Ever done something so stupid or so embarrassing that you will NEVER forget it? Worse, have you ever done it in front of others who you are sure will never forget it either?
In 2000, I was heavily involved in planning an annual conference for about 600 people. We spent almost a full year in the planning process and during that time I got quite close to the other three women on the planning committee. Two were county welfare agency directors, the third my boss. And, I joined the Silly Sisters Club.
The Silly Sisters Club was born years earlier when a few women were sitting around drinking and eating and sharing stories and the stories quickly became about the really stupid, embarrassing things they had done or had happen to them.
One night in a hotel room, fatigued from hours of planning, the four of us sat on the floor eating our room service dinner and giggling, and my boss encouraged/forced me to share a recent embarrassing moment with the other two.
I was scheduled to attend a meeting of about 25 people who were stakeholders in a newly launched $2 million program for which I was the project coordinator. These people were important to the project, people from all walks of life that were the big money behind the project.
That morning I’d chosen a favorite pantsuit with an elastic waist (always my go-to for comfort) and long matching sweater top because it looked professional but was comfortable enough to wear while sitting around all day in a meeting. When I put it on, however, I discovered the elastic had not made a successful trip through the last dry-cleaning. I was running a little late and determined to wear that suit, so I found a big pin and pinned the elastic ends together.
The meeting was set at our offices. We were in a fairly small room, tables set in a u-shape so we could face each other and interact, and there was a nice coffee set up to the right of the tables.
About an hour into the all day event I got up to check the coffee supply. Facing the coffee urns, I had my back to the tables, with about two-thirds of the group able to see me easily, when the pin on my elastic popped open and my pants fell down!
It took me a few seconds to realize what had happened before I bent over, pulled them up, gathering the front tightly in my left hand, one of the coffee urns in my right and made a hasty retreat.
In the kitchen I found someone to refill the coffee urn while I sat down and tried to recover what little was left of my self-respect. At that point, I’d have gone home and crawled back into bed FOREVER quite happily, but was expected in that meeting for the rest of the day.
I had pretty much convinced myself that it happened so quickly that no one had noticed when one of my staff who was also in the meeting, came out to see if I was OK. She wasn’t particularly fond of me (putting it nicely) and the feeling was mutual. She appeared sympathetic, but I think she took great pleasure in telling me how she’d seen it all as had several other people, including the very staid gentleman from the French Embassy who had been sitting next to me.
She also said she thought the state director of human services (also a man, of course) was very embarrassed as he had turned red and put his handkerchief to his face. She explained how several other people had shown dismay or giggled. About then I wanted to smack her. Sadly I didn’t, because she felt it necessary to comment next on my underwear. She remains on my shit list to this day because if it wasn’t bad enough to imagine what people saw and thought, she explicitly shared it with me, thus ensuring my total humiliation. I now had to face these people knowing that they’d seen it. So much for the happy state of denial.
I thanked her for her concern and sent her back to the meeting. Made a note to kill her later. Regrouped, I went back to the meeting and took my place at the table. At lunch, our director (a great guy, very easy-going and friendly) joined all of us and in front of five other people at our table, the same charming co-worker loudly and with laughter told the him what had happened. I wanted to die. He, being a decent guy, changed the subject quickly.
Later he asked how I was and even later I asked the co-worker why she felt it appropriate to bring that up at a table of our project funders, most of whom we’d only met that day. She said she’d just thought it was funny. Like I said, she’s still on the shit list. Forever.
The day finished well and no one mentioned it again, except my friends at the office who had heard and we all just had a good laugh about it. For months afterwards, in fact, they would stop me before we went into meetings and ask if my pants were properly fastened.
At the hotel that night with the other event planners, everyone (including me) had a laugh riot about my mishap, especially because they knew most of the people in attendance at that meeting.When we stopped laughing/crying, the two directors inducted me into the Silly Sisters Club and told me their stories.
I was sworn to secrecy about theirs, so you’ll just have to be satisfied with mine. Certainly you’ve had something awful happen to you. Please. Don’t leave me out here on Humiliation Island by myself. Share.
PS, just a tip. When your elastic breaks or is stretched out, pick another pair of pants.