Laugh at Yourself First, Before Anyone Else Can

Due to my mother’s fear of water, I didn’t begin swimming lessons until I was twelve and in the height of puberty. One morning after much coaxing from my male teacher, I adjusted my nose plugs and took the plunge off the side and into the deep end. When I finally surfaced, my hair covered my eyes and my bikini top covered absolutely nothing of critical importance. By the time I realized I was wearing my bikini top as a necklace instead of as a clothing item intended to leave everything above the belly button to the imagination, the entire class and my teacher were laughing hysterically.
A few years later, after I had finally learned to swim well enough to jump off the side of the pool without my nose plugs and a therapist holding my hand, my friends and I made plans to drive to a local river one hot summer afternoon to frolic in the water. Before we left, my mother reiterated her fear of water as she relayed horrifying story after story about sinkholes, currents, poisonous water snakes, and fish that would be so ravenous they would surely chew off not only my swimming bottoms, but probably my big toes as well.
By the time I swam out in the river, I was so scared that my heart began pounding furiously. I realized the strength of the current as it began to carry me downstream.  I yelled, ‘HELP!  HELP!’ to my friend standing on the riverbank. She shouted something back, but I couldn’t hear her.  ‘WHAT?’ I sputtered as I continued to float further away.  I heard just two words as I flailed my arms and coughed.
‘STAND UP!’ she bellowed.  As I slowly stood up in the four-foot-deep water, I had no idea that I would never live that moment down for the rest of my life.
Embarrassing moments can either destroy us or make us stronger. Whether it’s a slip of the tongue, a fall in front of a group of strangers, or a bikini top that lands somewhere it’s not supposed to, suddenly we realize that on occasion, we have absolutely no control over what happens in our lives. One minute we are there on the side of the pool looking beautiful in our swimming cap, bikini, and nose plugs and the next minute, we’re exposing body parts to total strangers.
I love the quote by gossip columnist, author, and professional hostess Elsa Maxwell that says, ‘Laugh at yourself first, before anyone else can.’  In the end, it’s all about saving your dignity. So learn to be the first to laugh at your crazy and spontaneous life because chances are, you’re not drowning after all.

About Vicky DeCoster

Award-winning humor writer Vicky DeCoster is the author of "From Diapers to Dorkville," "Husbands, Hot Flashes, and All That Hullabaloo!" and "The Wacky World of Womanhood." She has been published in over 60 magazines, books, and on several web sites. Vicky lives in Nebraska with her husband and two children where she loves to laugh every day. Visit her at
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