Saturday, November 27, 2010
You’re Surprisingly Pretty
There are some things that need to be said, some things that must be said, and others that inevitably, one way or another, will be said. It might be important (‘Your hair is on fire’), it could be informative (‘Your dress is tucked into your underwear’), or perhaps it’s interesting (‘They didn’t find out they were related until after they got married’). But far more infamous and unfortunate are the things that are Better Left Unsaid.
Exhibit A: Compliments are awkward enough to take when they’re clear. So what about when they’re bewildering? A relative stranger had this to say to Peta during a recent Saturday night.
Stranger: I’m not hitting on you or anything, but you’re surprisingly pretty.
‘Surprisingly’? Really? How does that work exactly? Did you view her from afar, and upon closer inspection find yourself shocked? Did someone say ‘Hey, there’s Peta’ then you turned to discover Peta was female (understandable, her name is her curse), to your astonishment? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you were hitting on her it was a swing and a miss.
Needless to say words uttered on a Saturday Night make up their own sub-category in the Better Left Unsaid department. Another grouping, which is something of a niche field for me, is Attempts At Humour that are Better Left Unsaid.
While on the phone to my boss one day I made a vintage entry into this cannon. We were discussing a beloved and respected colleague’s latest achievement. It was a spirited conversation in which I closed out with what I felt was the perfect punch line, mimicking the voice of said beloved colleague while uttering words he would never dream of saying.
Me: Suck on that bitches.
Boss: (delicate pause on the other end of the line) The 7 year old in the back seat of the car is rather amused by that.
Yes, I was on speaker phone. That old chestnut. Clearly declaring ‘suck on that bitches’ in the presence of the boss’s children goes into the Better Left Unsaid file.
Nervous quipping is also a constant source of unfortunate phrasing. A medical professional was preparing to take a blood sample from me at the doctor’s surgery just the other day. Needles make me particularly anxious, which is the only excuse I can come up with for responding to his question about the origin of a bruise on my arm with…
Me: Probably from some violent sex game.
Let’s be brutally honest, that one-liner’s not even funny when you know it’s not true. For a stranger it’s just going to be awkward and creepy. For a humourless stranger holding a needle it’s an excuse to be in no way reassuring or communicative.
To round out my most recent top 3 Attempts At Humour that are Better Left Unsaid I turn to a drunken, ill-conceived, ill-managed exchange with a potential client of Sister Lawyer when I was introduced to him at a little soiree Mother Painefull threw last night.
Mother Painefull: Blah Blah, this is my youngest daughter…
Blah Blah (of the Carolina Blah Blah’s): Pleasure to meet you… (holds out his hand politely)
Me: (offering my clenched fist) I prefer to bump.
Pause to allow crickets to chirp mournfully in the background.
Blah Blah: What?
Mother Painefull: She’s joking.
Just so we’re clear, white, middle-aged businessmen don’t prefer the fist bump. They also don’t appreciate fist bump humour/won’t understand what you are offering. Another fun fact – a boozy Christmas work lunch, followed by a boozy family event = innumerable things that are Better Left Unsaid (among them, inexplicably, the bellowing of the phrase “I’m 25, I don’t get hungover!”). When those things are said through a mouthful of bread and laced with more expletives than a Mark Latham rant, in the presence of some of your parents oldest, dearest and kindest friends you will get mocked mercilessly the next day. The mockery is deserved. So is the death via embarrassment.
Some things cry out for verbalization. Sometimes I suspect I may actually specialize in all the other things, the ones that are clearly Better Left Unsaid.