It was during a birthday party for a sister. Everyone was asked to perform, and when my turn came I chose to sing.

At the age of 10 and still the boy soprano, I rested an elbow on the piano and began my song. "An Old Spinning Wheel in the Parlor."

It was a song, I thought that might capture the heart of the 9-year-old girl from across the street, whom I had begun to notice.

The lyrics went something like this, "There's an old spinning wheel in the parlor/spinning dreams of a long time ago/spinning dreams of an old-fashioned maiden and an old-fashioned girl with her beau." Harmless enough but "beau" came out "biew," and the girl from across the street began to giggle, leading the room into a frenzy of laughter, bringing on a blush that wrecked a singing career.

Years have passed, but the blush is with us forever.

While leafing through the "Psychology of Sex," by Havelock Ellis to find out more bout blushing, I came upon the chapter. "The Evolution of Modesty." One line popped out: "Giggling is also very frequently a vicarious outlet of shame." It's too late now, the damage was done.

"Blushing," says Darwin, "is the most peculiar and the most human of all expressions. Monkeys redden from passion but it would require an overwhelming amount of evidence to make us believe that any animal could blush."

And Darwin is right. I have never seen a change of expression on the face of the fat cat who lives in my house when she leaps off the picnic table to pounce for - and miss - a tiny, red ant who scurries away.

We had the "garment" blusher, "You-have-a-run-in-your-stocking," or "Your-shirt-is-ripped-in-the-back," could do it.

Or the star blusher, Mickey Rooney used the blush when he played Andy Hardy; of course it was in black and white and hard to spot. It took Judy Garland to lay it on him," Look he's blushing."

And the poetic blush. It was suggested by Henry T. Finck in his book, "Romantic Love and Personal Beauty," that the great Shakespeare regarded blushes as beautiful with expressions like, "Bid the cheek be ready with a blush, modest as morning." "Thy cheeks blush for pure shame to counterfeit our roses," "To blush and beautify the cheek again," and from "Two Gentlemen of Verona." "The boy hath grace in him, he blushes."

But humans do blush, and scientists who have studied the mystery of the quickly inflamed face for years, are still at the drawing board to determine why.

Every classroom had the chronic blusher and once the kids found out it was unmerciful. It made no difference - girl or guy - when the word was passed, "Let's make him or her blush."

Ellis quotes a scientist named Partridge who in 1897, made a study of the phenomenon of the blush by studying 120 cases. patridge wrote, "The mental state underlying blushing belongs to the fear family: shame, bashfulness, and timidity."

He listed the general symptons that we have all felt at some time: "Tremors near the waist, weakness in the limbs, pressure, trembling, warmth, weight or beating in the chest, warm wave from feet upward, quivering of heart, stoppage and then rapid beating of heart, coldness all over followed by heat, fingers, numbness, something rising in throat, smarting of eyes, sining in ears, pricking sensation of the face, and pressure inside of head."

Now there aren't very many nervous systems that could stand that onslaught three or four times a day, so if you think the person standing before you with pink cheeks looks cute, you have to remember that inside the nerves are acting up.

Blushing, according to the people who have been studing the flushed faces for many eyars, does not occur in very young children or in idiots as a rule. We start blushing at puberty and it plagues mos of us through adolescence.

Not being a quick blusher myself I do rememger a few times when I sneaked into a carinval burlesque when I was about 13, and wondered if I glowed in the dark.

Remembering burlesque as the source of the blush, I took a walk down to the Plaza Burlesque to talk to a featured stripper, Honey Harlow.

In her early 30s, she's covered a lot of miles teasing the bald heads resting on the runways.

Honey, a graduate nurse and a divorced mother with three children, pondered the question and said, "Yes, you know when I blush, it's when some guy spots me on the street or on a bus and asks, "Don't I know you from somewhat?'"

She has successfully hidden her profession from her neighbours saying "They have no idea what I do when I go on the circuit."

Another blush that stayed with her for some time happened on the day she wlked down the steps of a burlesque theatre in Baltimore and into the cubbyhole office of the theatres owner.

"I was a 17-year-old virgin at the time and he said, "Take off your clothes." I did and I blushed. Next there was a prop, all white with big bright lights and he said, "Stand over there." I did and I was one total long blush as he looked me over for blemishes."

So when you find yourself at a gathering wearing an evening gown by mistake, or hitting a mental block and forgetting your date's name in front of your parents, remember no one is exempt from ther blush they just control themselves better.

Generals can lose a war, admirals a ship, a politician an election, but no one loses the blush.