You’re So Vein

This morning I had a one-minute conversation with a little girl about her rain boots that ended in my face turning a bright and painful red. That’s all we talked about–how cool her rain boots were, how much I wished I had a pair of my own–but by the time she walked away, I was blushing from the roots of my hair to the neckline of my shirt for no reason at all. I was so red that a passing lobster mistook me for a long-lost friend. I was so red that Joe McCarthy came back from the dead, declared me a communist and had me blacklisted from Hollywood. I was so red that… well, you get the idea.

The boots in question.

The boots in question. (Photo credit: Conrad Laga)

This kid hadn’t made fun of me, or complimented me, or even told me a dirty joke. It was like my brain said, “What’s this? A conversation about rain boots with a seven-year-old? Better pump so much blood into Stephanie’s face that her feet fall asleep!”

As an awkward, pale person, random blushing attacks like that happen to me annoyingly often. Like, multiple times a day. That doesn’t make them less miserable. My body’s default response to humiliation, or kindness, or rain boots is to turn every visible inch of my skin such a deep red that everyone who can see me instantly knows how uncomfortable I am.

Things That Make Me Blush

– Compliments.

– Telling people my name or age or about the book I’m reading.

– When my grandma uses the word “bosoms”.

– When my dad says “young ladies”, for some reason.

– Confrontations, even between other people. Even on TV.

– Talking about anything.

– Thinking about anything.

– Existing on planet Earth.

It’s actually a pretty neat trick–my whole face turns red and in just a few seconds I start to get hot and sweaty. Picture a steamed tomato. Now picture a steamed tomato with an apparent forehead vein, because that’s what happens next. The only thing that makes me blush harder than anything else on that list is discussion of my forehead vein, which is a problem because it also tends to fascinate the people around me. I try to cover it with my hand, which inevitably leads to someone asking what I’m doing, which leads to more blushing. It’s a vicious cycle.

Tomato slices

It’s like this, but with an enormous vein in the middle of it all.

And while I can light up like a Christmas tree at the stupidest things, there are times when I should be blushing out of basic human decency and my blood vessels just won’t cooperate.

Things That Don’t Make Me Blush

– Dirty jokes.

– Watching sex scenes in movies with my family members.

– Realizing that I’m talking too much about my cat

– Discussing my first grade crush, a boy with red hair that he wore in a rattail.

– Discovering that I had mooned everyone on my walk to work because my dress was riding up in the back.

– Discovering that it happened again on the way home.

I don’t like blushing because it’s inherently uncool. Did James Dean blush in Rebel Without a Cause? No. Did the Sundance Kid blush when he admitted to Butch Cassidy that he couldn’t swim? No! Did Did Han Solo blush when Princess Leia told him she loved him? No, although one could argue that he was about to be frozen in carbonite and had other things on his mind.

At best, blushing makes you look modest. At worst, it makes you look weak, and you probably are. Gazelles who stand around blushing about something they said to their gazelle friends get eaten by lions. That’s the circle of life, and it’s hard on the socially awkward.

For some reason, that cold, hard fact didn't make it into the Lion King's soundtrack.

For some reason that cold, hard fact didn’t make it into The Lion King’s soundtrack.

The Internet, in its infinite wisdom, says no one really knows why we blush. Darwin called it “the most peculiar and most human of all expressions.” One hypothesis is that we blush to convey to other people that we know we’ve done something wrong and that we want to fix it, preventing them from throwing us out of their social circles for yet another faux pas. Another says it’s a fight-or-flight reaction that happens in situations when we know we can’t do either one. One study showed that people who blush easily are more generous, trustworthy and virtuous than the people who don’t. It also posited that blushers make better lovers, but you should know that I’m blushing as I type this.

Maybe Han did blush when Leia confessed her feelings. Maybe that 9,000-degree increase in body temperature is what kept him alive through the freezing process, and when you think about it that way, blushing doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.

All I know is that the next person who talks to me about their rain boots is in for a treat.


  1. SusieWittbrodt

    Mark Twain said, “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.”

    I’m the same way, but it’s not my face that gets red – it’s my EARS. Or sometimes just one ear. So random. I feel your pain.

  2. Cherylann Mollan

    I’m a blusher too. I get called a tomato pretty often, and that’s embarrassing, because then even people who didn’t notice you blush know that you did. I hope all those good things said about blushers are true. At least I like to think they are.

  3. fredrieka

    Momwithoutpaws rarely blushes which is a good thing when you work with elders.. You never know what they will say or do.

  4. skline2014

    I like that the things that do make you blush are as arbitrary as the ones that don’t, even though some of the ones that don’t cause a reaction in you, do in most people. You are cool, I like you. Add that to the list of good things. :)

  5. kaycreate

    I do blush, but not so intense (that I’m aware of). However, when I exercise, I turn so red it looks like my head is going to blow up. And it lasts for a couple hours, which makes no sense. And I’m not crazy out of shape or overweight or anything! My teachers would always ask me if I was feeling okay, or if I had a fever in the classes after gym class in school. Rather embarrassing.

  6. raigenosophy

    Certain species of birds, like macaws, blush at verbal cues. I use to work at a zoo and our two macaws would blush if you said their names and complimented them

  7. The Moon is a Naked Banana

    ‘That’s the circle of life, and it’s hard on the socially awkward.’
    You said it. It seems like the whole structure of the universe is designed to embarrass those without the gifts of wit and tact. How dreadful it is for us!
    At least by blushing you are admitting your defeat to the rest of us who are socially weak. We will can then recognise one another and band together against the rest of the cruel world.

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  9. essbee14

    I don’t think it’s too fair that when I blush, the realization that I’m blushing only makes me blush harder. *Shakes fist at reddening cheeks* But it’s good to know there are more flushed friends out there in the world.

  10. brokenbelladonna

    Also a blusher here and like essbee14, as soon as I know I’m blushing it makes me blush more. I once blushed (I don’t even remember why) and hid my face by face planting into my arms on the desk in front of me. Those around me felt the need to point out they knew I was blushing BECAUSE THEY COULD SEE MY SCALP TURNED RED THROUGH MY HAIR.

  11. maurnas

    I have a friend like this. She blushes when she is mad or upset and it spreads all over her chest. She hates it.

  12. Steph

    I hate it when that happens! I don’t turn a nice, solid tomato red, though. I tend to get splotches, giant red splotches which make it look like I’m either contagious or a clown. Reason #457 why I’d rather be tan than white and freckled.

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