I was talking with a friend the other day, one who recently had gastric bypass surgery and is doing really well, and he mentioned that he and his wife are making a serious effort to go walking every day.
They had been going to the gym but it closed again, so walking is their solution.
I’m really proud of my friends and the effort they’re making, and I wanted to convey not just my support and love, but enthusiasm! Yes! What they’re doing is tremendous and fun! Hooray! What I said was: “Dude! I have SUCH a testimony of walking!”
Now, I’m not going to fall down the rabbit hole too deeply on this, because these are strange times and also the holidays are coming up.
We’re regularly encouraged to be kind to others and ourselves, to be supportive, to reach out and, if I’m interpreting the advice correctly, say something impulsive and weird.
So, yeah: Dude! I have SUCH a testimony of walking!
The “Dude!” gives it emphasis, see, like a Gen X version of the upside-down exclamation mark at the beginning of a Spanish sentence, letting you know to hold on to your trousers, something major is coming.
And then “I have SUCH a testimony of walking!” lets you know that hey, I’m not just some dilettante out here erratically moseying in aimless circles, no siree. I am SERIOUS about it. I am MARCHING TO THE SEA, by golly. If you’re not careful, I might spring at you and PROSELYTIZE ABOUT WALKING.
The problem is, I don’t know how to NOT blurt bizarre things in the heat of the moment. And because I’ve had bizarre-but-supportive things blurted at me, I know it’s probably just the human condition and we’re all haplessly flailing away, trying to say the right thing.
But oh, the internal drama that follows! The out-of-body moment of incredulity, of “AAAIIIEEEEEE!! Did I just say that??” and desperately hoping The Pause doesn’t follow. You know the one: a millisecond beat that is the conversational equivalent of a garlic burp, an interrupting of the flow that generally motivates me to keep talking. Surely I can save this! I can explain! I can bury it in a flurry of look-at-the-birdie verbal distraction!
That’s why, following my testimony of walking, I added, “I mean, shoes and a surface, am I right? It’s all you need!”
LAVA HAS A SURFACE, YOU DING-DONG! SO DOES WATER!!
Keeping in mind that this was all happening on FaceTime, because my friend (of 24 years, fortunately) is in Little Rock, he did the kindest thing he could: He played along. “Nothing is simpler,” he agreed. “We’re really enjoying it.”
And this is why you can say the weirdest thing in the world to me and I will try my level best to go with it, even if it’s just to say, “I mean…” Recently, a person — a stranger! — in line before me at the grocery store commented, apropos of nothing but with eye contact, “Pizza just isn’t as good as it used to be.”
But I shook my head ruefully and said, “I mean…” For good measure I added, “It’s become so corporate.”
Pizza. Has. Become. Corporate. Sit with that for a sec. I sure did. And then I scuttled out the door that was farthest from my car because I didn’t have the mental energy to comment further on the spaghetti you used to be able to get at Pizza Hut when it was a sit-down restaurant.
And later THAT SAME DAY I found myself chirpily opining, “You can probably get chicken hearts at the butcher! Or would gizzards work?” This was in response to a proposal of making supplementary gravy for the cats because it’s their favorite part of the wet food.
I’ll tell you what I’m not doing, and that’s putting chicken hearts (or gizzards) in the blender with whatever else the recipe calls for and making cat gravy. But I wanted to be supportive and do my very best to ensure that nobody in the world feels weird ever, so: You can probably get chicken hearts at the butcher!
I guess what it comes down to is that “think before you speak” is tremendous advice, but doesn’t always jibe with our impulses to keep the conversation going, to be nice, to be supportive, to do something besides nod or cluck.
I’d be all for not blurting out bizarre things and then suffering the self-recrimination that follows, hoping someone will kindly throw me a conversational life raft, but then… what can I do? Pizza has become so corporate.
Rachel Sauer is at email@example.com and would love to know that she’s not the only one blurting out weird stuff.