructor, because it didn’t require a whole semester. With a quick hand gesture she illustrated the act, and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. As my mind raced in horror and curiosity, I tried to keep my face expressionless and casual. I didn’t want anyone to know I hadn’t known.
What always gave me away was my blush. Two things I struggle to control: my bladder and my blush. Feeling that heat creep up my cheeks from my neck makes me feel so self conscious I could cry. And that only makes me turn a deeper shade! Believe it or not, although I don’t know that I’ll ever feel secure during a hearty laugh, I did actually enjoy a season of total facial neutrality. In many ways, it was wonderful.
Taking custody of my 14 year old sister for a month after high school graduation, we looked out for each other in the familiar territory of our home town just fine. However, as soon as we started the cross-country drive to rejoin the rest of the family in Wyoming, the unfamiliar culture of rest stops and campgrounds was seriously intimidating. We realized we drew fewer uncomfortable leers from our fellow travelers, if we avoided bathing and invoked Detroit as our place of origination, instead of Belleville. By the time we got to our destination, on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, I was getting into this “tough act.”
It came in handy. Working at the lodge, I was surrounded by all sorts of colorful characters, who were ready to pounce on any weakness or naiveté. It turns out that many people who choose to live an hour away from the nearest post office have something they’re hiding, or something they’re running from, and it’s a small, intense community. Crass jokes, bizarre behavior, methamphetamine abuse…and complete disregard for the division between youth and adult, ruled my relationships that summer. As much about adventure as survival for me, I soaked up the experience, learned all the nasty jokes, polished my banter, and lost my blush. Thank God, “New Student Days” started and I rushed off to start classes before I found myself alone in a trailer with an older man, or giving Crank a try. I definitely had enough Blackberry Brandy, often found abandoned in the break room by a drunken co-worker, to get my college experience off to a start.
It came in handy, my freshman year, that my blush was gone. You would not believe the things I could hear and say that year, and with a demeanor so casual you’d have to look at me twice to confirm that I was actually the one who had said it. It was fun to shock the girls and intimidate the guys. I had taken so much crap in my life for being shy, smart, and sweet, it felt good to finally take control and not have to be the one to back down every time. I felt respected, but was probably a bit of a tease. It was probably also a good thing that I could handle my liquor better than the other girls.
You can guess, however – it didn’t last. I was smart enough to spend the next summer back in Belleville with my old friends – and very little brandy. When I got back to school my sophomore year, I forged deeper friendships and my old identity resurfaced. Maybe a little edgier than before, I was pretty much back to being known as sweet and nice. Then a crisis of faith sent me foraging in the New Testament Letters of Paul, and before I knew it – I was blushing again, too. I was a little annoyed, but I realized right away that it signaled something right in me, not something wrong.
Blushing is so inconvenient. It’s like an open invitation to everyone in the room to read your mind. I hate it when I blush. We’re taking the youth group through a Bible Study this month about building healthy relationships, and, of course, we have to cover the intimate stuff, too. It’d be so much easier to get through the tricky stuff, if the kids didn’t see me struggle for words and turn beet red.
But what can I say? I’ve lived without my blush; and I like me better with it. Being able to spot Meth users has come in handy sometimes, though, so it wasn’t all a loss.
Keep your eyes on the LORD! You will shine like the sun and never blush with shame. Psalm 34:5