Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Foot in Mouth

Sometimes we say and do things that just make us cringe with the after-thought....I should know.

A few years ago, for example, we invited my brother and his new girlfriend over for dinner. We had met her before, but this was the first time we had invited her into our home.

A few weeks earlier, the said girlfriend had invited us to her 21st birthday party, but since we didn't really know her, we figured her invitation was extended more so out of politeness, than genuine want for us to be there, so we spared her the torture of having some distant acquaintances dampen her partying mood, and politely declined - she wasn't heart broken.

I remember it was some kind of themed party - mad hatters, or something... Anyway, the girlfriend brought the party photos to show us over dinner.

The photos mostly involved group shots of people I didn't know, and the occasional funny one of my brother being a fool, but then I came upon a photo of this guy - obviously drunk - standing with his tongue hanging out, knees bent and pelvis thrust - it was a most unfortunate shot and really quite unattractive, so naturally (as you do) I blurted out, pointing and laughing at the poor intoxicated devil in the picture, "Who is that dickhead!" To which, the girlfriend quietly replied, "my Dad".

Absolutely mortified by the utterances of my big fat mouth, I spluttered some cringe-worthy back-pedalling nicety to cover up my very obvious and totally insensitive remark; a reaction my brother, who was unsuccessfully stifling his hysterics, decided to draw attention to.

But I think my largest moment of shame came when I was seventeen. I had a bad attitude - worse than I do now (ha ha). I was from the country and had just moved to the city, where I knew no one and no one knew me.

I was in a shopping centre car park when a car load of people passed by, gawking. Ashley, my then boyfriend of 8 months, was fossicking around in the car while I stood waiting. I didn't appreciate the car load of unfamiliar starers; people who had even turned in their seats for an longer more scrutinising look, as they passed me by. So I decided to give them the royal salute or as it is more commonly known - the finger. That'll teach 'em.

I can tell you I was more than horrified to have that car load of people walk up to us only minutes later, and having Ashley introduce me to his Aunt, Uncle and four cousins - HORRIFIED, I tell you! They are the nicest people, so nice that none of them has ever mentioned my disgraceful behaviour, and I have known them 16 years. I felt so bad about it that I confessed to Ashley a couple days later - he wasn't all that impressed.

So why am I confessing some of my less glittering moments? Well today at Nordic Walking, the boot was on the other foot, although no where near as awful as my previous conduct, but still, I could feel for those involved ;)

I was talking with this guy, and he was making a joke about some clients of his, who are called Sheila and Bruce - the joke being that all Aussies are reputedly named either Sheila or Bruce - and so he figured that this couple must have been Australian, they weren't, but it was a joke. Anyway....

At the end of the walk, the guy I was speaking to earlier, myself and another woman, were first to finish, and we got to talking while stretching. After a few moments of talking the woman says to me, in all seriousness - "your name is Sheila, isn't it"? The guy cracked up laughing and I informed the woman that she was incorrect.

Ignoring the guy to her right, the woman asked herself - out loud, why she thought my name was Sheila. With mirth, I volunteered that it might be because I am Australian. She looked a bit embarrassed, but said that she "didn't get it". So I explained that Sheila is a derogatory term in Australia, meaning woman.

Then another woman joined the conversation,
"What is?" she wanted to know.
So I explained, "Sheila and bloke are words that refer to woman and man, in Australia".
Another woman entered the conversation.
"What was that?" she asked.
So I started, "Sheila and bloke..."
"Are they the names of your kids?" someone else innocently interrupted.
By this time those who are up to speed, are in fits of laughter.

After all that, the original woman to muddle up my name, begins to walk back with me, and awkwardly strikes up a little chat along the way, I get a sense she is trying to make up for the Sheila thing - though it honestly didn't worry me. Anyway, she lets me know she thinks I am doing well in the group. I am "like an aardvark (!?)", she announced.

With an air of confused surprise, I smiled and replied "Okay".
Sensing my confusion the woman added "Yes! Like an.... Australian rodent/aardvark".

"Right" I said, highly amused. I think this is getting worse; time to change the subject.....

We don't actually have aardvarks in Australia. Are these animals notably swift?...What are aardvarks noted for anyway? And "rodent", what was she really trying to say? A rodent strikes me as a disease-ridden animal that everyone hates.

Jokes aside, I think she was trying to compliment me, but as I am fully aware and adequately experienced to note, sometimes you just can't dig yourself out of a hole, so it is perhaps best, if we avoid trying.


monkeyinabox said...

Being called a Sheila doesn't equal the finger or dickhead remark. ;) Those are beyond classic. Ha ha

strauss said...

I know, monkey - how awful!!!!!!

Kimberly said...

Oh that's too hilarious! I can totally picture the whole conversation taking place. Thanks for the giggles.

Elizabeth said...

But you have to admit that
aardvark rolls nicely off the tongue.

How often do we use a word that sounds better than it means?

strauss said...

Okay. I jsut googled Aardvark. There is nothing complimentary about them. I think "pig-like" and "slow moving" might say it all. Lets hope she just got her animals mixed up - ha ha.

shishyboo said...

hey you're not alone in the monumental stuff ups caused by foot in mouth disease.

the whole Sheila thing is hilarious and here I was considering calling my kids, Sharon (shazza) or Cheryl (feral cheryl) for girls and Barry (bazza)if a boy. Now they are seriously bogan names

Don't worry Strauss, you are WAY too refined to be a true Aussie bogan Sheila and I'm still scratching my head about the aardvark thing - what the?

have i made any sense? i'm high on tim tams heeheehee

strauss said...

Of course you are understood always.
Bazza and Shazza - classic!
Tim Tams....mmmmmmm.

Heather said...

Ha ha, and you think referring to myself as a dingo as bad! You aardvark.

Its funny how little 'some' North Americans know about OZ... but then how much do I really know about the rest of the world? At least they were trying.

Give my love to your kids... Sheila and Bruce. Heh heh... XXX

Kathleen said...

Oh my, haven't we all had a moment like that! I, too, gave a finger solute one night to a car that was tailgating us with their headlights on bright. When we finally pulled over, to let them pass, they stopped too. It was my future brother-in-law and his wife...whom I hadn't met yet. They, too, were kind enough never to bring up the matter of the finger!
I am still pondering the aardvark comment...can't BEGIN to imagine what she was thinking. Maybe you should ask....

strauss said...

Oh Kathleen, bless you for writing about your little indiscretion - it gave me more than a good laugh, and some comfort in knowing I am not alone when it comes to mistakes.
I think I am going to let the aardvark thing slide. I can just imagine her going home and googling the word and then praying that NOT I do the same.