If you listen to Benjamin Franklin, and who doesn’t?, the world offers two absolutes: death and taxes. Well, in my world, a third certainty exists. And that certainty is: if there’s an inappropriate gesture to be made, I’ll be the one to make it.
You can count on me to say or do the wrong thing in every social situation, then glow in abject embarrassment. Not in a healthy, apple-cheeked way, either, but a sweaty, furtive way — more Nixon, less Heidi, Girl of the Alps. I’ve personally taken oafishness to impressive new heights.
See? Even this post is awkward and self-conscious. Blundering just comes naturally.
So while I’m not in a Twelve Step program, per se, I am familiar with Steps Eight and Nine, the ones about listing the people we’ve harmed and making amends. I do that. A lot. I keep a running tally in my head of people awaiting apology and check their name off (however briefly) when I think I’ve groveled sufficiently.
Experience has taught me to keep my apologies simple, but entertaining and sincere. Since it’s exhausting to come up with new ways to atone for the same nonsense time after time after flipping time, I finally decided to switch tactics. These days, I operate on a preemptive basis; I don’t wait until the damage is done. I get out in front of it by building up a solid bank of goodwill. Then when I make the inevitable misstep, I have a nice little cushion to fall back on.
It’s a pretty effective strategy, frankly. I recommend it, even if you’re not predisposed to rash, ill-advised behavior. In our overwrought world everybody is itching for a fight, they’ll accept any excuse to argue. Don’t set them off. Choose your words with care; be direct and concise, allow no room for misinterpretation. Another alternative is to speak in empty clichés laced with flattery. Whichever you choose, a preemptive life has the whirly seal of approval.
Hey, you know, you look fabulous! Have you lost weight?
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