Why is falling over so embarrassing? Little kids do it all the time, they have a cry and get up. Maybe mummy or daddy kisses their ‘boo boo’ or mummy gives them some recovery titty, but in most cases they’re up and over it.
For some reason, as we get older, falling over becomes shameful. It’s bloody embarrassing to fall over in public. It doesn’t matter how hurt you are, your femur could be protruding out your thigh, a small bit of brain could be dislodged, or an eye might have popped, but you’re like ‘nope – I’m good.’ The adrenalin gives you that little window of time to get to a safe place where you can suffer in solitude. You manage to get up and hobble to a hidey-hole where you can privately experience the pain of your trauma. And the trauma of your pain. You see, the pain of shame trumps the pain of pain. And ice only relieves the latter (unless it’s a different sort of ice).
I did this the other night when I took a tumble in a carpark. A fellow comedian was walking me to my car, post gig. We were chatting, or more to the point, I was probably monologuing as we ambled to the far end of an unlit and deserted carpark, when I hit a pothole – in platforms. Being six foot tall is already a falling hazard. Being six foot tall, in four inch heels, not only adds elevated risk, it adds theatre. I must have looked spectacular. I’m tempted to check google earth to see if the satellites caught me. My poor friend certainly didn’t. In the split-second that I recognised I was horizontal, and parallel to the gravel, I made a millisecond decision to take it on the knee – rather than the face. Although at 51, I probably could have done with a good deep dermabrasion. Next thing I know I’m on the ground. My knee is really hurting.
I’m embarrassed. My friend is concerned and says ‘Are you okay?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah I’m fine – just a graze.’ Which is total bullshit; I’m panicking – I’ve done something stupid. But I get up, assure him I’m okay, and make a beeline for my car.
I could really do with some titty right about now. They should have breastfeeding mums as paramedics for these kinds of call-out. I would have given anything to rest my head on a comforting bosom with a little calming squirt of nature’s rescue remedy. Instead, I turn on the ignition and drive out. I notice my vision is restricted. I feel a bit light-headed; I’m seeing spots. Great, now I’m going to faint. It’s from the pain, and probably the shock of getting up so fast. I pull over, and try to put my head between my legs. Not for self-pleasuring, for self-preservation. If it was for self-pleasuring I would have done it years ago. But the steering wheel was in the way, so I blacked out. Not for long. When I came to, a few seconds later, I had the sensation of pain and shame all throbbing together in glorious consensus.
What a dickhead. Why did I park there? Why wasn’t I using the torch on my phone? Why didn’t I wear sensible shoes – like those ugly birkenstocks? You never see people in birkenstocks fall over (maybe it’s because they’re embarrassed about their footwear and won’t leave the house).
Where does the embarrassment of falling over come from? Is it because we feel stupid? That without any warning we are shown to be vulnerable – in public – our peers as witnesses. Is it because falling over is funny for others? It’s the inspiration for great slapstick. I have to admit I have often laughed at the spectacular falling over of people, until I’ve gone to their aid and realised they’re seriously injured or dead.
Is it because we look old or weak? No one wants that – maybe because we are old and weak.
Is it because we don’t want anyone to see us cry? A psychiatrist told me that we judge people’s character by how they respond in a fall; if people laugh at themselves, we like them. If they cry, we don’t. So next time you fall, remember; if you fall over and hurt yourself, and people see you cry, everyone will hate you. They’ll think you’re not resilient. It’s the same reason Liberal voters hate people on Centrelink.
So get up, find somewhere quiet, and cry there. If you’re lucky, a breastfeeding mum might be strolling past.