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Embarrassing incident at prof's house


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Something very very embarrassing happened to me recently.

My grad chair had a social event for the grad students at his house. It was summer, the weather was nice, 2 students in the program had successfully defended, 1 faculty member got a huge award. Many students and faculty showed up. 

Anyway, sometime at the end of the social gathering, there was a bit of an unfortunate mishap when one of my classmates who was helping with the cleaning up slipped near the pool and basically covered me in hummus, spinach dip, chilli, olive oil and wine. 

The prof gave me a towel and let me use the guest bathroom to shower as even my hair was covered in food. His daughter lent me some clothes.

I don't quite remember what happened after that. Apparently I had somehow slipped in the shower (must be the olive oil!) and cut my head. I woke up in the hospital later with stitches. A classmate went to the hospital with me and she said that the prof had gotten very worried when I was in the shower for a very long time. He got his daughter to knock and when there was no answer after a while, he broke the lock. Prof and daughter found me lying out cold in the shower and he carried me out. I vaguely remember my prof calling me and a male paramedic but not much else.

I am very grateful I was rescued and that I didn't drown and my injury isn't too bad, but I am also horribly mortified that a male prof who is also my grad chair has seen me stark naked. 

The grad students in my program have a one-on-one meeting with the grad chair in August every year for a progress update and I have my meeting with him in the first week of August.

I am just too embarrassed to show up. I know it was necessary because I was injured but just thinking about it is making me cringe. We have not had any communication since the incident and although I want to thank him, I am so horrified.

Someone please please tell me something similar has happened to them and they survived and they have advice or suggestions of what to do. I guess he might be embarrassed as well.

*red red red face*

 

 

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Glad to know that worse outcomes did not happen, and hope you recover soon...

I am sure someone here could advise on this better than me. I am just guessing the chair knows he is not the person to mention this first, and it is up to you to set the tone of the debriefing. In any case it is the right thing to thank him for lending the clothes and the shower, and for help with the medic trip, so maybe you can start with that, shortly after you both get seated, and with the kind of polite, preemptive smile that is planned but seemingly emerged spontaneously as a result of embarrassment, and see how that works. (Edited typos.)

Edited by schenar
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2 hours ago, orange turtle said:

The grad students in my program have a one-on-one meeting with the grad chair in August every year for a progress update and I have my meeting with him in the first week of August.

I am just too embarrassed to show up. I know it was necessary because I was injured but just thinking about it is making me cringe. We have not had any communication since the incident and although I want to thank him, I am so horrified.

Someone please please tell me something similar has happened to them and they survived and they have advice or suggestions of what to do. I guess he might be embarrassed as well.

Sorry to hear what happened to you, but thankfully, you are fine. Well, accidents do happen, and that's life. I am pretty sure your grad chair was more concerned whether you were okay than the fact that you were naked when he and his daughter found you in the shower. Yes, it's embarrassing, but it was totally out of your control that you got food all over you and then slipped in the shower and hit yourself. 

I would suggest that you try your best to take things easy and attend the progress update meeting as if nothing has happened. He will probably ask about your injury, just like any other grad students who care about you. If you are not comfortable with going into the details, i.e. thank you for the clothes and shower, then a plain simple "I am fine, thank you" will do. Then focus on what you need to go through with him in the meeting. Remember, that meeting is about your progress, not the incident at his house!

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I agree with everyone else.  There's a big difference between a wardrobe malfunction and "Through no fault of my own, I was injured."  It's definitely up to you to set the tone.  If I had to guess, he was in fight or flight mode, and probably didn't spend very much time looking at your naked-bits.  If it had been me with a male student, I'd've grabbed a towel and covered you for modesty until help arrived.  And then denied that I had even glanced at anything.

If you want to defuse the situation immediately (assuming the professor has a sense of humor), buy a non-slip shower mat, put a bow on it, and present it to him during your meeting.  Maybe bring some hummus to snack on.  In my experience, when something embarrassing happens, you can either ignore it, and let shame overwhelm you, or you can totally and 100% own it.  I find the latter is better for mental-health. :)

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7 hours ago, orange turtle said:

I am very grateful I was rescued and that I didn't drown and my injury isn't too bad[.]

You've done nothing wrong and there's no reason to feel any sense of embarrassment, although such feelings are understandable.

I recommend that you put two thank you cards in his box as soon as possible. One for the professor, the other for his daughter.

In the latter, thank her for loaning you the clothes and for taking care of you. If you've the means, I would drop in a gift card that she'll find useful.

In the former, thank him for the support he's provided over the years and most of all for saving your life and protecting your dignity.. If you're so inclined, you might write in an elegant fashion, that you consider the two events at his house to be accidents. (Think carefully here as any such language could impact you IRT liability. There were two slip and falls on the same property on the same day. Until you're absolutely certain that there are no long term ill effects from your injuries, you don't want to do anything that might limit what ever protection the laws provide.) 

Put the gift cards in his box and before you meet, take a quick peek to see if they've been collected. If they have, you can look him in the eye at the start of your progress meeting and say simply, "Thank you, again." And he'll look you in the eye and he'll say the right thing and life will go on.

 

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@schenar @Hope.for.the.best @E-P @Sigaba

Thank you for your responses and suggestions. (@E-P you gave me a very good laugh, and if this wasn't a prof, I would actually do it)

Well, update from these-things-only-happen-to-me.

I took your advice to say thank you with a card, think about what I want to say, look him in the eye and all that. So I went to the drug store today to pick up some cards. At the exact moment I walked in, grad chair walks out. Neither of us could even pretend we didn't see the other because it was the same small door, and there was no one nearby.

There was a very awkward silence, we both stared at our feet, he mumbled something, but then I collected myself and stated in as dignified a manner as I could something like: I am feeling very self-conscious but I wanted to say thank you for making sure I was ok and getting medical help.

It came out in a bit of a squeak and I know I was flushing, but I got it out without dying from embarrassment.

That's when it went quite south. Just as I was finishing my sentence, he blurts out "from what I saw, you have nothing to be embarrassed about!!!" I saw his look of horror immediately after he said it and he blushed horribly. Of course, I was horrified. We both mumbled a hasty goodbye and bolted in the opposite direction.

I am not sure how either of us will face each other in August now.

If this was a friend like Chandler and Rachel in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. in that episode where Chandler accidentally caught Rachel coming out of the shower, I guess I could always joke and say "You've seen mine, now show me yours" but omg, this is my prog chair.

 

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16 hours ago, schenar said:

@orange turtle I think you can stick to your plan with the same seriousness and sincerity, as other great posts here have suggested. The chair probably needs that reconciliation even more now?

I got an email from chair this morning saying we should meet. I am tempted to put a sticker of a wine bottle on the bandaid on my forehead since I got covered in wine but I don't know if he has a sense of humour. 

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Can you ask someone who knows him better?  Ask the front desk person, or his administrative assistant if he has one.  That person will know if he has a sense of humor. :)

 

I still vote for sticky bath mat! :P

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The thing I am more concerned about is if it might be perceived as sexual harassment. We are meeting to talk about an unavoidable nudity incident and his awkward comment and I show up teasing him. 

I guess I am going in with the "upper hand" in this meeting as he probably is much more uncomfortable than I will be now.

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Hi, @orange turtle - I'm glad you're OK. 

I'm not a man or a professor and I haven't had to negotiate that kind of relationship & power dynamic, but I have been someone who found another someone who I did not know well at all passed out in a shower. I had the kind of experience @E-P describes - the only thought I had was "THIS PERSON NEEDS HELP AND I HAVE TO HELP THEM."

Even now, the thing I remember is feeling very scared because I didn't know what was going on and being very focused because it was on me to get help to them ASAP. I don't recall the naked bits because someone's life was possibly at risk. That being said, I can totally understand why the awkward-levels spiked during your random encounter.

So far as your upcoming meeting - I think the advice to lead is correct and if you're comfortable leading with some light humor, awesome. It's what I would do (although I understand your concerns about how it is perceived.) If humor doesn't feel right, the advice to lead with a genuine and serious "thank you" is equally good. 

It might still be a bit awkward - you can probably bank on that - but whatever approach you take will be fine, and time will pass & life will move forward, and it'll be OK. 

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If the chair is concerned about his exposure to a sexual harassment charge from you (and he is), and you want to continue working with him, I recommend that you conduct yourself professionally.

I would resort to humor, especially the example you proposed, if and only if you're ready for him to hand you off to another professor. (Which he might do anyway.)

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@a_sort_of_fractious_angel Thanks for that perspective. It is very helpful to hear from someone on the "other side." And I'm glad you helped the guy!
 

@Sigaba Yeah, I was thinking about the humour piece but was also very aware of how it will be perceived. Having been subjected to sexual harassment myself, I am very aware of how things can go wrong and fast. At this point, I don't quite care anymore. I can't make him un-see things and I have to see this man at least once a year. And I will be seeing him during department events as well so it's not like I can spend all my time avoiding him. I would need to GPS track him for that, and I am VERY sure that would be harassment.

4 hours ago, Sigaba said:

If the chair is concerned about his exposure to a sexual harassment charge from you (and he is), and you want to continue working with him, I recommend that you conduct yourself professionally.

Oh. I didn't think HE would be worried about a sexual harassment charge. But good point--I'll be extra careful to not make it worse.
All in all, I'm glad I didn't have a bigger injury. Just 4 stitches and a badge of honour across my forehead. I am wearing a The Hulk band aid today. That should be harmless enough.

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Well, his comment to you was extremely inappropriate because he acknowledged seeing your "bits" well enough to comment on how they looked. I'm sure it was not said intentionally as a suggestion of anything, but rather out of extreme discomfort without thinking it through (probably trying to make you feel better about it) but it was inappropriate none the less. He's probably concerned about that. It also signals that there is still quite a bit of awkwardness in the air, and since you don't have a strong enough relationship with him to know his sense of humor, I would not do anything silly and just be professional until you get a sense of what the meeting is about and the tone of the conversation. 

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We had our meeting this morning and it was a series of tongue-tied awkwardness. I went in determined to do this as dignified as I could, chair fumbled all the way, and finally I just laughed and called a halt to the meeting. And said--how about we just agree I was never there and you didn't see anything?

He started to laugh after that. So tension was broken. And the funniest part was when he walked me out, there was a some leftovers from the lab meeting next door on the table. And on the table was hummus, dip and pita. He just looked at me and said very seriously "I didn't see anything.".

So as far as we are concerned, nothing happened. All is good! ?

 

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Good grief this is why I never go to faculty's homes ever!  Glad you're ok and it may be better just to keep it super professional and just ask whatever questions about your program you need to, get forms signed, and then say you've got a pile of reading/writing and get the hell out of his office.

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