A friend recently posted on her Tumblr a description of an incident where a friend of hers says something unfortunate in front of another good friend of hers who is gay. She posted she was going to cut him some slack because he had been drinking and isn’t homophobic, he just let something slip that would have gone unnoticed at a sports bar with his buddies. Timing is everything.
After reading that I immediately thought of the two times I did the same thing. At least the two times that I remember. I am sure there are other times I have said something awkward or insensitive that I didn’t even notice. I may have done it today. I am not counting the times I intentionally said something inappropriate.
The first incident that came to mind happened while I was stationed on Okinawa while in the Marines. This was in the first couple of months of my tour there while during the first year of my four year stint. I remember sitting in a room with a mixed group of Marines watching wrestling. One of the wrestlers was black and he was at the point of the match where he had been getting beat up and he was now getting his second wind and going through the standard wrestling comeback. My observation announced to the room was, “He’s big, he’s black and he’s pissed.” No one laughed or even looked at me. After about two seconds I realized why and I could have died. I remember not rushing out of the room. I think the tensioned eased after a while and I made a dignified exit as soon as I could.
The other happened a few years ago with a library employee and friend who is Jewish. I was describing him this character that comes into my library a lot. The library user is a short adult autistic who even without the autism and the black rimmed glasses would at best be described as nerdy. I was searching for a word to describe this guy and the word I was looking for was nebbish. I just couldn’t find the word in my head so how did I describe this guy to Jewish friend? I said, “He’s a short kinda Jewish lookin’ guy.” How dumb am I? Really? Jewish lookin’ guy? Am I Mel Gibson? My friend, to his credit, let it slide.
At least I haven’t had an incident similar to what happened to Randy in that Southpark episode.