Going for the gold in the foot-in-mouth Olympics - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Going for the gold in the foot-in-mouth Olympics

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Lynne D. Schwabe Lynne D. Schwabe

Lynne D. Schwabe is the director of development for the National Youth Science Foundation. She can be reached at schwabestatejournal@gmail.com.

We’ve all done it: blurted out something so completely tactless and insensitive that the only cure is crawling under a rock. Just as bad is wanting to say something to make a situation better and not having the nerve. Unfortunately, the first instance in my experience is far more prevalent than the latter.

My most embarrassing moment was a combination of opening my mouth when I should have kept it firmly buttoned shut, awarding me social faux pas No. 2,362. I was planning a birthday party for a dear friend, who at the time was seeing a lovely lady in New York, and I included her among the guests. When I told my friend who was coming, he very directly told me he did not want the New York lovely at the party and it was my duty to rectify the situation. Which I did: uncomfortably, stammeringly and not smoothly. She, being a truly great lady, did everything she could to alleviate my embarrassment. She even sent me flowers, and she was the one who was uninvited!

I may hold gold-cup honors in the foot-in-mouth Olympics, but I asked friends across the country to share their embarrassing moments. Interestingly, most of their answers had to do with some kind of mistaken identity:

¦ “I saw a newly-hired media specialist and wanted to thank him for posting updates to my website. I said, ‘Hey, Jim.’ The guy said, ‘It’s Chuck’ in a perturbed tone. It turns out that Jim and Chuck, the newly hired chair of civil engineering, look nearly alike. I wanted to go hide in a broom closet.” — associate director of a College of Engineering in the Midwest.

¦ “I certainly have put my foot in my mouth, like asking how someone’s husband/wife is, forgetting the spouse is dead. Or, I’ve met someone at a party I haven’t seen for a while, and the person is standing near a stranger. I give a big hug and ask how the spouse is, and it turns out that the spouse has been ditched, and this stranger is the new one.” — wife of an Episcopalian priest.

¦ “Is that your natural color? How many times have you been divorced? Is he/she adopted? Is that a real diamond?” — my sister.

¦ “I was with friends, and in the course of our conversation they said, ‘You can’t believe anything you read in “Vanity Fair.”’ I just had to pipe up and tell them that I was the one who gave them the subscription to Vanity Fair every year for Christmas.” — bank examiner, Mid-Atlantic Region.

¦ “There have been many business social situations where I was expected to know peoples’ names but just could not come up with them. I guess they just did not figure as high in my estimation as they did in their own minds.” — consultant in California.

¦ “Back in the ’80s when New Orleans was repurposing World Fair buildings, two architects were doing major renovations, turning big buildings into tourist eating and shopping places. The Jax Brewery project was finished first. About six months later, the Riverwalk project opened with a fancy gala. I loved the Riverwalk project — more modern, more open to the river. And I was very quick to express my enthusiasm about the changes to a man I was talking to at the gala. Suddenly, my husband appeared and dragged me away unceremoniously, informing me that I was talking to the Jax architect.” — photographer in New Orleans.

¦ “A year after my mother died, we had the dedication of her tombstone. My sister had a gathering at her house afterward. She had a new boyfriend, David, replacing the old one, Bruce. I was trying so hard to be nice and make him feel included, so I called out to him when I left. Unfortunately, instead of yelling, ‘Goodbye, David,’ as I had intended, it came out, ‘Goodbye, Bruce.’ Should have kept my big mouth shut.” — children’s book author, Lexington, Ky.

¦ “At a dinner party, I congratulated an acquaintance on her pregnancy, especially since she didn’t look pregnant. She said she wasn’t pregnant. I said, ‘Of course you are. So-and-so told me that it’s not a secret anymore.’ She shook her head and stomped away. Turns out divorce papers had been filed and it was her husband’s girlfriend who was pregnant.” — friend who, for obvious reasons, wants to remain anonymous.

My father was the champion of mistaken identity. When introduced to the foreman of a crew working on building the Creative Arts Center at West Virginia University, dad — who always had trouble with names — thought, “Jack Horner! I’ll surely be able to remember that.”

The next time he saw the gentleman in question, he confidently said, “Tom Thumb! Great to see you.”

At least in my family, foot-in-mouth disease is genetic!

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