Monday, March 17, 2008

I Feel Your Pain. No, Really. I Do.

Is anyone watching American Idol?

Of course you are. It's only, like, the top rated show. And we're still waiting for everything to reboot from the writers' strike. If you're not watching it, may I ask what you are watching? 'Cause sometimes I just can't handle the Idol.

See, I have this little problem. I get embarrassed for people who can't get embarrassed for themselves. So, during at least one performance every Idol, I get so embarrassed for somebody that I start counting the ridges in our textured ceiling.

I know everyone suffers from cringe-itis to some degree. (Well, maybe not the "reporters" on The Daily Show. Those people have a superhuman tolerance for awkwardness and humiliation.) But I suffer to such an extent that I've been known to tear up at karaoke bars for people who are just so God-awful but think they're terrific and have no idea that the audience is laughing at them. Seriously, my eyes started watering once when Jason and I went for a night out with his co-workers. One clueless girl that he used to work with (she was that person we all have in our workplace who annoys everybody) put her entire heart and soul into a rendition of "Wide Open Spaces" that was so off-key-but-earnest that I had to bury my head into my hands. I could not look at her. When I came up for air, I realized I was crying a little. I get that worked up and uncomfortable for people who are living train wrecks.

It really doesn't matter whether the cringe-worthy act is intentional or un-. I love The Office. And I know it's not real. But I watch about a quarter of each episode through parted fingers because I can't stand the awkwardness. Steve Carrell is truly the master of uncomfortable comedy. Too bad I miss half his work because I have to look away.

For a while there, I was a big fan of Crank Yankers and the Comedy Central British candid-camera import Trigger-Happy T.V. But I think it annoyed Jason when I had to put my fingers in my ears for most of it. I knew it was time to stop watching when I began to fast-forward through all the "good parts" of our TiVoed episodes. There's only so much of the "tricking the ignorant and unsuspecting" that I can take.

It's not just limited to arts and entertainment. As a teacher, I have to sit through a lot of faculty meetings and professional development workshops. There's always that one teacher who believes with all her heart that the only stupid question is the one not asked. So she asks questions throughout the meeting. A lot of questions. By about the third inane question that makes the teachers around me start exhanging knowing looks, I find myself suddenly becoming very interested in my shoes.

In any season of American Idol, I am going to find myself unable to watch several times. There's always the one really, awfully bad audition in the first weeks where the singer starts arguing with the judges' assessment of his awfulness instead of skulking out of the room in humiliation. I don't feel sorry for him because he thinks he's God's gift to the pop world and completely unaware of his lack of skill, but my nature compels me to get so embarrassed for him that I have to leave the room. Then there's at least one time after they've whittled it down to the 12 "best" singers when someone makes a song choice or tackles an arrangement that defies logic. If you watch, I bet you can guess the two performances last week that caused me to stick my fingers in my ears and go, "LA LA LA LA LA LA! I DON'T HEAR YOU!"

There must be an embarrassment gene. I don't know if I've ever seen Jason have to look away from an awkward situation, and I honestly don't think he has a "most embarrassing moment." He can laugh at himself and others easily. And then there's me, who turns red and flees when complete strangers make asses out of themselves.

So, for all of you who are incapable of feeling uncomfortable or humiliated: keep singing on national TV loudly and proudly, continue doing "fake" interviews with crazy people who apparently have no idea that you work for Jon Stewart or that you are getting paid to make of them, and keep making Dunder Mifflin's Michael Scott the bastion of awkwardly confident office incompetence that he is. When you can't get embarrassed for yourself, I will get embarrassed for you. Keep on entertaining us, even if we have to sometimes look away.

1 comment:

Karen said...

If there's an embarrassment gene, then we must be closely related. And it's for that very reason that I can barely stand to watch American Idol. I'm just anticipating the moment when someone does something embarrassing, and I have to be embarrassed for them! I can't stand the suspense!