About a year ago we joined some good friends of ours for dinner in their home. They had other guests also and we had a great time getting to know some new people. Daniel and I love acquainting ourselves with people of varied backgrounds, making our own lives more interesting and diversified.

On this particular occasion we met a young man and his father. The father was a University Professor of Communications, but appeared to be on the quiet side at this dinner. The son, however, made up for his father's shyness. He was not loud or obnoxious, but he did extrapolate rather extensively about his college major of theater arts. He spoke of the various plays he had performed, was working on, and asked us more than once to attend one of his performances. He was gracious in every aspect of his demeanor; his words and gestures were eloquent and deliberate. The most outstanding characteristic of this young man was his outward love for his father. I have never witnessed anyone, male or female, demonstrate such affection for a parent, as he did so unashamedly in front of people. It was not an embarrassing sort of affection, but more of an arm placed casually around his father's shoulder on several occasions, asking if he needed anything, or if he could be of any service to him. He also spent time lovingly massaging his father's shoulders. When his father left, he hugged him long, kissed his cheek, and assured him that he would call him later.

I was overwhelmed by this man's behavior, and because of it, I assumed that he must be gay. Not one of the many “straight friends” I have show such affection for their parents. Since I really don't give a hoot about someone's sexual orientation, this in no way disturbed me and I continued to have a wonderful evening.

About a month ago our friends informed us that they were attending this young man's wedding... to a woman. Out of embarrassment, I did not voice my own mental faux pas to them. To me though, I had been a hypocrite. I had led my life believing I was a free spirit, and yet I had pigeon-holed this man as being gay, based on a few observations from one evening.

On another occasion we were having dinner with more new friends. All the members at the table were single except for Daniel and I. The conversation turned to rollerblading, and one man informed us that he would love to go with us. I immediately said, with a wink, that he might meet a young woman at the park we frequent. He turned to one of his friends and said, “Well, that won't do me much good!” Because I am so adept at inserting my foot into my mouth, I shot back, “Why, are you gay?” Everyone starting hallowing and I was the one with egg on my face once again. I had once more made a false assumption.

I don't know what makes me do these things. Maybe I'm just an idiot. By my age I should be able to think before speaking and not make judgments based on a few (and in the above cases, wonderfully diversified behaviors). I should know that you really cannot judge a book by its cover. When will I realize that one should assume very little, if anything, about others, thereby sparing myself a great deal of self-induced grief? Perhaps one day I will master these lessons, but judging by my track record, I probably won't. Like my mother used to say, “Believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear.”

© Christine Geery 2012

 



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Comment by John Fleshman on December 1, 2012 at 10:20am

I am positive you are not alone... don't we all insert our own foot many times in a life time? Thanks for the smile.

Comment by Romantic Poetess on December 1, 2012 at 10:50am

I have pulled the same foot out many times. 

Comment by JMac1949 Memories on December 1, 2012 at 5:47pm

Your mother spoke wisely... too bad most of us don't listen to our Mums.  R&L ;-)

Comment by Zanelle on December 1, 2012 at 8:37pm

I have the feeling that my mom's neighbor is gay.  I saw him waiting for take out at the local Mexican Restaurant with another fellow.  It was just a feeling but it made lots of sense.  Now when I see him I wonder and I always liked him but I leave him alone.  It isn't so much a judgement but it is an assumption.  Don't assume anything.  People surprise us all the time.  I try to just be quiet but I have a big mouth and a bigger foot.

Comment by Harp on December 2, 2012 at 6:02am

I can't tell you how many times I'd wish that I had "cooked" an idea a bit more before releasing it from my mouth.  Frankly, if there were only one category of opportunities to "step in it" we probably could fix the problem more easily.  But there are as many categories and opportunities for mistakes as there are things to talk about.  (Is that redundant?)  

In the early years we are concerned about revealing how much we don't know.   In the middle years, we are concerned about what people think about us.   Later we are concerned about hurting other people's feelings.  As we get old we don't care so much about any of it anymore and say whatever we damn well please.   That's where my father is today.   (Sigh)

Nice job, by the way. 

Comment by Phyllis on December 2, 2012 at 6:53am

I've had a lot of people assume that I'm gay because I don't have men hanging around and I'm not a girly girl. I've also had men assume that I'm married. There's just not a cookie cutter anymore.

Comment by Christine Geery on December 2, 2012 at 10:22am

John, you are so right and so welcome.

Romantic, I don't think we will ever stop

Zanelle, I wish my mouth weren't so big.

Kim, that's the trick. Stop guessing

JM, she was right about a few things

Veronica, thank you

Harp, I'm pretty much like your Dad, but I do try to use some filters

Phyllis, you are so right.

Comment by Myriad on December 2, 2012 at 10:37am

Haha.

Reminds me of a post I was going to write, regarding a young man who's worked for me for several summers and whose orientation I never gave a thought to.  Until...well, I'll save the story for my post.  I don't think I stuck my foot in my mouth in this instance, tho I have, of course, many times about many things.  My favorite was years ago being talked at by an earnest immigrant Jewish couple bursting with pride about their son marrying a doctor (a bit of a twist on the cliche), this DIL studying some specialty which, due to the parents' accent, I didn't quite catch.  So I leaned forward and said, "A which doctor?" (Say it aloud.)

Comment by Christine Geery on December 2, 2012 at 1:23pm

Very funny, Myriad, indeed!

Comment by Alysa Salzberg on December 8, 2012 at 5:01pm

I think sometimes we just feel at ease around people and let our guards down and don't filter.  So maybe this all just shows that you're comfortable around people...but yes, awkward moments will ensue. 

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