Given that I have a black belt in saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, I could probably fill a dozen blog posts with the bloopers I’ve come out with over the years, but someone said something to me last week which reminded me how easy it is to insult someone by accident. I was chatting to a colleague who’d just given me a whole cheesecake to take downstairs for our team – I work in the HQ of a food retailer, and a supplier had left some samples – as I took the offered box I joked about walking the long way around the building so I could eat it on the route between our respective departments. He laughed, and said well it probably wouldn’t be the first time haha…
Now, logic tells me – along with the slow motion way in which his face fell, then turned a lovely shade of magenta – that he didn’t mean it like that…he was talking generally and not insinuating that I’d vaporised samples before, heading down the stairs and along the corridor shovelling cheesecake into my face as I went…it’s just unfortunate that that’s how it came out. I think my snort of laughter sent the message that I wasn’t offended and the moment passed, but imagine if I’d been a really sensitive soul, just how easily I could have assumed that’s exactly what he meant, and how crushed I would have been.
It made me think about unguarded moments of my own where I’ve probably ruined someone’s day by forgetting to push my words through that inner filter which is supposed to vet all my thoughts before they make it out of my mouth. Like the time I bumped into a friend I knew was expecting in the post office and asked her how long ’till her baby was due…turns out he was three months old. Yeh, I wanted the ground to swallow me after that one.
Incidentally some years later, a lady in the queue at the same post office asked me when my baby was due…given that I wasn’t pregnant, just fat, I think that’s what you call poetic justice but in the spirit of avoiding a horribly embarrassing moment for both of us, I rubbed my stomach tenderly and made up a random date. I wouldn’t mind but I think my boy was about eight years old at the time so I didn’t even have the excuse of recent baby weight to console me.
I once asked a friend I knew from college who the bloke in the red shirt was on a photo I’d seen of her in a group and when she said it was her husband I was like no, the old bloke…nailed with a death stare and yes, that’s my husband…awkward…thank God the filter caught the words is he rich? before they made it out past my lips…it was a very close call.
Of course coming from Yorkshire, where people tend to be very straight-talking, I’m probably a bit de-sensitised to start with – folk around these parts tend not to flower things up, and looking back I think the greatest compliment my ex husband ever paid me was when he commented admiringly that I didn’t sweat much for a fat lass. Not surprising he’s an ex when I think about it, right? The arrows with the sharpest barbs though have definitely been the ones to do with how I look.
There have been occasions in the past where people have said things unintentionally that really hit me hard, ably assisted of course by the asshole in my mind who picked up the baton immediately to make me dwell on them, awarding them far more power in terms of hurting me than they ever should have had.
What I’ve noticed though, is that now this march to Skinny town is established, and it’s gathering a momentum all of its own, words which might otherwise have wounded are falling by the wayside unnoticed you know? It’s almost as though in my head I’ve totally bought into this fat suit being a temporary state of affairs, so it’s fine not to waste energy dwelling on a problem that’s well on the way to being fixed. That feels pretty bloody cool.
Can you feel the balance of power shifting beneath our collective boots too?