Monday, November 22, 2010

"Base slave, thy words are blunt, and so art thou."

Once again I have injured a friend with the file-edge of my tongue.

I know I'm not a particularly kindly or gentle person. Much of my amiability is pure sloth; I seldom despise anyone violently enough to work up the energy to harry and insult them. I don't admire this in myself, and when I remember I try and force myself to assemble enough humanity to pass for sympathetic, but it has a way of seeping out when I don't watch for it. My sensibility - in the Austinite meaning of the term - is very poorly developed. So I can be quite the rude jerk when I'm not paying attention.

And it doesn't help that I spent a great deal of my early middle adulthood in company of soldiers, where physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and sartorial abuse is considered by many a combined art form, entertainment, and source of profound hilarity. We're talking the sort of give-and-take that placed little if anything off limits, from the morality, intelligence, honor, and personal hygiene of the principals to the chastity of their mothers, wives, and girlfriends...if it could be questioned, it was.

I also have very little personal reticence. I don't consider my own habits, hygiene, manners, mores, or ideas particularly sacred, or even particularly delicate. I will discuss the most appalling things without hesitation. I consider the observation "That's about the stupidest fucking thing I've ever heard" a valid criticism if the statement in question has a chance of being in fact the stupidest fucking thing the listener has ever heard, and expect to be informed as such if I'm ever stupid enough to say something of the sort.

This is neither an admirable nor a civil trait.

I try and do my best to dress nicely and use a fork, to measure my words and speak judiciously, but the Yahoo in all of this comes out at the most inopportune moments and, often, leaves wounded feelings behind.

Some time ago, for example, I said something to a woman I will call Millicent. She and her husband adopted a little Chinese girl not much older than Missy and returned from China about the same time we did. They are of a similar background, taste, and general inclination as Mojo. Millicent even blogged for a bit, and their little family would turn up here from time to time, when we would socialize with them. They're good people, and I like and respect them.

But I had a knack, a positive gift for offending her. I said some things that fell under the heading of "affectionate abuse" for me but were genuine insults to her at one time and had apologized for them. But at some point last year I said something that she considered unforgivable - mortally insulting - and has since broken off all contact with my entire family because of what I said.

So my little girl misses out on another little girl who might be a wonderful playmate and friend, and my wife loses touch with a woman who was a friend of her own, and all because of something I did or said.

And the truly shaming thing is...I have absolutely no fucking idea what it was I said.

It is a bad thing when I say something so vilely insulting to someone that they irrupt any contact with my entire family rather than risk encountering me, even at a remove.

But it is an even worse thing when I don't even remember the incident or the insult or even that is WAS an insult.

Plainly, I need to work on my social skills.

And in the meantime I have, again, thoughtlessly hurt someone I like and whose company I enjoy. I cannot unsay those hard words; I wish I could. All I can do is beg pardon.

And try and sharpen the blunt edge of my wit against making the same mistakes again and again.

God, I can be a fucking idiot when I try."Convey him hence and on our longboat's side
Strike off his head."

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