I know it happens to everyone, but I have a few moments from the past that can still make me turn crimson with embarrassment every time I remember them. What bothers me most is that they make me appear to be callous and insensitive, and that's not the case at all. It's just that sometimes I don't know when to keep my mouth shut, and sometimes I forget circumstances surrounding the person to whom I am speaking (or gesturing, in one case).
Years ago my Uncle Danny was in town, staying at my mother's house. I was visiting with them on my way to take Sweet Girl to stay with a friend of mine while I went to a football game. Uncle Danny has always had the most outrageous stories, and he's hilarious. If you can survive the telling of one of his stories. I've always enjoyed his sense of humor.
On this particular day the television was tuned to a college football game. I suppose it was halftime, because there was a majorette or some sort of drill team member on the screen. Uncle Danny said, "That girl's got breasts just like I like 'em........one on each side." I was too young and immature to recognize the comment as sexist and demeaning to women in general. I just thought he was funny. And I couldn't wait to repeat it to the first person I had a chance to speak to.
That just happened to be the woman I was leaving Sweet Girl with. And her entire family. She had just undergone a mastectomy.
I still cringe in horror every time I remember my carelessness. I wonder if she ever forgave me. Or if her HUSBAND ever forgave me. Or her BROTHER. Or her DAUGHTERS.
Another memory that makes me want to crawl under the sidewalk even years later happened in the hall at school one day. I was experiencing some sort of frustration, probably involving the yearbook, because that seemed to be what caused me the most grief in those days. I've never been able to mask my emotions, so as I approached a co-worker in the hall, she asked if something were wrong. I'm sure she was just being polite; I wish I had told the expected lie, "Oh nothing."
Instead, I held an imaginary gun to my head and pulled the imaginary trigger. It was something I did often, indicating that I was stressed out.
As she passed me, I remembered that her roommate had recently committed suicide by shooting herself.
Arrrrrrrgggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! Please, please, please, please don't let her remember that. But I'm sure she does. I'm sure she wonders how anyone could have been so cruel.
Another time when I worked at the vet school, I was talking on the phone to a good friend about one of the professors in the large animal medicine department. He had playfully turned in some paperwork to go to "Alba, Turkey" the week before, actually meaning "Albuquerque" but pretending that he didn't know how to spell it. My co-worker (who was supposed to be smart or something) didn't get the joke, and she started this professor's paperwork for international travel. In her defense, those guys were always jetting off somewhere to operate on a racehorse or something, so it wasn't unusual for them to leave the country.
I was telling my friend on the phone how STEWPID this professor was, causing us all that extra work, blah blah blah. I had no idea he was sitting outside my office door reading his mail. The office door was open. When he walked into the office, I could tell he had heard every word. That man is dead now, and my face still burns with shame when I remember that incident. It's amazing that I kept my lowly (and low-paying) job until I decided to return to graduate school.
Remembering these incidents causes me physical pain. I am so ashamed. I'm sure it happens to everyone, and there is no way ever to make up for a gaffe such as these. I mean, I can't exactly call my friend (whom I haven't seen in years and years) and say, "Remember when I said that STEWPID thing about breasts? Yeah, I'm sorry for that." Like the old saying goes, you can't unring a bell. Oh for a delete key. And I can't email the former co-worker (who currently works in the same county I work in) and say that I had temporarily forgotten about her roommate killing herself when I made that careless gesture.
As for the veterinarian dude, like I said, he's dead, and I'm STILL embarrassed. Will I live long enough to overcome the torture of remembering?
I know it happens to other people too. I feel for them even while I'm thinking, "Way to go, Einstein. That was brilliant." I want to tell them that I feel their pain, but they should be prepared to be embarrassed for about a gazillion years. That is, if they are even bothered by what they say in the first place. I'm guessing some folks aren't.
I witnessed someone ELSE having foot-in-mouth disease the last time we were out in Mississippi at our favorite casino. There was a woman sitting at the poker table with us wearing sunglasses, and I assumed she had watched too many episodies of The World Poker Tour or some such. She seemed a little ditzy too, because every now and then she would ask, "Did I win?"
She got up to go to the bathroom, and her sister was very concerned. She said, "Are you all right to go by yourself? Do you want me to go with you?"
"No, I'm fine," she said.
Sister #2 stood up on the rungs of her stool to watch Sister #1 walk across the casino floor toward the ladies' room.
"Oh Lord, I hope she doesn't fall or anything." She continued to monitor her progress, peering over the crowds in the casino.
The dealer, a young man who should have known better, asked, "Is she drunk? Or just stupid?"
Sister #2 snapped, "No, she's blind. She's had three cornea transplants."
I know he wanted the earth to open up and swallow him at that moment. But we're never that lucky when we have foot-in-mouth disease.
You know the worst part? I start wondering how many careless, insensitive, callous, cruel things I've said that I didn't even catch.
If you'll excuse me, I'm going to call my therapist now.