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The Worst Cases Of Secondhand Embarrassment People Have Ever Felt

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Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

Reddit user A55A55IN100997 asked: 'What is the worst secondhand embarrassment you've ever felt?'

Secondhand or vicarious embarrassment is when you experience all the feelings of embarrassment—including discomfort, shame or guilt—when you witness someone else have an experience that's particularly embarrassing or causes them to be mocked by others.

For some people, they even experience these feelings when watching a movie or TV show or reading a book when the individual involved is completely fictional.

Reddit user A55A55IN100997 asked:

"What is the worst secondhand embarrassment you've ever felt?"

Not A Sing-a-Long

"We were at an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica. Every night they had this common area where folks could do karaoke."

"A middle-aged gentleman got up and started the first few lines of Lionel Richie's "Easy". Some random lady from the audience ran up and attempted to sing the song with the gentleman."

"He kindly pushed her away two or three times as she tried to sing over his shoulder into the microphone. Finally, she just stood there dejected...swaying from side to side like an idio—as the man broke from his song and professed his love for his girlfriend—and wrapped up with a marriage proposal."

"They hugged, they kissed...the idiot girl went back to her seat."

"I will still never understand why that guy chose THAT song to use to propose. However, he was killing the vocals!"

~ reddittttttttttt

Might Need To Abdicate

"Someone at my college graduation ceremony yelled 'I’m queen of the world!' when accepting her diploma."

"Not a single person laughed."

~ konoiche

Never Ask This Question!

"Was at a dinner party when my friend’s mother in law asked another one of our friends when her baby was due. She wasn’t pregnant."

"Anyway, MIL should have simply apologized, but instead doubled down with something to the effect of 'it sure looks like you’re pregnant'."

~ Beneficial-Salt-6773


"An ex tried to order sushi in Japanese once."

"The owners were Korean."

"Most of the staff had been here for a few generations now and primarily spoke English."

~ TisAFactualDawn

Customer Service

"I was a server at an Americana restaurant and a family came in and the mother was berating everyone. She yelled at the server and complained about the food not being the right temperature and then she thought it was too salty, etc..."

"She really had it in for the 17-year-old server. He was fine—but the customer wanted to pick at someone. Her husband and teenaged children looked embarrassed. She had been like this before."

"There is a sign on the door that said we reserved the right to refuse service to anyone, and management decided that this lady shouldn't eat with us again so the manager went over and comped the meals and told them to leave and not come back."

"The woman was upset and left mean feedback."

"In response to the feedback, a regular posted a picture of the woman and her family. She quickly took down her bad feedback."

"She deserved the public upbraiding, but I was embarrassed for her family."

~ Outrageous_Emu8503

School's Out

"That time my old roommate told a table full of his family that 'AIDS and Cancer are the same thing'. Just after talking about how much he’s been learning from his night classes."

"Those classes were being paid for by his parents and *Spoiler Alert* he wasn’t attending any classes. They realized it by the time dinner was over."

~ CptMurphy27

Getting Her Bell Rung

"I was selling some kettlebells on Facebook marketplace and a woman, early 40’s maybe, bought them."

"She came to pick them up and as I handed them over to her, she obviously wasn’t expecting them to be as heavy as they were, and as she suddenly strained to counter the weight, she ripped the most extreme of farts you have ever heard."

"It was gargantuan. I was shocked, but also proud."

"I’m usually pretty good at making light of any situation, but I found myself speechless for the first time in my life. If I could, I would’ve returned serve, but even on my best day I don’t believe I could create such a symphony."

"We both kind of stared into each other’s eyes and she said 'well…' and turned around and walked off."

"I think about her often."

~ No_Difficulty_3203

Be Kind

"Was going down an escalator at the mall of Georgia when the 90-something-year-old guy in front of me very suddenly pooped his pants. We were about 500 feet from a bathroom and he was wearing shorts."

"I felt so bad for him. My dad gave him his hoodie to wrap around his waist."

"I was very proud he was my dad in that moment and still am."

~ davethapeanut


"A colleague of mine put in his two weeks. For context, he's a fairly attractive man."

"Well, this woman from HR (of all places) comes by his cubicle to, uh, wish him well, I guess?"

"Anyway, she basically gives him a lap dance right there in front of the whole office."

~ Buckus93

Sing Like Nobody Is Listening

"I went to and worked at a fairly large flight school attached to a university. We had a couple thousand people enrolled in the program that went all the way from 0 hour student pilot to Multi Engine Flight Instructor, and on clear calm days you can guarantee that there would be a handful of student pilots doing their first solo flight."

"One student, having completed his two landings by himself, taxied off the runway and switched over to ground control and asked for clearance to taxi back to the ramp and complete his first solo flight. Ground obliged, gave him clearance and congratulated him on a solo well done."

"Solo student read back the instructions, but for some reason forgot to take his finger off the microphone button. Anyone tuned into ground control could not only hear, but could do nothing to interrupt or stop him as he sang a song of his own invention about how much he loved the aircraft he was driving."

"For three whole minutes, this poor bastard serenaded the 50 or so pilots, ramp workers, air traffic controllers and flight supervisors with 'I love you Cessna, I love you Cessna' as he taxied back to the ramp."

"Eventually he realized he was on the air, took his finger off the button, enabling ground control to get back on the frequency and, over the howls of the tower cab crew laughing so hard it hurt, the controller thanked him for the song and would pass along the compliment at the next opportunity."

~ CaptValentine


"A girl graduating from college falling down repeatedly on the stage."

"She fell at least three or four times and it was like something invisible was sweeping her leg out from under her."

"Even she had a 'WTF‽‽' expression on her face."

~ Smile_Terrible

Mute Button?

"Had a guy walk into class in college late. It was auditorium seating and the only open spaces were on the 4th row in the middle (about 25 rows in total and about 50 seats per row).

"This guy walks in and sits down ~15 mins into lecture and opens his laptop which as soon as the lights boot up starts BLARING an adult video! He couldn’t log in fast enough or mute it since he wasn’t logged in."

"So he slammed it shut, put it in his bag, and walked out with it still blaring at full volume. We heard it finally stop as he was about to leave the building."

"The poor professor did her best to lecture through it but even she was having a hard time keeping it together! It was a long and awkward shuffle in and and quick and awkward sprint/crabwalk out."

~ bang-a-rang47

Call HR

"My old boss, who was basically a real life Michael Scott, was describing a coworker on the first day she came in for an interview."

"He described her, to her face as 'viagra with legs'."

~ jampapi

Parent Teacher Conference Call

"During the more peak of COVID, my son's high school had his open house virtually. Usually you walk your kid's schedule, but this one you hopped into the different zoom streams per class period."

"Anyway, people are joining and the teacher is saying 'Hi' to people online. One parent says 'Hey *kid with very distinctive first name, we'll say Bozo*, is Mr. Johnson the teacher you said you hated?'."

"Teacher played dumb...then he got started. He's talking about the honors track for his subject and shares he's the main course instructor for 2 years."

"That same parent pipes up 'Oh man, Bozo, you're stuck with the teacher you hate for YEARS!!!'."

~ Basic-Ad9270


"College class in a big auditorium, professor very strict about attendance on test days."

"Day of final exam, literally as the professor is closing the door a girl who was nearly late every day comes running in and up the steps to her seat near the top row."

"She tripped halfway up and rolled down a few steps then started doing the Peter griffin skinned knee routine."

~ largecontainer

What's your secondhand embarrassment story?

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