Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Reruns: Help Not Wanted: Comment Editor

(original post-date: August 25, 2010)

Several months ago, I was having lunch with a gaggle of gals. The conversation turned to a magazine interview that had recently got some attention. A popular musician had made some comments about himself and others, and many of those comments were either prurient, potentially offensive, or both. I won’t mention the musician now because it’s old news and it’s not important to this essay. What I will mention, however, is one of my friends’ statements. Referring to the musician, she said, “He just doesn’t have an editing mechanism when he speaks.”

I did not contribute to the dialogue, but I listened intently. I also felt self-conscious. Why? Because I don’t have that mechanism either.

And you know what? Thank God I don’t! If I had that editor, I would not be able to write fictional dialogue. It would not flow from me. I’d undoubtedly stifle it.

Now, I’ll admit that this deficiency comes at a price. Sometimes, I say things that are utterly inappropriate. I could give you several examples, but I’d rather not embarrass myself. And trust me, the examples I’m thinking of are embarrassing. I recall them with a certain amount of shame. I should, though, also share that – in my adulthood, at least – I don’t think I’ve ever hurt anyone with my off-the-cuff remarks. A desire to hurt people is simply not part of my make-up, so if anything “bad” comes from my lack of editing, it’s generally just bad for me.

But despite those moments when I’m not altogether pleased by hearing what I’ve said at the same time that you hear it, there also have been numerous instances when my spontaneous, unedited remarks result in a hearty laugh. So, in my opinion, it’s a pretty cool deficiency to possess.

Admittedly, a hearty laugh is not always elicited without the participation of a foil. I am therefore grateful that I grew up with a few folks who enjoy this type of humor. There was an occasion when one of them (oh, what the hell, let’s call a Dad a Dad) seemed to not mind his foil status at all. Here’s the story:

I was in my mid-twenties, and I had traveled from Manhattan to Cape Mey, New Jersey, where my parents were gathering with a close circle of friends for their traditional Fourth of July weekend of bridge, tennis, partying, and fireworks. It was good to join the group, as these couples (nine, in all, I think) had been in my life since I was a kid. At one time, the original Bridge Group (a number divisible by four) all lived in the same small community in Virginia. And although their proximity to one another began to change in the late 60’s, when families moved by choice or due to the husband’s employment, the group remained close. (They are to this day.) The Fourth of July weekend was therefore always filled with love and laughter.

The particular weekend I am recalling, I enjoyed hanging with the group as a “fellow adult.” I felt comfortable and relaxed, knowing I’d grown out of that phase of my life when I was destined for the Kiddie Table. Sure, I wasn’t really their peer (let’s face it, they had been driving for probably 20 years when I was walkng to school as a first-grader), but with the collective easy-going attitude that always permeated this group, it was easy to sit back and join the circle.

And we were, in fact, in a circle when the moment occurred. It was a circle of chairs. In the backyard of one of the rental houses. It was the before-dinner hour(s), and everyone had their beverage of choice. To my right and left were many of the wives. I don’t recall where most of the husbands were, but I do know where my father was. Standing. In the middle of the circle. Holding court, as he loved to do. His audience, primarily female.

At one point, he reached for a handful of peanuts from a bowl on one of the small tables. In doing so, he bent his lower torso to such a degree that the inseam of his shorts split from bow to stern. He acknowledged the incident with a grin and a subtle shrug, proceeded to stand tall, and then he casually scarfed down his handful of peanuts.

Which is when one of the wives said, “Oh, Robbins, you show great aplomb.”

Which is when I blurted out, “That’s not a plum!”

Immediately, several women who had known me since I was “yea-high” doubled over laughing.

And Dad – his true reaction hidden behind those WWII Ray Bans – just smiled and kept eating peanuts…


Two quick notes unrelated to the Rerun:

(1) I've joined the Platform-Builders Campaign, which is all about writers supporting writers. You can join, too, but only through this Wednesday (8/31). To learn more, click on the blue/purple button over there on the left, below the Blog Archive list.

(2) I've finally set up an email subscription option. (What took me so long!?) It's also on the left, above the grid with all your lovely faces. Feel free to sign up for emails re my posts, or just keep dropping by for new posts on Wednesdays and reruns on Mondays.


Sarah Pearson said...

That's exactly the sort of thing I say without thinking. I love your dad's style :-)

julie fedderson said...

Ah, the dreaded lack of a filter. I suffer from that as well. I tell myself that at least people always know where they stand with me. That's good, right?

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Hi! Just visiting from the Campaign, from your Contemp/Mainstream group. :)

Marlena Cassidy said...

I do this all the time. Sometimes it works out nicely, and other times I get blank stares and that horribly awkward silence where you want to crawl under the floor and die.

Cheryl said...

I remember this from last year. Still got a chuckle. Your dad sounds like has a was a peach. Or plum.

Eat. Live. Laugh. and sometimes shop! said...

I also lack a filter {as my husband lovingly calls it}. I find it refreshing when people say what they think. ; )

Darling story. And your dad sounds like quite a character!!

Jessica Love said...

Ha! What a great story!

Len Lambert said...

I do need some 'editing' in my head, too, when I speak! LOL. I like this post. Thank you for visiting my blog, fellow campaigner! :)

Melissa Sarno said...

Love your story. A plum! I tend to like people who are a little outspoken (not sure if that's the right word) and say what's on their mind. As long as people have good intentions, which it sounds like you do, I'm all for it :-)

Donna K. Weaver said...

That's a hilarious story! I've had my moments, too.

Allie said...

Hello, Katie. I'm visiting from the campaign trail. What a lovely, endearing story. You told it so well! I look forward to reading more of your blog.

Theresa Milstein said...

Hi, campaigner!

If you were quiet while they talked about the musician, you must have an editing button! (Or at least a mute button.)

AliB said...

Hi Katie
Great story! My family also had a circle of friends who had scattered across the country (UK)but still got together once every few years. This piece reminds me of the relaxed atmosphere they always shared and how it rubbed off on the kids too.
Happy campaigning!

Anonymous said...


Hey there! I'm over from the Writers' Campaign, and was immediately taken in by this post. I think I remember reading this about John Mayer, too! Thankfully, as writers, we don't need to worry so much about not having that filter. We can't. Our dialogue would suffer for it. We can't be afraid of words, and while we should always tread carefully with them, they're something we can't fear. We lose our single most effective tool as a writer if we do!

Thank you so much for your kindness! It's been fantastic meeting you, and I look forward to reading more of your blog!

- Rance

Anonymous said...

I love this tale Katie - second time around for me but still a great reminder that we are all much the same and tend to make the same mistakes. I notice the lack of a filter in one of my daughters more than myself and it is always a joy to listen to her! Mind you, she probably gets that from me :-)

Susan Oloier said...

I envy those who have quick wit. My husband is one of them. I do, however, believe in having an internal editor, but only when it comes to offensive language--language that can hurt an ethnic group or a whole category of people. Otherwise, I say put the editor in your back pocket--or leave her at home :-)
Nice to meet you through the Platform-building Campaigners!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Katie,

Great to meet you in cyberspace through the Campaign.

You had me wryly laughing there with your post. Unless I'm with close friends, I find I always have to watch what I say. I don't have an editing process, either. I think that's part of being a writer. It was only reading 'Pride and Prejudice' again recently that I realised that Elizabeth is funny because she tells the truth that no on else will admit to. And I think that probably makes her as close to Jane Austen as you can get.

Working with an editor has made me realise that writers do need editors. They are the link between our unedited thoughts and the outside world. It takes two!

Linda Medrano said...

I love this! And I love your Dad for not taking himself too seriously. That is one of the most appealing qualities in anybody!

Please don't start filtering Katie. You are never unkind about anyone.

jonyangorg said...

Saying hello,we're in the same campaign group! And I agree, no need to filter I say!

Anonymous said...

I love stories like this! Thanks for sharing. =)

Anonymous said...

Hi Katie,
I'm a fellow campaigner and have been known to put my foot in my mouth more than a few times. Still when it's funny it's usually really funny and those times are the best. i enjoyed your post.

Anonymous said...

Hi Katie, I'm in your WF campaign group and wanted to stop by and say hello!

Nadja Notariani said...

Simply put - this post was a delightful read, Katie! We must share a few personality/reality quirks. I feel your techno-angst, and I've absolutely dug my foot out of my throat on more occasions than I'd care to remember! But those instances make for great stories later, don't they? I think the key is being able to laugh at ourselves. My family never missed an opportunity to make sport of one another (all in good fun). It builds character - and confidence (you realize that it's okay to have a laugh and move on). Looking forward to following your writing a great deal. Thanks for stopping by! Hope to see you again ~ Nadja

Jayne Martin said...

My friends have often explained me away to strangers in a low whisper, "She has Tourette's, you know."

I've mouthed off for as long as I can remember. No editor has ever darkened my doorstop and yes... sometimes just look like an asshole, but those who really love me continue to do so. Clearly, they have no taste. ;)

Anna said...

Hi Katie, thanks for stopping by. I'm getting a bit overwhelmed with the blog hopping as well. I look forward to part 3 of your essay.

Sandwiched Writer said...

Hi, Katie.

Stopping by along the campaign trail ... and, wow, we have several things in common: Artist - check. Writer - check. Service in non-profit sector- check. Someone who would also blurt out shocking, fruit-inspired comments - check.

Look forward to more such outbursts!

Gail Shepherd said...

And characters without filters are the most fun to write, too, aren't they?

TirzahLaughs said...

Your suppose to edit when you speak? Who knew? Hah.

I feel bad sometimes when my mouth gets ahead of the rest of me.

Fellow Campaigner

elizabethanne said...

I'm back from the Campaign. I've listed you as a recipient of the Versatile Blogger Award. It didn't seem to be appropriate to put that on your incredibly moving Sept. 11 commemoration post.

For details see this post on my blog: