What is it about conversation I don't get?
Why is it that I must constantly be on the alert for shades of meaning that are perhaps unintended, perhaps made in error, perhaps witlessly interjected into an otherwise banal tete-a-tete?
Why can't I just TALK to people and let it go at that, without self-analyzing every single slip of tongue, or malapropism committed, or entendre missed, either by myself or my fellows?
Why cannot I be more confident in what I say, and allow myself the occasional slip or awkward pause without sinking into a morass of self-doubt?
I'll tell you why - because I've got a BIG MOUTH, that's why, and it's gotten me in trouble more than once in my life.
6th grade - I was having a difficult time with a girl who had seemingly cheated on the "softball toss" in PE, a girl who had claimed a throw of some 15 feet more that I had thrown, which up until that time was by FAR the farthest that anyone else had thrown and of which I was rather proud (110 feet, thanks for asking). I got whipped into an outraged pissed-off storm of an adolescent girl at this cheat, and called the malfeasor an intellectual and racial epithet that to this day makes me cringe with embarrassment. I leave it up to your imagination what that might be......
I knew I had gone too far when her girlfriends went "ooo-ooo" under their breaths as the icy fire of hate leaped to her eyes, a fire that blazed a path to me as she strode menacingly across the few yards of turf that separated us, stopping just short of kissing distance to breathe the following never-to-be-forgot words in my face:
"What the fuck you say to me, honky?"
My knees turned to ice, my bowels to water, and my face to fire as I stammered out a gutsy:
"You cheated, you didn't even THROW that ball, and I'm going to tell Miss X you didn't."
This was my first mistake, and only one I ever needed to make, as far as she was concerned.
For 3 long years it was the ONLY thing I ever needed to do to this girl to make her the freaking bane of my middle-class white girl existence.
In gym (the only class we ever had together, thank God), she would stand in front of me, blocking my shots or keeping me from participating or trying to knock me over; always an arm's reach away, a looming presence of indignant power.
She glowered at me in sex ed, or fumed at me in volleyball, or traded teams in basketball so she could wipe her sweaty body on me as we were driving to the basket.
She cursed at me if I came too close, and promised in whispers of the hurt she could cause me if I wronged her again.
She fucking scared me to death.
She hated me, and, what's more, I hated her because she hated me, with a passion so white with fury and black with anger that neither of us was willing to let it go.
All because I said something very very ill-advised and extraordinarily hurtful, and was too proud to even TRY to find a way to take it all back.
Needless to say, I was very glad when I didn't have to take gym anymore, and quickly traded up to something safe, like another band class.
Since that time I have told secrets and told lies and fabricated tremendous stories to cover my already-exposed ass, and to what end? To be found out or called out or uncovered in the end; andend which is always highly unsatisfactory to me. What's the use?
I learned long ago to stop lying as a matter of course, to stop pretending I'd done things or been places I haven't, to cease with the self-aggrandizing penchant that grips my very being in order to make a story more interesting or amusing. Yes, the story might indeed be compelling, but if I can't in fact PROVE I was in Prague in 1988 and smoked weed with Vaclav Havel or that I took a mudbath with the pygmies of Papua New Guinea while on a trip with the youth group from the Mormon church I was inlfiltrating as a covert operative for the Lutheran Brethren, then what's the use? Someone is bound to find out, and parse me out for the fool that I am.
Which is why here, dear fellows, you get the truth.
At least as I perceive it to be.
You've been warned.