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EmbarrassedMy rowing coaches in middle school constantly reminded their rowers not to wear baggy shorts on the boat. Despite the warning, I did not think the risk rationalized my having to wear spandex. As the team lacked boats for the entire roster, though rowers usually trained on coxed fours, some members occasionally landed on an eight. When I rowed on the starboard on an eight the first year, I felt my shorts sneak under my seat and had trouble releasing them. Having already experienced this repeatedly on a coxed four, however, I put the problem off my mind until the team returned to the port. I soon realized the situation had become far more awkward and complicated than I had imagined. The peculiar tangling of my shorts and the seat did not allow me to move, and I had no choice but to stand up by force, ripping the shorts and breaking one of the seat rollers. I fortunately had brought an extra pair of pants, but a coach did not let me leave to grab them until I put the boat back with the rest of the rowers. A female teammate brazenly looking down at my underwear made the disaster far more uncomfortable. Another rower from a different boat came to my rescue and took my position, and I was able to put on the pants and tried to hide from the ten minutes of inexplicable embarrassment. I had also broken a seat of the only eight the team owned, but the generous head coach let the accident slide.

The following day, with the eight missing, my coxed four teammates were left to run instead of row. We encountered an unanticipated storm, which left the rowers on the lake stuck and unable to come back to the port for nearly an hour. The five of us who ran hopped on the bus and awaited the team’s arrival. I had indirectly prevented my boat members from taking part in this potential threat.

Over a decade has passed since this humiliating incident, and I still remember every detail of it. I thank God that my underpants were not stuck along with the shorts, which would have easily left an internal scar.