To Speak or Not to Speak…That is the Question

Several years ago, I attended a ladies’ luncheon where women from all walks of life were present: retirees, physicians, corporate executives, scientists, congresswomen, housewives, even belly dancers. I went with a lawyer friend who introduced me to Janice.

“Keli is a lawyer too,” my friend told Janice. 

Janice said her daughter was a third year law student. Then she asked me, “So where’s your office?”

I told her I didn’t practice law, explaining that I went on maternity leave 12 years ago and never returned.

Janice responded, “Gee, I hope my daughter doesn’t end up like that.”

Freeze frame. 

End up like what? I think I appeared normal. No visible signs of turmoil, lingering boredom, severe fatigue or even a hint of restless leg syndrome. Was I delusional or was I sincerely happy? For all Janice knew, I was CEO of my very own Fortune 500 company.  After a lapse of 11 seconds, Janice, obviously quick on comebacks, said:

“Well, I’m sure you do something with your life now.”

Extreme stubborness kicked in, and I replied as carefreely as a Woodstock attendee, “No.”

Janice seemed to realize her remark was somehow inappropriate. But I give her a “D” on her attempt to redeem herself. Which she easily could have done with a few pleasant words.

Every one of us has made a stupid remark at least once in his/her life. Probably a whole lot more than once (speaking for myself, of course). Usually,  thinkers catch themselves when stumbling over stupidity, if not entirely on time, at least fairly quickly and with some awareness. Stupers (short for remarkably stupid persons) suffer from a hindering lack of awareness. Hindering because it prevents progress. Janice’s hindrance prevented her from restoring herself to favor. She should have thought before she spilled the paltry contents of her mind all over my skirt. (Don’t worry; it didn’t stain).

Here’s a similar instance where the speaker of the stupid act/remark managed to restore herself to thinking human status (Janice, pay special attention!):

I attended a book signing where I knew the author, Kim, only slightly (through e-mails). As we talked, Kim saw someone she knew…and I was history. Rapid Onset Amnesia (yes, I did just make that up) set in, and she completely forgot I was there.  I said, “Nice meeting you, Kim,” and left.

Thirty minutes later, I ran into Kim again. She made a point of conversing with me. Here’s how she totally redeemed herself:

“I have a 7 and 9 year old. How old are your kids?” Kim asked me.

When I told her my older son was 18, she fainted dead away (okay, I exaggerate a bit). Kim actually did a double-take, and said she found that unbelievable. It was one of those times, after a good night’s rest, a well-put-together outfit, a great hair day and careful make-up application where I easily looked ten years younger. Kim received an “A” in redemption skills.  She had probably realized, after the fact, that she had forgotten that she’d been in mid-conversation with me when she drifted away, and now tried to make up for it. I certainly could understand her distraction; she was in the middle of a book signing.

Do you see how a few choice words make all the difference? You can make up for a stupid remark or act by simple kindness. Or by honesty. “Did I just say that?”  is what Janice could have said. It doesn’t take much. If Janice had just said something that displayed a bit of thought and effort, she wouldn’t be featured here. Janice would have been better off saying nothing. Again, a case of thinking out loud instead of inside the mind first.

Should I have been nicer to Janice? The answer in my next entry.

Choose to think!


One Response to “To Speak or Not to Speak…That is the Question”

  1. Julianne says:

    I’ve met my share of stupers. One, in particular, stands out. My husband’s uncle (his Mom has is the youngest of 12 so there is no way I can keep track of his name) met me at a family dinner, shook my hand, rubbed my belly and said, “When are you due?”

    As you have probably guessed, I wasn’t pregnant.

    I later found out that he is schizophrenic. Phew. Thank goodness. I didn’t really look pregnant. He’s just crazy.

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