Art of Conversation (still learning)

According to the English writer, Dorothy Nevill, "the real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment."

My mouth leads me around a lot. It gets me into unexpected and interesting places that I like. But when it gets me into trouble, you can bet it is a whopper. 

One night recently I had a completely terrible night of technical problems when I was shooting an interview for a documentary we have going.  The documentary involves musicians and so we were at a bar and it was late. I'll spare you the details but you must know that I was absolutely spent. My frustration with the technical hurdles had left me reduced to a blob with a patch of hair on top. Finally, after we got the interview (which turned out fine, by the way), we packed up the gear and grabbed drinks.  It's midnight and I was operating on fumes.  

A friend spots me and says hello.  She has a two-woman punk band. Their lyrics are strong and funny and they use parenting as one of their themes. For part of the chorus of one song, they yell, "Colic! Colic! Colic!" followed by imitations of a baby whailing. I liked their attitude, their beat and their show stayed with me. Plus, I like her. She's electric. She's a friend that I hardly ever see, but I'm a fan. I eagerly tell her how great their band is. 

We sit down in the beer garden and her pal in the band walks up.  She is a small-framed and slender woman wearing a stiff cotton baby-doll dress. I recognize her face as someone that I recall but I don't place her yet. I just know that I think that I like her and I want to know her. I turn to my friend, "Don't I know her?" She introduces us. 

When I hear that she's the bad-ass little drummer of their band, I light up. She sits down across from me and her dress billows with a crease under her breasts and another at her lap. I remember the last time I saw this petite woman, she was rocking out behind a drum set. Now she's standing in front of me and the way her dress bulges so far out I make a huge awful assumption. (Oh, yes, you see this train wreck coming. Say, "Oh, no, you didn't." But, "Yes. I did.") 

I have never made this particular mistake in my life and spoken it aloud. And without any processing or hesitation, my little groupie p.o.v. now pictures her rocking out pregnant. And I love it. How bad-ass is that? With total admiration I say, "I didn't realize you were pregnant." Even after I say it, I see no risks in what I am saying. I am beaming. She asks, "What?" And still, no clue hits me and I say it again. Finally she replies, "I am not." 

I recoiled physically as I apologized.  I absolutely did not want to offend this woman. Hell, I was trying to make a new friend.I replay the scenario over and over in my head and wish so deeply that I could have a do-over. A time out. Anything. The perverse trick to the lesson is that I wasn't thinking anything bad or commenting on her body. In fact, she's petite. She looked great. I liked that she was a drummer. I was fantasizing about being a rocker. That was all. The dress tricked me, damn it.

I clearly hurt this woman's feelings. My friend immediately explained to her that it is her dress. Of course, the damage was done. Even if such a mistake could be forgivable, it is unforgettable. She went to a different part of the bar. My friend then explained to me that the drummer had just lost 40 pounds. She went to talk with her. I went home.

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