Monday, September 04, 2006

my bad

I can be pretty absent-minded at times. I find it difficult to remember names and details of acquaintance's lives. This weekend's been particularly bad in that regard. Maybe it's the double header wedding, maybe it's that I've been so blah lately, I don't know. What I do know is that I said something incredibly stupid and embarrassing. While there were a lot of near misses - situations where I said something mildly stupid, forgot something I should have been able to recall in a conversation, mixed up details, it got much much worse.

I saw someone I hadn't seen in a long time. We knew each other as kids and several years ago he came out that he was gay (which I heard through friends of friends). More recently I heard he's in a serious relationship and so I was debating whether and how I might ask him about it, just as I would ask any straight acquaintance about a new boyfriend/girlfriend. I was speaking with a common friend when he came over to say hi. It was one of those awkward moments where I was about to give him a hug and he reached his hand out to me. We had a rather weak half-handshake and before I even had a chance to think about it I said something to the effect of, "Enough with the gay handshake, give me a hug." As soon as it came out of my mouth, all I could think was what the fuck did I just say?

As a kid I can remember using 'gay' as an adjective to mean stupid or uncool, but back then I never really thought about what it meant. Now I never use that word in that way (or so I thought).

I could tell he'd heard what I'd said. I think I tried to reverse the damage with something along the lines of, 'It's so nice to see you that a handshake seems so impersonal." He said something to the effect of, 'don't worry, I know you meant it in the nicest possible way".

Horrible! We moved on, talking about jobs, travelling, etc... I thought if I could just keep the conversation flowing, my blunder might be washed away. Of course it wasn't - at least not in my mind.

At first I couldn't stop thinking about what I'd said and how he probably thinks I'm a bigot. By the next day I forced myself to let it go. While I won't pretend I'm perfect, I'm not a bad person either. It reminds me of when I was a nursing student and I had a patient with a glass eye. One day he couldn't find his watch. When I walked in I could see he'd removed his eye and he was holding it in one hand. He asked me to let him know if I found a watch and I said:

"No problem. I'll keep an eye out for it." I almost died.

But this most recent one was worse, even though I don't think it came from a very different place. What I said was stupid, plain and simple. I just hope that my brain sharpen's up a little, cause that really sucked.

11 comments:

The Fed Ex of Funk said...

Someone once told me they believe the human brain has a hard time processing negative commands like "don't". Inevitably people remember the more active part, and then they do exactly what you'd hoped they'd avoid. The accompanying advice was to phrase instructions in terms of what to do instead of what not to do. So go for the converse of the old parable: Fail to plan about avoiding a subject so you don't plan to fail (by fixating on that which you hope to avoid). Are you as confused as I am now? That's exactly my point. Now I'll rephrase:

In thinking about the person you're going to talk to, pay attention to other things instead of the taboo. Or better yet, just be completely spontaneous. Then you won't have these lingering concerns just waiting to go all Sigmeund on you.

Lx said...

let's see now; you're actually worried and feel guilty about an innocent slip of the tongue, to a man whom you haven't seen and to whom you haven't spoken in at least 10 years. Hmmm....what's next for you? Self-flagelation?

Lx said...

is being gay taboo? really now...what century are we living in?

The Fed Ex of Funk said...

I don't think it's taboo, but in worrying about how to approach the subject, I think she made it taboo. That's the whole problem, and it also led to the Freudian slip, imo.

Lx said...

all of my gay friends usually don't give a rat's about such slips. they're all usually good-natured about their lifestyles. who knows; maybe R's friend still has issues w/acceptance?

Rachel said...

In all fairness my friend didn't look upset or appalled - maybe a little uncomfortable in response to my embarassment but that's all. I'm sure most people wouldn't find this as offensive as it felt. I can be hard on myself, which I think sets me up for this kind of thing.

Like when I was a student, my roommate and I would go to focus groups for extra $. One day she was scheduled for one but didn't want to go, so I said I would go and pretend to be her. Upon arrival everyone received name tags and we were asked to introduce ourselves to the group. Keep in mind there were a group of people behind the one-way glass observing. As my turn came close, I was afraid I would forget who I was supposed to be. I repeated to myself, 'My name is Lana, my name is Lana, my name is Lana.'

The girl next to me finished up her intro and everyone looked at me.

I smiled and began, "Hi my name is Rachel. I'm a-"

"Oh, excuse me...um, why does your name tag say Lana if your name is Rachel?"

"Oh, Rachel/Lana, Lana/Rachel, you know..."

Everyone stared at me, confused.

I rambled on about Rachel being my middle name but how "everyone calls me Lana."

It's so me. I'm leaking at the seams.

Lx said...

you suck as a liar.
shame on you for not perfecting the discipline by now.
shame.

Rachel said...

no shit

Lx said...

i have entangled myself in so many scenarios, i have a fucking flow chart on my office wall. you know, just for reference and edification.

Rachel said...

My luck, people would find my flow chart.

Lx said...

mine's on the office wall. people find it all the time. and they keep coming back for more. gluttons for punishment. and so i oblige.