“Oh, no!” Mortified is the only word I can think of to describe the look on my sister-in-law’s face. We were standing at a hotel lobby check-in counter with five sandy, sweaty kids in wet swim suits when Rayanna noticed I had forgotten to make the necessary cover-ups after nursing baby Jill had fallen asleep. No wonder the desk clerk kept looking at the ceiling. A faux pas at it’s finest.
Faux pas is a fancy sounding French word meaning violation of acceptable social norms. The definition evens sounds uppity. It just feels better to say than mess up. I know social norms change, but how could my major faux pas twenty years later be Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction? Surely she was embarrassed.
I’ve laughed until I can’t breathe listening to others recount embarrassing moments. Maybe it makes me feel better to know I’m not alone with my faux pas. I’ve stopped more than one woman leaving a public restroom with a six foot strip of toilet paper trailing on a shoe or from underneath her skirt. I’ve signaled to people I really don’t know at dinner parties that broccoli is stuck between front teeth or dressing has dripped on a tie or a chin. I hope others would do the same for me.
Falls, spills, and miscalculations aside, I think what can be the most embarrassing is the things we say. Sometimes people don’t know they should be embarrassed for saying what they do and it makes the situation even funnier.
When I was eight months pregnant, three year old Travis asked a friend of ours if he was going to have a baby too. I guess it was better than, “Your belly is so big you look like you’re eight months pregnant.” Kids are forgiven so easily because they don’t have much of an editing filter yet. They can get away with saying what the rest of us are thinking.
A verbal faux pas may be funny, but so many times it’s hurtful. I never want my slip-ups to step on others’ feelings. My constant challenge is to not let my mouth run faster than my brain. I should be the only one embarrassed by my faux pas.
“Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep a watch over the door of my lips.”