Blushing—it’s more than just rosy cheeks…and necks…and arms…

Even imagining everyone in their underwear doesn’t work. In fact it just makes it worse.
I never thought that I would ever do any public speaking. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, because I actually like it. The opportunity to share what I’ve got to say or do really appeals to me. The problem is that I have a little issue with blushing.
Actually, it’s a large issue, one that stretches from the top of my head all the way down to my middle. Whenever I am in front of a group of people, my face, neck, chest, and even the tops of my arms go from a pasty Ohio-winter-white to red and splotchy, like someone just shot off a slingshot of tomato sauce at me.
So I frequently find myself standing in front of a group of people looking completely horrified and embarrassed, but strangely enough, not feeling it. My voice doesn’t crack. My palms don’t sweat. I don’t find myself sprinting off to the bathroom. On the inside, I am perfectly calm. It’s just the outside that appears as nervous as a turkey in November.
All of this makes me wonder why it is that, even though I feel fairly relaxed, I turn beet red the moment I step in front of a group of people. I turned to the Internet, and learned a thing or two from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s “Ask A Scientist” site.
Not to my surprise, blushing is an “involuntary sympathetic nervous system response….caused by the dilation of the small blood vessels in the face, leading to increased local blood volume…[because] the facial vein that supplies the small blood vessels in the face is responsive to beta-adrenergic stimulation…which occurs when adrenaline binds to receptors on the surface of the responsive cells.”
Er, I suppose that’s what you get when you ask a scientist.
Basically, something deep within our nervous system and circulatory system makes us pretty in pink, even when we don’t wish to be.
The article continues by asking the question, “why do we blush?” And the answer is pretty much as mysterious and the pattern of blotchiness that is guaranteed to appear on my neck.
From the few studies that have been done so far, they have found that blushing is a response to “undesired social attention.” This, to me, makes perfect sense. It has nothing to do with being embarrassed, it has to do with the fact that people are looking at me and I’m not 100% sure I don’t have a stray eyebrow or a booger in my nose.
Personally, I can further prove this hypothesis true, for I believe that my blushing problem stems mostly from my sixth grade English class and my teacher, Mrs. DeFlorio. [Name changed to protect the guilty.]
We were doing a lesson on debates and I remember specifically that my group was arguing for cryogenics, and we talked an awful lot about Walt Disney, even though I can pretty much assure you we had no grasp of the concept whatsoever. In any case, when it came time for the actual debates, Mrs. DeFlorio lined us up at long tables and set up the video camera to record us so that we could watch back and review our debating techniques, a good teaching tool.
Well it so happens that I got stuck sitting next to Peter Donatelli [name changed because if this info got out to my old classmates they’d laugh at me] who was a rather bad boy, but for whatever reason I thought he was fairly handsome for a sixth grader.
Combine the fact that I was speaking in front of the class, being recorded, AND sitting next to Peter, and my skin was practically on fire.
To make things worse, when we watched the video back, Mrs. DeFlorio said, “let’s rewind the tape and watch it in fast-forward so we can see Karrie’s face turn red all over again!” Cruelty, I say! Cruelty!
And that is why, to this day, I blame Mrs. DeFlorio every time I stand in front of a crowd and sing, speak, or teach. It’s all her fault. Well, hers and that blasted involuntary sympathetic nervous system.

Hey! Mama's got a brand new Web site!


Thicket Dweller said…
Hey, Karrie! I read your column in the Bargain Hunter. :-) Nice to see you're a fellow blogger!

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