Recently I had an emotional meltdown when I bemoaned to a friend about my lack of progress in my life. She informed me that I had indeed improved; when we first met she couldn’t stand me. I was, in a word, insufferable. Now I’m nice to be around most of the time. I’m not sure that makes me feel better but I see her point. However I’m still oblivious to this tactlessness when someone stalks off in offense (at least they were taught to be discreet). What have I done wrong I wonder as I re-examine the encounter in minute detail. Mortified, I retreat in panic causing more misunderstanding.
I’ve also realized this tactlessness runs in my family. I love my siblings -truly- but they are just as guilty as I am of uttering blunt, insensitive and unvarnished opinions. (In an attempt at diplomacy I will not mention them by name to protect them from embarrassment and me from a slander law suit.) For example, older sister will call me on the phone and launch into conversation without preamble.
“Who is this?” I retort irritably.
“It’s me, don’t you have caller ID?”
“No I figured the caller would introduce themselves when I answered the phone. You know, an introductory hello, how are you?” I suggest to her.
Nice talking to you too.
We do know how to behave in public and God knows mother tried to teach her children manners, but she often regarded our tasteless lapses with an exasperated sigh. Poor mom. Admittedly these lapses are mostly in private, to the rest of the world we are a witty, clever and entertaining bunch.
After enduring years of self absorbed monologues, volcanic tantrums, and a certain sibling’s gift for saying exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time, I realize I am not the only one devoid of social skills. Not to mention the embarrassing scenes of high drama involving drunkenness, promiscuity and paranoia. No wonder I felt like my family never understood or liked me- and the feeling was mutual.
The siblings and I do have many finer traits and I’m flattered to have been called “the smartest person” by friends and family. I go out of my way to genuinely complement others. That’s a hopeful sign. I’m still working on my flaws. Instead of spending weeks or months stewing over some imagined slight, my black moods last about an hour. I am learning to keep my bitchy tirades to myself rather than bore and annoy friends. Most of all I am learning to be kind and forgiving of past experiences of family members including the one I see in the mirror.