I chose her because she was alone. Because I was alone. And I didn't want to be a party crasher amid all the other groups I saw settling in for an author visit at the library. I was a groupie looking for a little of the kinship that seemed like it should go with the role.
It was going to be too long (and thus too awkward) of a wait if I sat there for twenty minutes without saying anything.
So being such a rookie at small talk, I start with something obvious like, "Wow, there's a lot of really cool art hung up around the room."
There was an exhibit of paintings with horses in them. Many of the paintings were quite large. (That's why the comment was so obvious; we were surrounded by a lot of beautiful art.)
I plunge on, "Take that one over there. It kind of reminds me of Mondrian." Why do I say this? I don't think I'm some kind of art aficionado. I really don't. It sort of just spills out.
"That's how I intended it."
As it turns out, I have sat myself next to The Artist. The one whose work is transforming this meeting space into a gallery. I look around and realize too late that all the pieces feature her horse in reinventions of masterpieces. Now my remark feels painfully obvious. Like I was trying to show off, when really, I was just trying to be friendly.
The conversation went ok, though. The Artist's larger passion was running a horse therapy clinic (for people). It was interesting to hear about her life. And she didn't seem offended at my less-than-sparkling comment about her beautiful art.
Got me thinking, though. I can be tactless. I have a list of regrettable things that I shoulda/coulda/woulda wish I didn't say. Things that sort of just spilled out.
The conversation SO could have gone another way. It could have gone so badly that I would be too mortified to even share it here. I could have said something tactless and insensitive. I could have, because sometimes, I do:
Recently, my sister gave my mom a gift. Nice, right? My comment? "Oh, someone gave me that once, and I didn't really like it. I wish I knew you were going to get this for Mom, I would have let you regift mine."
Niiice. Really classy. Can't say we all had warm fuzzies after that one.
I only include that little scenario so you know that when I say tactless I'm not being falsely humble and self-deprecating. It's truth that has embarrassing evidence to confirm it.
Whether I narrowly avoid embarrassing myself, or say the wrong thing all wrong, I still take comfort in an old friend's little adage: "Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet." Granted, this "old friend" is a character from a book. But still. I met her a long time ago. And spent a great deal of time with her. And she was a good-hearted soul who often said the wrong thing, too.
At least I'm not the only one.