Open Mouth and Insert Foot

Before I dedicated my mornings to writing, I woke to Live! with Regis and Kelly. Legendary showman Regis Philbin routinely bantered with his energetic, down-to-earth co-host, Kelly Ripa. The pair spent weekday mornings sharing the details of their ordinary moments and extraordinary lifestyles. They rehashed what they did the night before, described where they ate and which Broadway show they had seen, and revealed how they handled common family concerns. Additionally, they offered sports commentaries and kept viewers abreast of the latest breaking news. In as much as Seinfeld was plugged as “a show about nothing,” I considered Live! with Regis and Kelly to be a show about anything. I was impressed with the hosts’ ability to simply talk to one another while multitudes of people tuned-in to hear their dialogue. For years I was entertained as I watched the pair interview guests and converse with ease over just about any topic that came to mind. They had a talent that I admired and a skill that I never mastered.

Speaking in front of even a small audience of friends has repeatedly proven to be against my better judgment. I’ve learned through wobbly knees, rapid heartbeats, trembling hands and a quavering voice that I’m among those suffering from a fear of public speaking. Luxuriously, I dodge the podium as much as possible. Unfortunately, there are some casual, unavoidable social settings, which make me uncomfortable too. I’m afraid that I may say something that doesn’t make sense or that could be taken in a way I don’t intend.

My worst fears were realized during a recent visit to my husband’s workplace. Of all people, he knows that my thoughts may evolve into untrustworthy utterances. He’s witnessed them, unscreened and with just enough whimsy to embarrass me, leaping from my mouth. Yet despite his understanding of my quirky nature, he bravely took me around to say hello to some of his co-workers.

First, I asked one woman if she had been to lunch yet. Under normal circumstances, that would have been an innocent question. My husband and I were, after all, on our own way out to eat. It was the topic on my mind. But before I could take the question back, I remembered that my husband had rescheduled a business lunch meeting, with this woman and another co-worker, so that he could take me out that day instead. Ugh! I received an awkward stare and flat response from the woman that, no, she hadn’t been to lunch. At which point, I probably should have invited her to go with us, but I wasn’t picking up on any warm and loving vibrations. Redirect: “So, are you ready for the holidays…?”

Moving on, slowly behind my husband, I resisted the urge to drop to all fours, tuck my tail between my legs, and bolt for home. Instead, I followed his direction and was led to meet and greet more people. I gained a little confidence when someone I knew joined us on our quest to minimally disrupt the diligent as we paraded throughout the building. I should have anticipated, however, that the sense of safety provided by larger numbers couldn’t protect against self-inflicted torture.

We found friendly and familiar Andy sitting inside his office. He’d worked with my husband for years, but I hadn’t had many opportunities to interact with him. Spying family photos on a ledge, I walked towards them to have a better look at Andy’s young children. An adorable girl about the age of five was clearly his daughter. She looked so much like him. My brain processed what I knew of Andy and came to rest on the fact that he had both birth and adopted children. Before I could form a more constructive statement, I heard myself blurt, “Oh, she’s so cute! Is she your daughter?”

I swear there was no inflection on “your,” and I think I could have recovered from that question. But my husband, being no help whatsoever, was already laughing and interjected, “Does she look like the postman? Or did that picture come with the frame?” Ugh! I rambled on and hoped no one could hear me through all the noise being made. “I mean, is she from your own loins…?” Awkward joined now by archaic. Darn those Bible studies!

Can’t we go to lunch yet? I wondered. More frantically, I inwardly pleaded, Beam me up Scotty! A moment later, I was ahead of my husband and fleeing to the safety of the elevator. We were getting closer and closer to the exit. I was nearly free from faux pas. Then I heard him quite seriously ask, “So, do you want to go say hi to my boss before we leave?”

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