On interpersonal communications

I woke in a panic at 3 a.m., and not just because the congested toddler next to me gets violent when he’s fighting a cold.

No, really. V.i.o.l.e.n.t. Kicking, hair pulling, pinching. In his sleep. Good times.

My 3 a.m. cold sweat arose because I realized in my semi-conscious state that I had misheard someone twelve hours earlier. She had said, it was now perfectly clear in the dark of night, “Did you have a fun Thanksgiving?”

But I heard, “Did you have fun playing?” So I had turned to my son who had just finished playing kick ball and asked him if he had. He mumbled something and I smiled at her. And considered the conversation over.

But that was all wrong, I suddenly saw in my darkened and mostly quiet bedroom. Socially horrific. I was supposed to beam and say, “Yes! Thanksgiving was great! How about you?”

I botched the answer. Not just because Thanksgiving was seriously top-notch great and I should have asserted that clearly but without bragging. No, I should have answered the actual question asked because those are the rules. You don’t defer to your kid on adult questions. And you definitely don’t leave someone without a reciprocal, “And how was your Thanksgiving?”

I screwed up an adult exchange. I hate that. I still have PTSD about failing in my conversational duties once in 1994. And another time in ’08.

So I did what any other rational adult would do…I weighed pros and cons on how to handle the gaffe. From 3 a.m. until 4 a.m I debated my options for righting this egregious wrong.

What would I do? Pretend it never happened? Confess the next day that I misheard? How? By saying, “I was replaying my day in my head searching for excuses to beat myself up for gross incompetence, and came upon our conversation…”

Of course not. If I addressed it at all I would be casual and adorable.

Ha ha. Got you. Of course I went with the creepiest, most apologetic and unbalanced approach. I hurried over to her on the playground as soon as I saw her and confessed my deepest darkest socially incompetent moment. Of the day. Including the 3 a.m. part. Because nobody who has ever met me has accused me of being anything but the poster child for neurotic.

All I want for Christmas is grace. The kind where I can let mishearing an acquaintance go, and get some sleep once I elbow the hair-pulling kung fu master next to me. That kind of grace. Wait, is that grace? Or am I thinking of peace? Or kickboxing-yoga fusion?

Anyway, this woman, to whom I’ve spoken three times in my life, got the whole story this morning. “I woke up in a sweat at 3 a.m. because I misheard you. I’m terrible at interpersonal communications. I couldn’t sleep after that. I’m a dork. Help me.” (Paraphrasing. Because there were a lot of melodramatic “Oh My Gawd”s in there, too. And perhaps an invitation for her to join me at a therapist’s office. of her choice. Because I’m not domineering.)

But at least I got in my, “So what I would have said if I weren’t a spazz, is ‘Our Thanksgiving was wonderful; how was yours?'”

I’m not exactly sure how she answered because I was so proud of myself for getting an “A” in grownup interpersonal communications. But I’m sure she had an answer. And probably felt all special because I noted and remedied my craptacular end of the conversation.

And that’s what communications are about, right? Making other people feel special and totally not 3 a.m.-panicky?

So why didn’t she do the same for me yesterday? Boy, she has some nerve…

Advertisements