Confessions of a Walking Faux Pas

 

I’ve been reading with amusement these online collections of “First Dates that Went Wrong,” or “Wedding Disasters.” Unfortunately, my enjoyment calls for a dose of humility, because it seems like any time I’m invited to a social gathering, I do something awkward and difficult to explain away. Here are several gaffes from which I’ve recovered enough to feel comfortable sharing:

Wedding Fumbles:  This rural wedding was a bit of a drive, but as usual, I thought I had plenty of time. Then I found myself rushing to the grocery store to pick up the strawberries for the ice cream topping I’d signed up for and grab a card. Unfortunately, I dropped the carton of strawberries inside Wal-Mart and they rolled out on the floor. I picked them up, drove tensely out of town to the wedding site, and showed up breathless to help the now stressed food coordinator cut up the strawberries. I explained about dropping them, but this being Montana, the wedding helpers said that was fine, and we just washed them and used them anyway. I probably did find my seat in the outdoor ceremony on time. But when I went to sign the card  . . . I happened to look closely and saw that the couple would not be receiving a written congratulations from me, as in my haste, I had selected a warm well wishes for an anniversary. One of the kitchen helpers remarked to me that the strawberries were very good on that ice cream.

Memorial Service Mess-Up: Friends of mine sadly lost a young family member, and I signed up to bring a tray of Costco cookies. By the time I had the cookies, called a friend to help me figure out what street the church was on, and navigated to the building, it was six or seven minutes until the ceremony. Unfamiliar with the church entryways, after I dropped off the cookies in the kitchen, I joined a line of people waiting for access to the auditorium via an inner stairway. There I stood chatting with those I knew, including family members.  We waited for several minutes, and then finally made an entrance via the front of the room. I noticed eyes on me as I walked down the middle aisle to take a seat at the back of a very full venue. I had done something wrong–I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I settled in the back, realizing I could have come in via the main doors right behind me. Later, as I thumbed through the program, I noticed that the first order of business was the “entrance of family and friends,” an event into which I had unknowingly insinuated myself. Later, another guest kindly told me she assumed I had been part of that retinue. And the family really loved that I had brought cookies.

Late Potatoes: A dear, organized friend had a deal of fun planning a birthday party for someone who needed one. She was going to do a special kind of cookout that I’d never heard of before, and my job was to peel and dice many pounds of potatoes. I should have assumed this job would take a couple of hours, at least. But as is my wont, I tried to get some lower priority items out of the way before I started on it. I had borrowed a floor cleaner from a friend and was determined to get that kitchen floor done first (with the usual conviction that there was plenty of time to fit everything in). By the time I got to the house with the large bag of potatoes still intact, I had missed several phone calls from the friend’s husband needing status updates on my piece of the cookout puzzle. Well, they may have been a little behind schedule already, and I got help peeling and cutting, but I felt like such a failure (not having had anything to eat for hours didn’t help), that I disappeared into a back room and cried.  I was amongst friends I respected and loved, but the gathering didn’t get much less awkward after that, except that a meal lifted my spirits immensely.

Birthday Party Drama: For my younger daughter’s ninth birthday, we were going to meet a few friends on the school playground for cake and presents, and then drive some miles away for a swim at a pool. During the week, a mom called me while I was in the middle of work stuff and asked if I had it handled–meaning the driving and everything.  I thought about it for a second and assured her that I did. I mean, if I didn’t have room in my car, I had close to enough room. I felt hesitant about roping in another mom unless I really had to. I’m prone to oversight in my planning, as I see a few trees and the forest, but not all the trees.

The morning of the party, I started out taking my time and ended up in a rush, arriving at the playground with cake, presents, and pizza about ten minutes after the party had started–at least there were guests and non-guests playing vaguely around the equipment. I noticed uncomfortably that my car looked cluttered with party stuff, and my older daughter had found the steam on the window irresistible and had traced big streaky tracks on the glass. The other moms glanced skeptically at my small Subaru and asked if I could actually fit all the little girls in my vehicle. It became real to me just then that I had room for all but one child, as big sister was coming along, too, and suggested that two girls could share a seatbelt.

Now, as a mom, I probably would have felt uncomfortable with this haphazard-seeming situation and annoyed that I would have to change my plans to escort my child personally to the second party site.  Uncomfortable and annoyed, yes–but rude, no. Two of the moms said sharpish things to me, and then walked off together talking in low tones. I tried to approach this angry clique, but could only hem and haw. They’d reacted as if I’d suggested strapping one of their kids to the roof, or announced that we’d cook some meth as a party game. How about, “No, I’m uncomfortable with that, so I’ll drive her instead.”  I should have enlisted help from the beginning, as I was not easy about driving other people’s kids in the first place. Fortunately, one of the moms was sweet and supportive, and offered to convey a bunch of us to the pool in her car.  My daughter, mostly oblivious to the drama, loved her party.

I could go on about the weddings (plural) where I’ve shown up underdressed, due to taking literally the instructions on the invitation; about that one outdoor ceremony where I did dress up and should have dressed down due to the riverside venue; about the events where I’ve come across a little churlish in the food line; about the struggle to know the balance between thrift and cheapness on a wedding present.  And there was that wedding a couple weeks ago where the protracted purchase of a kayak left me only time for the reception. Sigh. Formal gatherings are really not my forte. And even informally, my jokes can backfire, my words be ill-chosen. The best remedy for feeling artless in a group, though, is to gravitate toward others who might be struck with the same gift for inelegance that I have, and keep them company.

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  1. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    sawatdeeka: The best remedy for feeling artless in a group, though, is to gravitate toward others who might be struck with the same gift for inelegance that I have, and keep them company. 

    And Here We are.

    Just don’t bother bringing food or You might be late. 

    • #1
  2. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    sawatdeeka: The best remedy for feeling artless in a group, though, is to gravitate toward others who might be struck with the same gift for inelegance that I have, and keep them company.

    And Here We are.

    Just don’t bother bringing food or You might be late.

    Jimmy Carter, don’t ask me how I knew, but I predicted you would comment on this with a reference to (the elephant in the room) tardiness.  I enjoyed the bonus drollery and the reassurance.

    • #2
  3. She Member
    She
    @She

    sawatdeeka: Sigh. Formal gatherings are really not my forte.

    Nor mine.  I almost never get the clothes right, and have shown up to several with mismatched shoes (the same style–the only one I have, the comfy ones!)–but different colors.

    Fortunately I married into a family which believes that none of life’s significant and solemn gatherings–baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc–is complete unless it features, at some point, fisticuffs between family members in the parking lot and the intervention of the police.  This usually distracts from my own shortcomings and (I fondly believe) no-one notices what a klutz I am.

    • #3
  4. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    She (View Comment):
    I almost never get the clothes right

    Same!  I have a gift for this. 

    She (View Comment):
    fisticuffs between family members in the parking lot and the intervention of the police.  This usually distracts from my own shortcomings

    Ha, ha. 

    • #4
  5. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken
    @BrianWyneken

    Professional tip on memorial services:  make sure you’re at the right one.

    • #5
  6. She Member
    She
    @She

    Brian Wyneken (View Comment):

    Professional tip on memorial services: make sure you’re at the right one.

    Is there a story behind this excellent suggestion?

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    A brother at my fraternity was getting married to one of my old girlfriends. So, the night before the event, the best man and I crashed at our fraternity house. In the morning, we were going to suit up and head out to the church for the 9:00 AM service, as both of us were in the wedding party.

    Comes the morning and I discover that I have neglected to pack socks of the correct color. So, with no time to spare, we took off, headed to the K-Mart. I charged in barefoot but wearing a tux. I located the socks, grabbed one of the correct size and color, and ran out past the cashier tossing her a $5 bill for $1.29 socks. We peel out of the parking lot, thunder down the road, and throw up a truly Dukes of Hazard rooster tail of dust as we pull into … an empty parking lot.

    The bride knew we were knuckleheads, and so had told us the service was an hour earlier than H-hour to guarantee that we’d get there on time.

    • #7
  8. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken
    @BrianWyneken

    She (View Comment):

    Brian Wyneken (View Comment):

    Professional tip on memorial services: make sure you’re at the right one.

    Is there a story behind this excellent suggestion?

    Unfortunately, yes.

    Graveside, as the chaplain began his committal remarks for the deceased veteran, Gary . . . . I’m standing there (in uniform), one of only five people attending, and I’m thinking “Gary? – Gary who?” I looked across the cemetery and saw another procession some three sections distant. I thought it best to stay put.

    In the end maybe I was at the “right one” as the other guy had a lot more people attending.

    • #8
  9. Internet's Hank Contributor
    Internet's Hank
    @HankRhody

    sawatdeeka: Two of the moms said sharpish things to me, and then walked off together talking in low tones.

    Nuts to ’em. They had the perfectly reasonable option of “I’ll take a couple girls myself” to assuage their worries, but no, they’d rather have something to gossip about.

    I recall from my youth one particular taxi ride with six passengers in a Sedan. The rule was my brother (who was sitting on Mom’s lap) had to duck his head down whenever we went by a cop. It turned out just fine.

    • #9
  10. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    sawatdeeka: The best remedy for feeling artless in a group, though, is to gravitate toward others who might be struck with the same gift for inelegance that I have, and keep them company.

    And Here We are.

    Just don’t bother bringing food or You might be late.

    Jimmy Carter, don’t ask me how I knew, but I predicted you would comment on this with a reference to (the elephant in the room) tardiness. I enjoyed the bonus drollery and the reassurance.

    10 + years of commenting on Yer posts and You think You know Me? You don’t say….

    • #10
  11. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Great stories!

    sawatdeeka: I had selected a warm well wishes for an anniversary. One of the kitchen helpers remarked to me that the strawberries were very good on that ice cream. 

    Hilarious,

     

    Too late for this?

    Dear Bride and Groom,

    By now you may have read the card I sent “Happy Anniversary” I want you to know that it  was the love I see between you both that compelled me to celebrate your many future anniversaries to come! 

    Love,

    sawadeeka

    • #11
  12. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I wrote this post eons ago:

    https://ricochet.com/213726/archives/what-was-the-worst-date-of-your-life/

    Troy Senik and James Lileks provided their input . . .

    • #12
  13. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    in my haste, I had selected a warm well wishes for an anniversary.

    Hahaha! I once got a birthday card from a Frenchman whose English was, shall we say sketchy, which said “Happy Birthday From All of Us.”

    • #13
  14. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    in my haste, I had selected a warm well wishes for an anniversary.

    Hahaha! I once got a birthday card from a Frenchman whose English was, shall we say sketchy, which said “Happy Birthday From All of Us.”

    He could have had multiple personalities.  You know, like that movie The Three Faces of Yves . . .

    • #14
  15. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Stad (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    in my haste, I had selected a warm well wishes for an anniversary.

    Hahaha! I once got a birthday card from a Frenchman whose English was, shall we say sketchy, which said “Happy Birthday From All of Us.”

    He could have had multiple personalities. You know, like that movie The Three Faces of Yves . . .

    I like this comment with all my hearts.

    • #15
  16. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    These all sound adorable!  And never mind the scolds and their seatbelt fetishes.  Back in the day we used to bounce down the road in the bed of a pickup.   
    Prudes!

    • #16
  17. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    She (View Comment):

    sawatdeeka: Sigh. Formal gatherings are really not my forte.

    Nor mine. I almost never get the clothes right, and have shown up to several with mismatched shoes (the same style–the only one I have, the comfy ones!)–but different colors.

    Fortunately I married into a family which believes that none of life’s significant and solemn gatherings–baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc–is complete unless it features, at some point, fisticuffs between family members in the parking lot and the intervention of the police. This usually distracts from my own shortcomings and (I fondly believe) no-one notices what a klutz I am.

    Heh.  Have you read American Nations?

    • #17
  18. Internet's Hank Contributor
    Internet's Hank
    @HankRhody

    Stad (View Comment):

    I wrote this post eons ago:

    https://ricochet.com/213726/archives/what-was-the-worst-date-of-your-life/

    Troy Senik and James Lileks provided their input . . .

    Wow, that was a blast from the past. Bunch of names I remember. Good read.

    • #18
  19. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    You gave them their only zeroth anniversary card!

    When my dad turned 64, I gave him a 40th, a 21st, and a 3rd birthday card.  

    • #19
  20. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    BDB (View Comment):

    These all sound adorable! And never mind the scolds and their seatbelt fetishes. Back in the day we used to bounce down the road in the bed of a pickup.
    Prudes!

    Seatbelts are good sometimes.

    • #20
  21. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    BDB (View Comment):

    You gave them their only zeroth anniversary card!

    When my dad turned 64, I gave him a 40th, a 21st, and a 3rd birthday card.

    That’s cool!  Maybe I should do something like that for my wife’s 72nd 32nd birthday . . .

    • #21
  22. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    Sawatdeeka, your stories sound perfectly ordinary to me.

    Uh-oh!

    I’ll have to ask my wife what I’ve screwed up. /:

    • #22
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