Just For Fun
I doubt she meant to sound insulting, but I declined, all the same.
It wasn’t the first time someone threw me for a loop. A gal from my husband’s Air Force days approached me at a party one evening. I was 28 at the time, which apparently seemed ancient to her. “When are you gonna have kids?” she asked. “You’re getting up there, aren’t you?”
Then there was the pal who offered me a bag of clothes after cleaning out her closet. “I could never fit into your stuff,” I said, knowing she drowns in a size one. “You could wear these,” she replied. “They’re huge!”
Or the time when my son, at age three, led me down the sidewalk, saying, “Here comes a train wiff a big, fat caboose.”
He probably inherited his sensitivity from me. I still recall the time a school chum chose a moniker for her story character that made me laugh. But I sobered up when she shot me a nasty look and said, “That was my mother’s maiden name.”
And I insulted my own mom when I was four or so and we became separated in a store. In an effort to help, a clerk asked what mom looked like. “She has mousy brown hair and red lips,” I said between sobs.
Mom’s been the object of other inadvertent insults, too. When a neighbor learned that a friend of hers was a sibling of mom’s, the woman said, “Your sister is so nice!” She paused a moment before adding, “You two are nothing alike.”
Of course, some people actually mean to insult others. “That’s the main form of communication in my social circle,” said an acquaintance.
Still, it can come back to haunt them. Like the guy who hollered something uncomplimentary at a fellow driver, only to learn that she was his new college professor.
His reaction must have been like Walter Matthau’s in the original version of “The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3”. Disgruntled over having to give some foreigners a subway tour, he called them monkeys before realizing they spoke perfect English.
For those of us with hoof-inmouth disease, it seems the best thing we can say is nothing at all.