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Thursday, December 27, 2007


I'm Not Real Bright

For Christmas this year, I decided to give myself the gift that keeps on giving: embarrassing social faux pas that I could then obsess over to my little heart's delight.

Faux pas numéro un: My wife and I spent a very pleasant day at my parents' house, in the company of my folks and my lil' nephew, who was celebrating his very first Christmas. He's a whole lotta fun, this kid, especially since I get to enjoy all the smiles and the crawling and the tossing him in the air without actually having to clean up any feces.

Later in the day, my sister's fella ('cause "boyfriend" sounds a little too informal and "significant other" has always seemed a bit Kryptonian for my tastes) came over with his kids. I should take a second here to state that only one of these kids lives with my sister and her man-companion. That would be a delightful three-year-old who is such a doll-baby that I've done away with any worrying about the technicalities of blood-relations and just call her my niece.

But my sister and her gentleman friend didn't just have my niece and nephew with them, they also had his two teenagers. They are such nice kids. His son, whom I'd met on several occasions over the summer, is in his sullen, brooding teenage phase, but he's still nice. (I just have to laugh my ass off at the sullen, brooding phase. It's so damned funny.) His daughter, whom I'd never met, is very sweet and was a de facto au pair, keeping her little sister out of trouble keeping both youngsters out of the way when I'd gotten my drink on and started projectile vomiting. (It's nice to not have to worry about such things.)

Anyway, it was a very good time and I got to see first-hand how little difference there is between siblings from blended and non-blended families. It was like my own private Afterschool Special.

The faux pas came the next day, when my wife and I stopped by my sister's house to say goodbye on our way out of town. We only stayed a few minutes and, as we were leaving, we went through the departure rituals. My sister's life-partner's daughter came over and gave me a hug goodbye, wishing me a Merry Christmas. I started to say that it had been very nice to meet here, but, in the middle of the sentence, I began to worry that I'd already met her without remembering it. So I stopped myself and I said, "Didn't I just meet you last night?" To which she replied, "That's okay, family gets hugs."

I was unable to reverse the course of the conversation to clarify that I hadn't been made uncomfortable by the hugging, but rather had been trying to express my joy at having finally made her acquaintance. And so, now, I'm going to be known by this young person who is part of my family as The Weird Step-Uncle Who Has a Problem With Intimacy. That's great.

Faux paus numéro deux: After an eight-hour drive from Ohio back to New York, we began unloading our rented mini-van (we spent a few days pretending to be suburban soccer parents; it was fun!) when we bumped into our upstairs neighbor on the way inside. As I crossed the street, I thought, "Oh, hey! There's Michelle and her mom!" (The actual wording of the thought may have been different, but that was the gist of it.)

I wished them both a Merry Christmas. Michelle said, "Have you met my auntie?" Now, I'd been under the impression that I had met the woman standing by her on numerous occasions, and that this person was Michelle's mother. Being presented with the "Auntie" question threw me. I began to reevaluate the quality of my memory. I thought, "Wow. Michelle's auntie looks just like her mom. Maybe they're twins."

With all of this swirling around in my tiny, gnat-sized brain, I blurted out, "Hi. I'm Joe." To which Michelle replied, "No, this is my mom." She gestured down the street to a woman who had been retrieving something from a car and was now walking down the sidewalk toward us. "That's my auntie." At which point I bleated a greeting and fairly ran up the steps to our apartment, thinking, "Awesome. Now I'm the jack-ass who can't recognize someone he's met a dozen times. Great."

There's no real ending to this story. Both of these fuck-ups have continued to haunt me over the last few days. They will, I'm sure, pop up periodically for the next thirty years or so, as all my most embarrassing moments do.

One positive note from all of this: I've finally made my peace with the word "Auntie," a term I used to think was so precious it only made sense in the context of an Anne Geddes photo retrospective. I'm now cool with it. That is all.

It could have been worse. I was thinking the "Didn't I meet you last night" might've come off as sexual innuendo. So consider yourself blessed you didn't make a pass at a teenager and accidentally cop a cheap feel.

No offense, of course, to your family n' all.
Well, I accidentally said "fuck" in front of my new nephews and niece. Oh well. I gave good presents.
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