A quick story about how an off-the-cuff comment can haunt you for the rest of your life, and then a question for you:
So, it was a Sunday morning.
In our house, Sunday mornings are spent hunkered down at the kitchen table, my husband sifting through the inserts while I work the crossword puzzle. The kids eat their breakfast early and then are quickly shooed away; the husband and I like to talk — completely unedited and without disruption. You know, like two….adults.
Second cups of coffee turn into third and fourth cups of coffee, and minutes turn to hours as morning threatens to become afternoon. But who’s watching the clock?
We instead watch cars and neighbors navigating their own Sunday routines, the large picture window framing out a sort of reality TV. We comment on the ordinary and analyze the mundane, but that’s part of the fun.
It’s Sunday, after all.
Sunday mornings are just….easy. Easy and nice.
So, on this one particular Sunday morning, the husband and I were doing our usual — he, comparing lawnmower prices from two different ads, I, gnawing on a Bic pen as I contemplated a five-letter word for “spectacle.” I’m pretty sure we were on our third cup of coffee. The kids were long gone.
Safe to say, I was blissfully absorbed in “Sunday.”
Which is probably why I had my guard down, so to speak, though I still contend that there should be no need for such “guard” in your own home in front of your own husband — especially on a Sunday.
Anyway, I guess I had my guard down, because I made a comment that I am still hearing about, and likely will continue to hear about until one of us dies or at least becomes senile.
Thinking I had solved 1 Across, I inked S-C-E-N-E into the top left of the crossword grid.
Five-letter word for “spectacle” is “scene,” I reasoned.
But then, by my later estimation, “scene” didn’t work with some of the surrounding clues.
All caps in blue ink is a bitch to correct. My crossword was gonna look a mess, and I had just started.
I bit my lower lip as I lifted the magazine from the table, holding it square in front of my face. Maybe a different perspective and a better view would somehow make it “right.”
No….it was definitely wrong.
I drew in a deep breath as I set the puzzle back down on the table. Hunching over, I propped my elbow up and rested my head on the upturned palm of my hand. I grabbed my coffee cup, and as I drew the cup to my mouth — but before taking a sip — I said:
Houston…..we have a problem.
I don’t know why I said that, because I never say that. Like, ever.
But I said it, and I said it seriously. As in, long and drawn out and contemplative, and punctuated by a heavy sigh — an even more dramatic delivery than the astronaut’s, who, in a moment of distress, made that phrase famous. Only, I wasn’t an astronaut in distress. I was just a mom in her robe at the kitchen table, coming to terms with a few errant letters on a crossword puzzle.
“Houston, we have a problem?” repeated the husband, his eyes wide with mild shock and his grin slightly mocking.
I looked up to meet the husband’s eyes and immediately looked away.
“WHAT –?” I challenged.
I knew “what,” though. I sounded like a complete nerd.
“Houston…..we have a problem?” the husband repeated, now laughing. “Oh, babe…..really?”
“Shut up, [husband’s name],” I fired back, now feeling my cheeks flush. “I was just being silly.”
“Baby….no you weren’t. You were serious,” he teased. “It’s okay…..” the husband trailed off into more laughter.
With my legs outstretched and my feet snuggled into the husband’s lap, I felt even more vulnerable. Like a rabbit trapped in a snare, having to watch the hunter load his gun. I couldn’t figure a graceful way to recover my legs and feet, so I just sat there partly frozen.
This comment provided the fodder for a few more minutes of gentle heckling before the husband became once again engrossed in his inserts.
I went back to my crossword, deciding that morphing some letters into new letters was much better than scratching out all the letters. But the whole time I worked to solve the puzzle, my mind kept re-setting to that fateful comment, re-playing it with the exact inflections and cadence.
Houston…..we have a problem.
It was pretty awful, I admitted to myself.
I know I’ll hear about this again tomorrow, I thought.
And I did.
So, there’s my example of how an off-the-cuff comment can haunt you for the rest of you life. Now I ask you:
Have you ever said something seemingly benign that became the source of your social undoing? What have you ever said — off-the-cuff in casual conversation — that now makes you squirm to remember it?