The mistake was made. There was no turning back.
“When are you due?” he asked as he settled into his chair. The words hung stagnant in the air, begging to crawl back into his mouth. OMG, I thought, and my eyes widened and a cool sweat formed on my forehead as embarrassment crept in. I stared down at the magazine on my lap with such force that I’m surprised it didn’t burst into flames.
Do not look up. Do not look up. Do… not… look…
I looked up.
“Excuse me?” the object of the man’s question said in one of those classic “Oh, no you didn’t” tones, putting her magazine down and staring him straight in the eyes. The man’s face turned an ashen grey and I feared he just might throw up, right there on the carpet next to the display of healthy living literature. “Are you assuming I am pregnant? Because if you are, sir, then you are mistaken. I am not pregnant. Thank you very much.”
He glanced across the room at me and the woman sitting next to me, then looked down at the floor. Realizing that the odds of a giant hole suddenly appearing and sucking him out of the situation were pretty slim, he offered an apology. Sort of.
“I… uh… so… so… sorry?” he sputtered as the rest of us innocent bystanders held our breath. She ignored him, swung around in her chair so she wouldn’t have to look at him, and picked up her magazine again.
I felt sorry for the man, I did. And the woman, too, for that matter. If only someone had shared with him the wisdom of the legendary Dave Barry, who said that one should never ask a woman if she is pregnant unless they actually see a baby coming out.
There was an epidemic of foot in mouth disease that day.
“I cannot believe how much she looks like you… just like you!” I went on and on and on to an old classmate I had not seen in years, 30 at least. She began to speak but I cut her off, handing the small photograph of her daughter that she had shared back to her. “She looks just like you did when we were in school. Just like you.”
She smiled politely as she took the photo from me, and I could tell she was uncomfortable.
“That’s funny,” she said. “Because she’s adopted.”
Open mouth… insert foot. “She does have your hair…,” I said and she smiled again. What to do… what to do… I know!
“Well how is your mama? I think I saw her in the grocery store last week but I didn’t get a chance to say hello because she was all the way across the store… Oh, I miss seeing her…,” I babbled. Smart move, Mandy. Change the subject…
“I miss her, too,” she said. “She died seven years ago.”
I wasn’t about to ask about her father, even though I could have sworn I had seen him, too, not long ago at Wal Mart.
What is wrong with me, I wondered as I went about my way. Did I catch foot in mouth disease from the man in the doctor’s office? I decided the best thing for me to do was not to speak again that day unless I was absolutely, positively, 100 percent certain that what was coming out of my mouth could neither insult nor upset another person.
Too bad I got hungry.
“Ugh. These cookies taste like cardboard. Where did you buy them?” The words hung stagnant in the air, begging to crawl back into my mouth. My friend’s eyes grew wide, then squinted as she looked at me.
“I made them,” she said.
“Oh, I was just joking … these are great …” I lied. “Hey, I think I saw your daddy in Wal Mart last week.”
Foot in mouth disease. I need a cure. Bad.
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.