Last week I saw my builder in his underpants. It’s true. He’d been working on my bathroom, and after he’d packed up for the day, he decided to get changed out of his “builder pants” into his regular trousers. Which is fine, apart from the fact that he decided to do this in the corridor. Of course I walked out, only to be confronted by my builder with his trousers around his ankles and an expression of utter shock on his face. What’s more, he wasn’t wearing boxers but skimpy Y-fronts. For once in my life I was completely speechless. Neither of us knew where to look or what to do. I quickly composed myself, walked past, he pulled up his trousers and now we act as if nothing ever happened. Which is of course the most appropriate way to deal with such an encounter.
But then it got me thinking about all the other embarrassing experiences that I’ve had. Like when I walked in on my friend’s (now ex) husband sitting on the loo at a dinner party. I just could not look him in the eye again after that. Or when I was around eighteen and my top, which was buttoned down the front, completely popped open whilst I was talking to a male friend. Just like that. In full view, in the middle of the library. Credit to my friend who kept his eyes firmly on my face. But that just seems to be the British way. We pretend as nothing has happened and quietly move on.
Of course children are the one MAJOR exception to this. They don’t ever quietly ignore things and will always make a song and dance about anything potentially embarrassing. But it’s not because they are evil little psychopaths. No. It’s primarily because they are still learning to process other people’s feelings and filter their own thoughts. So, when Ludoo points at people in the supermarket and asks loudly why they have got a “big belly” (no, these are not pregnant women), or when Flump stares at people in the changing room, after swimming, and queries why they have “fur” on their private parts, I have to remind myself that they are still learning the art of empathy and sensitivity (but first I bollock them for embarrassing me so publicly).
Kids often ask quite valid questions but always at the wrong time. They don’t get the concepts of tact and discretion. They just tell it like it is and it takes years of embarrassing episodes before they understand that it’s not necessary to blurt the first thing that comes into their overactive, chaotic, brilliant little minds, especially if it refers to other people’s body parts. Big sigh.
But back to my builder. I have to say I am impressed by how quickly we have both been able to forget and move on from “pants gate.” There’s no residual awkwardness and he seems to be doing a good job in the bathroom. The only thing I will say is that I do have the occasional flashing image of his skinny legs in tight underpants. He really does need to invest in a decent pair of boxers.