Do you see that girl hiding behind the absurdly large flower arrangement at that cocktail party? Or the one hugging her diluted fruit cordial and painfully smiling at people at the wedding while subtly attempting to blend in with the decorations?
Well, that would be me. (Smile and wave, next time)
There’s a very good reason that I regard social gatherings with trepidation. You see, the foot-in-mouth syndrome is a little known disorder which affects many people. Tom Cruise, Sharon Stone, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Sarah Palin are a few of the better known figures known to leave a trail of disaster and flabbergasted expressions in their wake with their cringe-inducing gaffes, as a result of this disorder.
Irregular bouts of this syndrome have left me wary of public gatherings. There’s a fine line between a conversation and a train wreck. And with my propensity to blurt inappropriate remarks combined with a warped sense of humour and an overall aura of obliviousness, I spectacularly flout this fine line.
A recent conversation for instance went along these lines.
Me: Thank you very much. So I’ll see you on Thursday?
Y: Yes. I’ll introduce you to Mrs. D as well.
Me: Great. Will it be possible to speak to Mrs. C as well?
Y: (pauses) Mrs. C is not among the living, I’m afraid. She died 10 years ago
Me: (cringing inwardly) I’m terribly sorry. So, um.. (High pitched voice) Thursday, yes? Brilliant.
In true Sri Lankan style, I have fallen into the habit of happily christening everyone I meet as ‘Aunty’ and ‘Uncle’. Recently, I kept referring to a new acquaintance as ‘Uncle’ (to the amusement of everyone around) only to be told in an audible stage whisper that he was younger to me.
|Sarah Palin: politicalcartoonists.blogspot.com
||Bill Clinton: Caricatureclub.co.uk
The bottom line is that social awkwardness and foot-in-mouth moments inevitably happen to most of us. So for the sake of decorum and the evasion of public mortification a few carefully assembled (by carefully assembled, I mean tried and tested, with the scars to boot) pointers are given below.
1. No, sorry. Fiddling with your phone at functions and pretending to send text messages to your imaginary friends is not an option.
2. If you’re in unfamiliar territory and unsure of where you stand, stick to small talk. Avoid personal questions and hackneyed remarks about the weather. Topics like common interests, relatable experiences, food, drink and current affairs might be suitable. A verbose story about your cat and his amorous escapades with the neighbourhood felines however, might not.
3. If you’re not sure of a person’s name, play it safe. Stick to non-specific questions and generic conversation. Or if not, you can apologize profusely, explain that you’re extremely bad with names, sheepishly ask for their name and make sure you remember it later. (Note: It is ill advised to do this to your boss or a close relative)
4. There is networking. And then there’s what can be charitably described as a catastrophe. While meeting new people and widening your circle is important, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t deemed compulsory to immediately establish a connection with every new person you meet. For example, announcing that you know a person’s former fiancé as soon as you’ve met them, will only result in tears or (if they’re intoxicated enough) a well aimed punch or two.
5. Be yourself. Unnecessary gushing, excessive flattering and too many air-kisses look artificial.
7. Also, relax.
8. Everyone makes the occasional gaffe, so even if you do slip up, don’t dwell on it, banish yourself to the hotel bathroom and contemplate moving town. Confidence is an attractive quality in anyone - laugh it off and move on.