It was three in the morning, Halloween, 2010. The location was the McDonalds nearest my apartment. With me were my three roommates, all of which were intoxicated. I, however, had long-graduated beyond any state of mind that such a term could encompass. At some point in the night, I had lost my costume, meaning I was walking around in a jacket, an undershirt, and my boxers. Unbeknownst to me, the buttons on my boxers had come undone. My genitals were, while not dangling freely, very much exposed. After being made aware of this, I appeared apathetic, and made little-to-no effort to rectify the situation. Several people in line were disgusted. The servers were equally unsatisfied. The police were, as far as I know, never called.
I have no recollection of these events, only learning of them the following morning, as if I wasn’t present at all. Psychologically, I wasn’t. But physically, I was. Too much so.
There are two types of hangovers. A bog-standard hangover: nauseous, dehydrated, hungry, sick, sweaty, disgusting. And then there’s a shame spiral. The sort where, as if like an amnesiac action movie star, the morning is filled with sudden and intense flashbacks of your previous life, a series of clues one must piece together to render a cohesive narrative. But with each new revelation, instead of an, “a-ha!” it’s an, “oh no.” This hangover was definitively the latter.
Most embarrassing alcohol-induced shame spirals have a 24-hour lifespan. Puking onto the bar, making fun of someone in a wheelchair, telling your co-worker about how you hold in your farts before walking by Larry’s office and unleashing a toxic airstrike into his doorway: all things that you’ll likely recover from by end-of-day. Exposing your genitals to the customers and co-workers of your local McDonalds that you must also pass in order to get to the subway every morning? That one has a bit more staying power.
Once the initial shame wears off, the stark reality of the situation begins to make itself apparent. Can I go back to that McDonalds without fearing prosecution? Not likely. In fact, it’s probably best I avoid being seen near it whatsoever, in case any watchful employees recognize me. More than that, however, is the psychological shame. That out there, somewhere, someone was telling one hell of a story of this a ridiculous drunk man exposing his genitals in a McDonalds. That man was me. The tables had turned. It was this realization that was the hardest. The realization that, at least for a while, I was no longer the heroic protagonist, the straight man, but instead the absurd, embarrassing comic relief. Prior to this event, I had always thought the idea of strangers sitting around the table discussing my genitals would be an appealing one. I no longer maintain such a sentiment. I was that guy.
I vowed both never to drink again, and to never return to that McDonalds. The former lasted ten hours. The latter, however, was maintained through a prevailing fear of legal action. If you ever want to lose ten pounds in two months, I highly recommend exposing yourself in the nearest fast food joint.
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