Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Could You Repeat That?

In conversations, I often embarrass myself. My social ineptitude involves putting my foot in my mouth or saying more than the situation warrants.  I try to be funny or clever, but I end up looking stupid or crude.  Sometimes others don’t get the joke, which is the worst.  I also have bad listening skills – I miss details of a story by thinking of a similar memory, and share inappropriately.  My intention is to find common ground, but I end up revealing some irrelevance that should remain unspoken.  I also ‘out’ myself and others in ways that are unfortunate and unnecessary.

I was at a home party at a friend’s house, along with 25 other ladies.  After the party, I found myself standing with two women: Ashley*, a good friend of mine, and Joan*, an acquaintance.  Ashley was my son’s preschool teacher, and Joan was asking about the preschool and how my son liked it.  I responded quickly and dead straight, “He loves preschool, and his teacher.  The teachers are great - they’re not all crack whores like Ashley.” 

 Ashley roared with laughter and gave me a little push.   I was kidding, of course.  Ashley is NOT a crack whore.  She is a lovely woman with a lovely family who lives in the next development over.  She isn’t even the type of person who would ever see a crack whore.  We live in the suburbs.  I smirked and waited for Joan to laugh.  She didn’t, but gave a non-committal “huh” and excused herself.  The next day, the guilt I felt over my comment ate at me for hours.  My friend is not a crack whore; what kind of parent makes a remark like that about her child’s preschool teacher?  What kind of a person was I to call my friend such thing?  Plus, I hardly knew Joan.  I came off as completely tasteless, not to mention judgmental about crack whores.

 I called my husband at work for advice.  I could see him rolling his eyes, thinking “why doesn’t she get a job?”  He said that if I was so upset about it then I should apologize to both women.  He was right.  This was the best way for me to overcome my guilt and coarse reputation.  Calling Ashley was easy; I told her I was out of line, I didn’t think she was a crack whore or even resembled one, I loved that she was my son’s teacher and I was sorry for being rude.  We laughed about it again, and she advised me to apologize to Joan to repair my impression.  I was nervous about talking to Joan because I wanted the conversation to be quick and painless and not awkward, and I knew it wouldn’t be any of that. 

 I called Joan, and sensed immediately that she was confused about the call.  I worked up the courage to get to the issue.  “Joan, I wanted to apologize for calling Ashley a crack whore last night.  It was off-color and untrue, and I’m really embarrassed.  I feel bad for saying it and I had to call to say it was out of character.  I’m sorry.”

I was so relieved and proud of myself for doing such a difficult thing.  I could face my children with the knowledge that their mother is a strong, astute woman.  What a lesson to teach them.

A moment passed. Joan responded, “I have no idea what you are talking about.”  Turns out she didn’t even hear the comment, and I outed myself as being trashy and crude.  Again.

*names are changed to protect the more socially refined


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