I think about falling all the time. Just like athletes use visualization to perform that which most of us could never, I unintentionally use it to make an ass out of myself. And it’s all rooted in one scarring event that took place when I was 14.
It was the spring of my 8th grade year. I had just lost about 80 pounds, thanks to Gilad and Lean Cuisine. I felt normal walking into a room for the first (and what would be the last) time in my life. So imagine my teenage giddiness when I found out that I had been invited to a senior’s graduation party. A SENIOR. I was so stoked. It was sweet validation — the kind that can only be deliverd in an overpriced invitation adorned with an embossed purple mascot.
And so I slipped on my jelly shoes and went to the party. Mind you, these weren’t just typical jelly shoes. They were jelly shoes AND gladiator sandals – a fashion Frankenstein, if you will. They had two straps — one around the toes and one around the ankle. It was 1985, and they were bitchin’. These were shoes that you did not bust out on a Tuesday. No, these bad boys must be reserved for a special occasion, like a kegger or my speech club’s bi-annual trip to Chicago. And so it had been decided — I would unleash their fierceness at the graduation party. As a result of the events that would unfold, the shoes would become known as the strap-ons because 1) obviously, they strapped onto my feet with velcro, and 2) I ended up taking it up the ass for the next four years because of them.
When I arrived at the party, I immediately surveyed the room and figured out that all things cool were downstairs. And so I began my descent. Step 1 – OK, here we go. Step 2 – I wonder if there are any cute guys down there? Step 3 – My white gladiator jelly shoes are so rad. Step 4 – Wouldn’t it just suck if I stumbled and fell down these stairs? And then it happened. It seems my feet had developed a case of flop sweats. And if there are two things that don’t mix, it’s sweaty feet and plastic. For as I approached that fifth step, my sweaty hoof slipped forward as the cursed sandal stayed in place. My foot busted out of the toe strap and I tumbled down the stairs in a heap of humiliation. Upon landing, I looked up to see an entire room of coolness fall silent, all staring at my awkwardness and what had to be the original wardrobe malfunction dangling from my ankle.
How does one bounce back from an entrance like that? There was nothing I could do, sans walking in with Simon Le Bon on my arm. I honestly can’t recall what my recovery tactics entailed, but I think it involved me saying, “Whoa those stairs are slippery,” brushing myself off, and proceeding to sidle up to conversations, listening intently while nodding my head, as if my ass had not been handed to me by $15 worth of plastic and velcro.
To this day, the fear of falling in a public place has lodged itself in my mind like a permanent stutter. “What if I tripped with this tray of food in front of all these people?” “What if I took a header down these concrete steps?” And about once every six months, I somehow find a way to fulfill the prophecy. One time, I fell on the ice as I approached my car, and ended up sliding completely underneath it. I looked up and was face-to-face with my oil pan. I also fell down the stairs of my own home a few years ago, fracturing my ankle. And just the other day, I tripped over my own feet, stumbling awkwardly in front of one of my more smug co-workers. Perhaps I need an equally strong visualization to cancel out the original horror. Suggestions anyone?