What’s a Memory That Still Makes You Cringe?
Cover Of Women'S Magazine

When I was 20 years old I wrote a blog post on my old Tumblr entitled, “How to Be Happy.” Inside was a list of five, navel-gazey bullet points that endeavored to explain why and how I’d developed a reputation among my friends for being “the happy one.” It was grossly prescriptive coming from a college kid who, for all intents and purposes, had very few reasons to be anything but, but I was too blind to my privilege at the time to think better of it. The memory of the post still makes me cringe, down to the grid-collage of me smiling that I’d inserted alongside it.

That post needed to never see light. EVER. And it saw so much light. Like, all 200 of my followers. Such a post would never survive today’s Tumblr wrath, but the community was insular enough back then that only my own hindsight taught me it was obnoxious. I asked the Man Repeller team about old memories that still make them cringe, and the speed with which I received responses tells its own story: This shit can haunt. Below are theirs. Add your own below and then let’s collectively laugh it the fuck off.

Leslie: “Years ago I mispronounced the word ‘zine’ (I said it like zyne) at a garden party full of Harvard grads. I’ve never felt more like a public-school kid.”

Harling: “One time, while in my first job out of college, I opened the door to an important meeting and wheeled in my big-ass chair thinking they wanted me to take notes. I was immediately asked to leave and go back to manning the front desk and so I had to wheel my big-ass chair back out of the room in shame.”

Emily: “During a National Honor society induction ceremony in high school, I was supposed to light a candle with a match on stage in front of hundreds of people in the auditorium. It took me about 10 tries to strike the match hard enough to get it to light. I wanted to curl into a ball and die. Why didn’t we just have a lighter?”

Elizabeth: “At a high school dance I thought a boy was coming to ask me to dance but then he went to my friend instead. And he definitely knew. Terrible.”

Harling, again (she cringes a lot): My boyfriend and I were coincidentally placed into the same sex-ed group sophomore year of high school. We were randomly assigned to perform a skit about an unwanted pregnancy — just the two of us in front of the whole group. The worst part is: we were BROKEN UP at the time.”

Matt: “I was fresh in my role at an old job and took it upon myself to start a monthly email roundup of going-ons from across the company (which was quickly expanding internationally). The very first newsletter I sent out was highlighting a program we had just sold in Europe — a major international win. After a quick Google search I found out the client was a luxury cruise liner, so I titled the email “Sailing right into the UK” and sent it out. Turned out the client was actually a coffee chain of the same name, and the luxury cruise chain had recently gone out of business due to a ship that SUNK a few months prior. I wanted to crawl into a hole.”

Ariel: “That time I walked into a glass door in front of the entire Man Repeller office and had to play it cool like it didn’t hurt when in actuality my laptop jabbed into my trachea and I felt like I was Eddard Stark at King’s Landing. This was today, by the way.”

Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images.

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  • Molly D

    Being 12

    • ihaveacooch

      being 12-19

  • Kirby

    honestly, I’ve had so many it’s amazing I have any dignity left at all.
    my roommate and I both agree that smacking your forehead a couple times to make the memory fall out does not work, but makes us feel just a little bit better.

    • Aydan

      got a concussion this way…didn’t realize it for 6 days. Drank and kept going to class. Couldn’t compete in my collegiate sport for 2 months. (all because I hit my head on the metal door frame in the bathroom of my apt….)

      • Kirby

        oh no! PSA dont hit your head that hard!

  • Haley, I happen to think every kid who is happy should declare it publicly at least once in their lives. While the unhappy kids won’t get happier, you yourself can never know what good such a pleasant statement/memory might do, later on, to you, to others … We should really try to spread and cherish happiness because it is important.

  • Hayley Anne

    i ran face first into a screen door at a party after i just told a guy that i didn’t give out my number. i had a large SCAB the whole week following.

    • Hayley Anne

      it was my own screen door and i’d lived in the house a year.

  • Emily

    Djing with a mate in front of about 200 people and falling backwards off the stage!!!!!! I tried to style it out and pretended to look for records but I mean, how do you style that out really aha

  • Hannah Nichols

    I’m a high school art teacher in my first year. One of the first weeks of school, I was demonstrating a still life and was trying to draw a corn cob (demo-ing in front of teenagers still makes me nervous), and I ended up with a straight up penis. Tried to play it off. It didn’t work.

  • streats

    I was just thinking about this today: a couple of years ago, the startup I work at hired a guy to be the CTO. He was a pretty well-off guy and often treated our small tech team to coffees and lunches, which I appreciated as a lower-salaried employee (I hired most of my team so I knew what they were on). One day we had coffee (or maybe lunch) in the place across the street and as we left, I said “Thanks for that!” to my boss. He looked at me strangely and asked “for what?” and I very awkwardly said “Did…you pay?” to which he responded “I paid for mine, yeah” and my peer said “yeah I paid for mine, too…”. It dawned on me that I had somehow thought he was paying for us all, so I very sheepishly had to go back in and pay for my order, and then apologise profusely to him while explaining that I must have misheard him. I was mortified for weeks, and as he was still quite new, I was worried he was going to think I was some freeloader. It didn’t help that I was the only woman on the team so I had the added paranoia that I was upholding some kind of sexist gender dynamics around paying for stuff. Thankfully he had a good sense of humour and after a bit of teasing it was all forgotten. I did remember it today though and got the pang of past shame.

    • ihaveacooch


    • BuffyAnneSummers97

      Noo! Just a misunderstanding! I think this one is a really easy mistake to make!

  • Abby

    Every day of my life from 14 to 18 when I was a ~crust punk~ even though I lived in a house with my parents, was not “riding the rails”, and showered regularly.

  • Katrina Elizabeth

    A lot of memories involving horrible ex-boyfriends make my skin crawl. Why did I have such terrible taste in boys? Cringe cringe cringe.

    • KK

      Same same same.

  • MG

    I mistook Amistad and Amadeus in an English class about Colonialism. I got so much due shade from peers. It still makes me cringe thinking about it.

  • stephanie

    completely peeing myself during a 1600 m race (that’s a mile running in urine soaked track shorts)

  • SAR

    In 7th grade biology class I did the classic swap of orgasm and organism. I had to look up the definition of orgasm later, so, double cringe.

    • courtforce

      so. many. times.

  • Approx. 1 month ago, I was wearing a beloved pair of pants with exterior pockets that made me feel like a female Indiana Jones. While preparing my coffee, I turned quickly away from the counter in my office’s kitchen and the left pocket of my pants got snagged on a drawer knob. I heard a large rrrrrrip and felt a soft breeze on my newly exposed thigh/side ass. The hole was approximately 6″ wide and 10″ long. Cheek was visible. I was standing in front of a gaggle of coworkers.

    On the bright side, everyone got a good laugh!

  • ihaveacooch

    i was making out with a guy once and when we pulled away from each other, i realized that i had gotten a nose bleed and bled all over his face

    • Amy Brumbpo Tungus

      This happened to my friend, except she was the recipient! Bloody good party that was.

  • Nat Ch

    I CRIED from laughing with the one with the ten failed matches!

    I think everyone has a “cringe type”; I cringe the most whenever I remember situations in which I screwed up intellectually (mispronounced, corrected someone when they were actually right, gave a wrong answer, etc.).

  • Emily Kelleher

    I was on a friend’s boat helping pass out dessert that someone had bought. I didn’t want to take a whole slice, but wanted to try a bite, so I picked up my close friend’s plate and took a bite. A few minutes later a friend of a friend’s father turned to me and said “do you want some more?” motioning to his plate. Confused, I said no thanks and went to throw out my fork. It was only then that I realized I had eaten his pie, and he thought I was forward enough to do so without asking. I realized too late to say anything. It haunts me to this day.

    • Amy Brumbpo Tungus

      this story has brightened my day

  • Sarah Bauer

    Any attempt at a selfie, anywhere and anytime (including within the comfort of Friday night on my own couch).

  • First year of my first journalism job. We had taken a photo from a company’s Facebook page (with their permission), and I pulled the names for the cutline from the tags on the photo. Only to find out that one of the woman had been mistakenly tagged as one of the women from the CHARLES MANSON CULT because they had the same first name (and the person doing the tagging was an idiot).

    I published that, and then had to run a correction in the next paper and warn the company about the mistake on their Facebook page when the woman angrily called me. HUMILIATING. And now I triple check everything!!

  • deee_cue

    I’m like eleven or twelve and we’re at an end of the year soccer party at a pool. I am too self-conscious to run around in JUST my bathing suit, so I put on shorts after I go swimming. But then my shorts start getting wet from my suit bottoms, and I hate that as well (NOTHING worse than the wet pattern they make). But everyone else still had their suits on and I didn’t want to look different, so I went to the bathroom to put underwear on under the shorts. Totally forgot that I did this and took the shorts off, not realizing I was actually in my underwear (think pink hanes high-waisted undies you had before you declared that only VS pink would do). Was walking around that way and did not realize until one of my teammates dads gave me a weird look. Mortifying.

    • _lauristia

      hahahaha omg
      thank you, it made me laugh!

  • Kirby

    Walked into class today and my professor asked us to share our most embarrassing story with the class as part of roll (he asks a different question every class). We all shared and were able to laugh at ourselves and each other…do you think he knows what MR month it is?

  • Emily

    I met some friends of a friend while on vacation recently (we were visiting our mutual friend’s city). We spent an entire day doing tourist-y things together then met up again the previous day — they were really friendly and fun and I felt like I got to know them really well in the time we spent together.

    HOWEVER, despite becoming **fast friends**with them, the dude had a very unique name, i.e. something that sounded like an uncommon family name repurposed as a first name, which I then proceeded to absolutely butcher as I said goodbye to them 😐 Luckily he didn’t hear directly, but his fiancée did, and she just kind of stared at me blankly. I was low-key mortified.

    • Amy Brumbpo Tungus

      I board with a small family who have an Italian au pair. She’s about my age and she’s lived there the same amount of time I have (5 months). Never quite caught her name at the beginning and in too deep now to ask.

    • Kelly

      My work is in a small laneway and everyone that works there is quite friendly and chatty. A guy that works two doors down from me is always saying hi, very friendly and we have been swapping pleasantries for at least 5 months. He 100% knows my name and after asking him several times when we first met, I have no recollection of his and it is way too late to ask again.

  • Jackie Homan
    • _lauristia

      pretty good actually

    • Zoë

      I mean… Your titles are the best. “Double Denim Dare” “Mini-me” “I feel it in my bones” So good.

    • am4

      ‘double denim’ and ‘summertime sadness’ are looks tbh

      • Jackie Homan

        trust me it gets so much worse circa 2011

  • JT

    I remember sneezing when I was in second grade in front of my crush at the time. I sneezed and snot just sprayed across my face. I covered my Face and didn’t dare to look up….

    Too many to count but that one was good cringer. 🤔

  • Marley Arviso

    OH GOD! A few years ago when I went on a date with this guy I had a huge crush on back in High School. Long story short, we ended up sitting in the bed of his truck, drinking budwisers in a Denny’s parking lot (romantic, I know). When he went in for a kiss I was so nervous and full of beer that I puked alllllllll over him and myself. Like an hour before this happened he was telling me about his brand new jeans he was wearing that night that were $300 dollars or something. In a panic, I took off all my clothes in said parking lot and then jumped into the front seat of his car and just sat there hahahahaha

    TBH he was verrrrrrrrry nice about it, didn’t care and like continued to to want to hang out with me after the puke party. BUTTTTTTT, I later found out he was still with his ex- girlfriend after she called me the next morning.. from his phone… THAT SHE PAYED FOR LOOOOOOL what a guy!

    • alansa

      Jeeeeez, sounds like your **gut** was trying to tell you something 😉

      • Marley Arviso

        hahahahah RIGHT!

  • Jessa

    In high school, sophomore year in fact (the year I later titled ‘the year I came into my prime’ aka I discovered jeans), I fell in the cafeteria… from spilled chocolate milk that formed a puddle on the floor. It was a full on cartoon fall too. I committed the cliche blunder. I wish I could say it turned into a regina george moment and all the school started wearing chocolate washed jeans, but it just never caught on.

  • LJ

    I was flying to go see an old flame in New York, put on my cutest outfit and was feeling like a million bucks – smiling at strangers on the hour + ride to the airport, gabbing to the airline staff, flirting with a man in line for security. More than 2 hours after I left the house – I popped my bag onto the security belt as I winked at TSA supervisor – and found I’d been walking around with a tattered, dirty, stained, black lace thong hooked onto the outside of my backpack.

  • Alejandra

    At an after party, in front of everyone, I asked a French guy (with a very strong french accent) if he spoke french..

    • Alejandra

      Also, in 2009 I walked into a glass door as I was BBMing away on my blackberry. One person saw me, I had to pretend it didn’t hurt.

  • tiabarbara

    I’ve never been great at math, least of all basic calculations, and for a brief time was riveted by the idea of everything adding up to 23 (because yknow, I’d just watched The Number 23 and it blew my tiny mind). While explaining the phenom to my parents, my dad threw out this bullshit problem claiming it added up to 23 (it didn’t) and without even trying to work it out in my head I screamed “OH MY GOD IT DOES” (again, it’s definitely didn’t).

    Also whenever photos from my early-mid teens surface online because I was in the middle of an Emo Lite phase.

  • Lea Bolante

    When I was five years old, we had an exhibition thing. I took my pants off. It still kills me to this day.

  • Basil

    This is a recent one. We have these big conference call training things at work (and you can appear in the room, but I’m lazy) and I decided to dial in. Fortunately (normally) the phone is automatically muted, but the fateful day my phone was playing up and I had to rejoin. My manager does NOT respect the headset and always tries to chat to me when I’m on conference calls. Normally I ignore her but the training was dull, so I decided to chat about all sorts of crap. After about 5 minutes I hear someone VERY annoyed saying “could everyone go on mute. I can hear every word of someone’s conversation”. I hope (to this very day) that nobody knew it was me, but I still die a little inside when I think about this

  • tmm16

    It happened yesterday. I was checking out at Sephora and the cashier just kept looking at me while I was smiling and talking. I thought, geez, maybe he thinks I’m cute.

    Turns out I had leftover lettuce in my teeth from my Chipotle burrito!!!!!


  • Lil

    All of junior high and high school

  • Elizabeth F.

    Every time I go to the movies my exchange with the ticket counter employee goes a little something like this….

    Employee: Here is your ticket. Enjoy the movie!
    Me: You too!
    Employee: *smiles, but I can still see the confusion in their eyes*
    Me: *scurry/trips away in shame*
    Me: *sits in dark theatre reliving that moment, promises self to consciously make effort to not do that ever again*

    Me: *repeats the entire exchange next time I go to the movies*

  • In my 7th grade geography class the boy I liked and I were passing a note between classes (both of our responses were on the same sheet of paper). Anyway, my teacher (a man) took it and read the note from him to me in front of the whole class because I wasn’t paying attention. I was so embarrassed! If this happened in high school, college, or even now at 23 I would love the fact that people know that someone admires me but back then I was SO SHY and just wanted to blend in. Even now as I remember it I’m getting goosebumps from how cringe it was!

  • I was working as a receptionist at a gym/indoor swimming pool. We offered a discount for children and senior citizens, so when a woman and a much older woman came to the counter for tickets, I said “sure! So one adult and one senior?”. They just kind of started laughing and said “no, two adults”. It was then that I really looked at them and realized the “much older woman” wasn’t much older at all, I don’t know how I’d glanced at them at first that I was so positive she was a senior. I was so embarrassed and apologized multiple times, she was laughing and said it was ok but I still to this day feel bad about it and can only hope that’s not something that made her feel that she looks older than she is because she didn’t. Couple of times I also gave a customer a key to the wrong locker room because I thought they were male when in fact they were female. That was a fun job.

  • Anna

    In college I would often blow-dry my hair in the nude after I showered (and when my roommate wasn’t home of course) because our dorm room was humid as hell. Then one day my roommate walked in on me when she was supposed to be in class and I never did that again!!! Ugh so cringey!