I suffer from Foot-in-Mouth disease. There is no cure. Symptoms worsen when I am tired, or over-worked, or have had 2+ glasses of wine. And the condition is exasperated by my genetic inability to make small talk.
I live in a neighbourhood where everyone has mastered the art of chatting about nothing (except me). At social gatherings, people benignly talk about tennis, skiing, or power walking for hours on end, and ex-spouses smile politely while sharing living room space with their new lovers.
Sometimes I can make it work for short periods of time, especially if my husband stays nearby to steer my conversations back into the shallows when they start to drift into murky seas. He is the Picasso of small talk.
But even after 30 years together, none of his upper-middle-class social skills have rubbed off on me. That’s how I know my condition is incurable.
For example, when someone compliments my wardrobe, I always reply by telling them where I bought it and how much I paid for it. And if I am talking to a person who has obviously just had work done, I cannot take my eyes off their suddenly Angelina-Jolie-like lips or the flat space on their forehead that used to have wrinkles on it.
Hubby, on the other hand, can talk sports with a person whose previously bald head is suddenly covered in short, wiry hairs and not seem to notice. He is THAT good.
I suffered a bout of Foot-in-Mouth recently when a fellow at a social function mentioned that he sometimes felt a bit “targeted”. Yep. That was his word.
Apparently, poor middle-class-white-dude felt that the rest of us were pointing fingers at him for world events. Of course, being me, I could not just nod sympathetically and continue sipping my wine.
Nope. I had to chime in with:
You are right. We are all blaming you. But you have had all the power since the days when politicians wore togas, so you DID sort of make all of the decisions. Just saying
Based on the immediate silence, I knew I had stepped in it, but it still took me a few minutes to let go. And – surprise, surprise – I did not received an email invite to his next get-together . Sigh.
I feel badly after it happens. Usually. And I spend a lot of time afterwards beating myself up for being THAT woman. But I AM THAT WOMAN… and everybody knows it.
So maybe I am approaching this the wrong way. Perhaps my Foot-in-Mouth should be given the consideration generally afforded to those with peanut allergies or scent-sensitivities; and maybe at least some degree of responsibility should be shouldered by those who create the hazardous situations that exasperate my symptoms!
I have checked online and it does not appear that there is a medical alert bracelet for Foot-in-Mouth, but I submitted an email suggestion so… fingers crossed!
In the meantime, I am compiling a list of triggers so that folks can be more pro-active in protecting both my well-being and their own. For instance:
- If you are a middle-aged man, please avoid me if you are travelling through the city streets on a bicycle while dressed for the Tour-de-France. This is a high-risk situation in which there is a 99.99% chance that I will mock you.
- When making sports-related small talk, please avoid conversations in which you pass judgement on female athletes based on their clothing choices. This is guaranteed to induce a feminist rant.
- Please remove the “Slow Down Because We Love Our Children” sign from your front lawn before I come over. I will feel obliged to point out that (a) everyone loves their children, and (b) half the streets in our neighbourhood have speed bumps when less-affluent parts of the city can’t even get their centre lines painted. See?!? Just thinking about those signs sets me off!
- If you are currently on a juice cleanse or have recently completed one, please don’t ask me over until your enthusiasm for the experience has waned and you can avoid espousing the health benefits of 7-days of starvation.
- And if you feel like republicans in the U.S. may “have a point” on some issues, I must politely request that you simply forget my name and phone number.
Hopefully, the Medic-Alert folks will soon come up with a symbol for Foot-in-Mouth and I will be able to just point at my bracelet when a woman who has injected botox into her crow’s feet begins a conversation about the importance of eating only organic fruit.
Or when a man whose wife stays at home with the children offers me advice about time management. Sigh.
In the meantime, I must ask for compassion from those around me and assure them that even though I fail sometimes, I am always trying to be polite.
Except with the republican supporters… and the men in bicycle shorts… and…