OPINION: Homemade pesto and supermarket baguette, my friends and family and life-sized photos of my boyfriend: all together, all crammed in to my best friend's living room.
A surprise party for me, broke and bereft, recently returned from two years in France without the one I thought I'd marry. There were toasts. There was the presentation of a blown-up cheque. I was overcome.
Unfortunately, I was not lost for words. Speech, they called. Never one to shy away from an opportunity to show off, I did it in French. Translation, they called. And then ... and then I did something, which, to this day, the mere memory of, makes me shudder in shame. There they sat before me, eyes shining with goodwill and affection, and there stood I, heart filled with love, foot firmly in mouth. I just wanted to say, I said, that while I'm ever so grateful to you for everything, I think you're all a bunch of losers. If I had anticipated laughter, I was greeted by silence. Their anger, I would have borne. Their hurt bewilderment was insufferable.
Gaffes made in public are always regrettable. Sometimes not until after the fact, when, head clanging (because, as a rule, we say and do the stupidest things when drunk), the full extent of our idiocy comes back to us. Often, though, realisation does not so much dawn, as instantly sock us in the face.
I know I will eternally regret thinking with my mouth and not my mind on that day, 14 years ago this August. I know that my friend, who laughed nervously and out loud in a packed cinema during the rape scene of that defining late 80s' film The Accused, wishes wholeheartedly, she hadn't. And I know my colleague, who once, when interviewing the coach of the Silver Ferns, innocently, yet mortifingly, addressed her as Mum, sorely rues it.
But I also know, and have come to increasingly appreciate with age, that life would be poorer were it not for those who regularly, if harmlessly, screw up. Though we may cringe, give praise that it is not us, we are also entertained. There but for the grace ...
Many of my own blunders have involved lamentable fashion choices. A transparent, apple green organza shirt worn with skin-tight, grass green satin hotpants. I wish I'd at least had the confidence to stand up straight, rather than attempting to hide behind my shoulder bag. When everyone else was going to town on the sister princesses, Bea and Eugenie, at the wedding of Will-Kat, for their poor taste, I thought more power to them. Fashion pundits berated them for "getting it wrong", and extolled Pippa Middleton for displaying her posterior to perfect advantage in simple cream, but it was those mad hats I will remember.
Of course they learnt at their mother's expert knee, and Sarah Ferguson's ability to screw up has been honed, from years of practice, to a fine art. Six months after she separated from the Duke of York, a balding, American bean counter was papped sucking her toes in the South of France, while she sunbathed topless. Two years ago she was secretly filmed by News of the World offering an undercover reporter disguised as an Indian businessman, "access" to Prince Andrew in exchange for 500,000. Sadly she did not receive an invitation to last year's "wedding of the year".
Still her ex-father-in-law, who reportedly favoured Fergie over Diana, did, and he is no stranger to the faux pas. While his blunders often err on the side of just wrong (racist, sexist etc), they always prove a welcome distraction from one's own misery. While on walkabout in Bromley in Kent with Queen Elizabeth on Tuesday, the nonagenarian, looking every inch the dirty old man in a fawn mac, spotted a young woman in a bright red, zippered dress and commented to the policeman standing next to her that, "I would get arrested if I unzipped that dress!"
In common with the Queen, I have discovered that when you screw up it's bad, but when your partner or someone attached to you does, it's even worse. A therapist will counsel that you are not responsible for the actions of another. That though you may share a bed and a bank account, they are not an extension of you.
At a recent function, my husband said something so entirely outrageous, so utterly inappropriate, that I prayed for the very floor to swallow me, or better still him, up.
What could I do? I forgave him. They were not my words, but he is my husband.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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