My dentist says I have a small mouth, but he is the only one. One of the things that I hate most about people is all it takes is one verbal misstep and they hold it against you forever. I say one wrong thing, and they never let me live it down. Here is what I have to say about that: I’m sorry I am an idiot.
My mom used to tell me that I ‘played dumb’ when I was a teenager. The truth is, I wasn’t playing, I really am that dumb. I was about fifteen when during dinner; the whole family was gathered around the table, discussing their day, when I was engaged in a verbal tête-à-tête with my sister. I disagreed with something she said, so I said, “Oh bull!” My dad, whom I had no idea was even listening to the conversation, came unglued. He started ranting about swearing, and appropriate dinner-time talk, and the merits of clean speech. I sat stunned trying to figure out what set him off. I really had no idea.
So I said, “What are you yelling about?”
He said, “What is ‘bull’ short for young lady?”
And I said, “I don’t know.”
So he boomed, “Yes, you do!”
I ventured a guess, “I guess it is short for bull-oney.”
That is what you would call, the wrong answer.
Now, I know that there are other people in the world who misspeak. Presidents for example (“strategery”—not a real word, “I did not have relations with that woman”—but ya did), anyone who has ever mistakenly said, “When are you due?” to someone who is just overweight, that WikiLeaks guy, etc. But I, I take saying the wrong thing, to a whole new level.
I once worked for a tenured full-professor who had just undergone eye surgery. I had only been in his employ for two weeks, when he came into work wearing his post-surgery eye patch. Now, in my defense, I have to say, I am mostly psychologically retarded and it is bad-wiring in my brain that made me say, “Shiver me timbers, how arrrrrgh you doin’ matey?” I know. I can’t believe he didn’t fire me either.
The truth is, most of the time, when I speak, it is a mistake. My brain just cannot keep pace with my mouth. Like when I was talking to a friend recently, I started to recount a conversation I had with my husband, about how hard it is to get rid of a body, if you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed to get rid of one. The woman gathered her children closer to her bosom and looked aghast. That is right—aghast. Yeah, I don’t think she will be calling me anytime soon.
And once, when I was waiting tables in college, a group of guys came in real early on a Saturday morning all wearing matching hats that had the name of a popular band stitched onto the brims. Coincidentally, that band, whose name was monogrammed on those hats, had performed a concert the night before, just a short jaunt from where I was waiting tables. So I asked, “Hey, did you guys go to the concert last night?”
One of the gentlemen looked at me a little oddly, but smiled and said, “Uh, yeah.”
“How was it?”
Then I said, “Awesome! More coffee?” And I walked away singing off-key to the piped-in muzak.
Later on, one of the other waitresses said to me, “I am so excited, I am going to go ask for their autographs!”
“Don’t you know who that is over there?!”
“Well, I do now.” And I spent the rest of my shift hiding in the bathroom and trying to figure out how to kill myself with a toilet plunger.
The thing is, these moments where I have verbally shot myself in the foot, have made me a better person. For example, now when I say something stupid, I get over it faster, have learned how to deny it better, and have taken to taunting others who have a similar problem.
Case in point: My husband was browsing a friends Facebook profile on his laptop when he said, “Wow, she has a huge décolletage!”
I said, “What??? Whose cleavage are you looking at?”
He said, “What are you talking about?”
“You said she had huge cleavage!”
“No, she has a lot of pictures. Isn’t that what décolletage means?”
So I said, “Um, no. That would be a collage.”
“Oh. Well, I have been saying it wrong for a long time then.”
“They teach you what ‘collage’ means in kindergarten.”
“Not my kindergarten. And you wonder why I am the way I am.”
“What was that click? Was that your pen? Are you writing this down?!”
“Great, now I am constantly under surveillance. I suppose you have never misspoke?”
Then I said, with all the confidence of the seriously deluded that I could muster, “That would be misspoken, and nope.”