The Mixer Mishap and Freedom

This is dedicated to Tia Booker. May our paths cross again someday. I miss you.

You might have heard a story about a girl whose lip stuck to a hand held mixer attachment when she inadvertently flipped the ON switch while licking the irresistible cookie dough clinging to the end of the attachment? The story is true. That was me, when I was 13 years old. For about 3 or 4 years that was the most humiliating thing that ever happened to me. I shivered with horror at myself, often recalling the look of shock and awe on my then 7 year old brother’s face when he came running out with my parents to see what I was screaming about! His mouth, wide open, suggested I had embarked on the most wonderfully horrific trauma any young boy could dream up! I’m sure I swore him to secrecy when I had the presence of mind to talk with him. The worst of the story is that my parents could not detach the metal spiral mixing part from my lip, and my mom rushed me to the ER with the part still clinging tightly to my face. I think it was the most exciting emergency those medics had encountered in a long time, from the way they jumped at the chance to relieve my pain. It is still to this day the only time I have not had to wait for health care at an emergency room. Still, at 13, I would have given almost anything to have stayed home without the humiliation of 50 plus people witnessing my ridiculous lack of sense.

For years I held this story in the secret place of my heart, where all humiliation tries to hide. I heard my fair share of teasing from family, but they seemed to know this was not a story they could share with the outside world without ruining my fragile soul. So the humor was lost in secrecy until my junior year of high school. I can’t recall if I was 16 or had just turned 17, but that school year I took a drama class. The class was different than any other class I had ever taken. On many counts we were expected to be fully vulnerable. The teacher tried to create a safe environment by having us all contract at the beginning of the school year to never tell other people’s stories from the class unless we had specific permission from that person. She reminded us of this contract often.

One day, the daily journal assignment was to write out our most embarrassing moment. I hesitated before I wrote out the story. How would my classmates perceive me if she made us read aloud? It could not be helped. I had to be honest. So with trembling fingers I wrote down every detail of that night. I fought back tears when my teacher said we needed to read our stories to the class, using the dramatic storytelling skills. Bravely, I stood up and recalled to an entire class something I had never told a soul. The students tried to hold back the giggles as I set the stage and described the scene forcing myself to turn my fear and humiliation into acting energy. Finally, my friend, Tia Booker, guffawed loudly at the end of my tale. The whole class burst into uproarious laughter; even the teacher could not hold back her smiles. I could either laugh with them or cry; I chose to laugh.

Tia caught my arm as class ended and said, “Beth! That is the funniest thing I have ever heard. You HAVE to let me tell my friends. They won’t believe it.”

“No,” I shook my head. “I’ve never told anyone that story. It’s way too embarrassing.” Tia was relentless. She begged and begged. I wisely perceived that she was about to tell the story with or without my permission, so I said, “OK. But you have to let me tell it.” I felt only a small sense of power, knowing that if I revealed my secret there would be little to no giggling behind my back.

Tia quickly pulled together a small group of people after school, and for the second time in my life, I told the unbelievable tale of a 13 year old girl who licked a live mixer and suffered atrocities comedians only dream of. By the end of my junior year every single student in the school and many of the teachers asked me to tell the story. By the end of my senior year I had written the story out for a regional dramatic original story telling competition and won second place. I had turned a horrible humiliation into something people raved about. I had found security in making people laugh by letting them into the secret places of my heart and laughing at myself. They related to me, rather than rejecting me for my weaknesses. It was my first lesson in being myself and letting my humanity just be what it was.

Recently, I recounted the story for a small group at a party. A wise woman in the group asked me, “Was that a difficult event for you emotionally? It must have left a big mark on you at 13.”

“Yes,” I responded with certainty. “It was the most embarrassing event of my life, until a drama teacher assigned my class to tell our most embarrassing moment, and a friend begged me to tell her friends, and I won second place for the story in a story telling competition.” It occurred to me then, that this story tied into a bigger picture, where I am being asked on a regular basis to trade beauty for ashes; something ugly becomes something wonderful; and weakness laid bare in the Creator’s hand gives way to freedom.

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    Jennifer said...

    I'm sorry to say, but you did tell me that story many years ago. It is a good one. There was another one about the spring in the bed, I think... haha! It's good to be human.

  1. ... on November 14, 2009 at 11:07 AM  
  2. k said...

    We all get mixed up sometimes . . . just kidding. I love how this story has been redeemed. Just think of how many times it has been retold! Being transparent with others is contagious, Beth. I'm grateful to know that tripping over a dog and breaking my arm is in good company with your mixer story, though mine is not so dramatic! God's big Story makes our crazy messy ones beautiful, like you said.

  3. ... on November 19, 2009 at 11:40 PM  
  4. Beth said...

    Jennifer--I guess I didn't keep it as quiet as I thought! But I remember being so afraid to share the story to my drama class. I'm sure I didn't feel as secure with them as I did you!

    k--I don't think I knew that you tripped over a dog and broke your arm! That's kind of funny! :)

    Thanks for the comments, guys!

  5. ... on November 20, 2009 at 6:11 PM