I have this gift. It’s a cracker too. I can single-handedly take a perfect moment and turn it a full 180 degrees until it’s an awful, awkward kind of moment. You know what I mean. One of those “I wish the ground would open up and swallow me” moments. Just by opening my mouth.
On the other hand sometimes it is a great ice breaker and gets an otherwise dull event kicking. OK. So this has only happened once in my recent memory but I continue to cling onto it. I looked like a comic genius instead of a babbling idiot. It was golden.
It’s not like I intentionally set out to do this, it’s just that periodically my brain forgets to let my mouth know that it’s thinking and does not want to do it out loud. And my mouth is kind of like a work experience kid – you know what I mean – you have to explain everything you want them to do down to the tiniest detail – so it’s really important that my brain remembers that and says “think this Lou but DON’T SAY IT”. But it doesn’t always remember that and my mouth runs away with itself.
But friends, I’m here to tell you that it’s not all bad. You see I’ve come to know a very select group of people who live each and every day this way without any guilt or remorse.
I work with primary school aged children every single day. I have two children of my own as well. Let me tell you, they are glorious little creatures. One minute they’re telling you how fantastic you are then the next they are telling what they really think of you. And they don’t feel bad one little bit about their opinion until some adult in the room tells them how rude or impolite their statement was. They’re just being honest.
One of my favourite examples is a Kindergarten girl I worked with last year. I had the task of helping her find her way back to her classroom after she had paid me a visit in the office. As we were walking down the walkway to her classroom I noticed that she had fallen behind me a bit. Naturally I slowed down thinking that I was walking too fast for her. Then I noticed she was staring at my behind. Then she started feeling her head and quickly resumed staring quizzically at my butt again. When I asked her what on earth she was doing she quick as a flash she tells me “My whole head is about the size of one of your bum cheeks”. It was hilarious. (And true!)
Then there was one of our older kids who was excitedly recounting his favourite movie to me. I told him that I knew quite a bit about it as it was one of my favourites as well. He shook his head in disbelief and asked me how on earth someone as old as me had seen this movie too. I asked him how old he thought I was to which he answered “I don’t know. At least 30.” (Nope kid, I’m older than that!) Yet I still thought he was a hoot.
Finally there was a little one who never likes a new school year because of all the changes it brings to her life. She saw me on the first day and exclaimed excitedly “You stayed just as fat as last year”. I could see from the look of relief on her face that she was so happy that at least one thing was the same as last year. That time I laughed until I cried a little bit.
I’ve often shared these stories and many more with colleagues and loved ones and universally the immediate reaction from them is horror. I’m met with “That’s awful” and “Are you OK? Did they upset you?” My answer is always no.
For most of us in this world it’s fairly simple to figure out if a person is saying something just because they may lack certain social graces. People who are trying to hurt your feelings are usually very good at ensuring that they drive their point home with a nasty edge to their tone and aggressive body language. Everyone else, from kids to those of us with filters that sometimes get dislodged, are only saying what we’re thinking (albeit poorly). There is generally a complete lack of malice in us and we are quick to realise we’ve made a mistake as soon as it’s left our mouths.
Is it OK? Probably not. Should we try to let some things roll over us without over-reacting? If it’s with children I say yes. I think that life is going to gag them soon enough so let them speak their minds now. As long as there is no hatred or bullying behind it they are just saying what they think and they have such imaginative, wonderful minds.
And to everyone who will ever have to attend a social engagement with me in the future, maybe give this fat, old lady with the head sized butt cheek a little bit of a break too. I won’t mean to offend you but sometimes my mind is overwhelmed and my mouth forgets who is boss. I will realise I have made a faux par and will try to fix it, which will inadvertently make the whole situation 100% worse. But it’s just because I, like everyone else in the world, am just trying to make you like me a little bit and sometimes I will stumble, get nervous and right royally stuff it up. But instead of hating me can we just try one different thing next time?
Just laugh with me. Please?
* P.S. Some of you reading this may think I’m of the opinion that all work experience kids are a little bit common sense challenged. Quite the contrary. Of the dozens I have had the pleasure of supervising two of them have shown remarkable skills in at least pretending to know what I’m talking about.