Caught With Your Pants Down? The Psychology of Embarrassment
Mark Twain once said, "Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to." Embarrassment is a powerful emotion from which no person in any culture is immune. While there are no recorded deaths, many people caught in the unblinking stare of mortifying moments have often wished for a quick and merciful death. Just before a very proper British career diplomat was to give a speech, he saw his fly was open. He quickly sat back down again and yanked the zipper shut but jammed his silk tie into the tiny steel teeth.When he stood again, he tightened the tie around his neck and started making gasping, wheezing noises. Some thought he was having a heart attack. Eventually, his host cut the cravat with scissors, but all eyes in the room were transfixed on the scene.Thoroughly flustered, the diplomat ran from the room with a short piece of necktie flapping from his fly and a stubby bit of tie dangling from his collar. Within hours, the entire diplomatic community heard the tie-in-the-zipper story. From that point on, whenever he was on official business, people gazed down at his fly and usually chuckled. With such an impaired image it was hard to take him seriously, so he was recalled to his homeland where he waited in obscurity for the memory of the gaffe to fade.