I have suffered all my life from a painful case of Foot-In-Mouth Disease. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been speaking first and thinking later, creating an ongoing, lifelong catalogue of embarrassing incidents that leave me replaying conversations in my head for hours afterwards, wincing and wishing I had been born with a rewind button between my eyes.

Generally, I try to forget these incidents as soon as possible. If I didn’t, the cumulative weight of them would bear down on me like a two ton psychological bowling ball, and, unable to cope, I’d end up retiring to the deepest backwoods of Idaho, away from the society of men—an unregistered hermit with freakishly long hair and dubious personal hygiene, muttering to herself and picking lint from between her toes on Saturday nights. Occasionally, however, one of these foot-in-mouth moments sticks around to trouble me for rather longer than usual, whether because of the particularly heinous way the words came out or because of the unintentional hurt caused by them.

For instance, there’s the time I was holding court at my in-laws’ house with a gaggle of girls that included my warm, loving, gentle-spirited mother-in-law. It was in this genteel company that I declared with all the self-important authority of the new bride that I was going to decorate my kitchen in a modern style, since I had never liked the “country kitchen look, with all those roosters. I mean, what do roosters have to do with cooking, anyway?” My authority melted about two seconds later when I looked around and realized I was standing in just such a kitchen (and a very inviting one), surrounded by roosters of various sizes, all staring down at me with their beady eyes and sharpening their suddenly savage beaks. Nobody ever mentioned my little gaffe, but I spent the next ten minutes trying to dig myself out of the hole I had stepped in and the next ten days mentally kicking myself for my insensitivity.

Another time, I complained loudly that a dress made me look fat right in front of the relative who had graciously given it to me when it got too tight for her. (In hindsight, I wasn’t fat and neither was she—I would give my eyeteeth and a couple of other body parts to be able to fit into that dress now.) I could tell by her look that she was stricken, and once again I tried ineffectually to shore up the damage I had done by singing the dress’s praises at every possible opportunity for the next few days, to no avail.

Both of those incidents occurred in my twenties, and I had hoped that my thirties would finally bring the grace and maturity needed to cure my FIMD for good.

Alas and alack.

Just this week, I got to taste my toes again.

On Wednesday, Paul’s wonderful grandmother called from Oregon to wish us holiday cheer and we were having a nice, long chat, catching up on all the news of each other. Some time before, Paul’s grandfather had been sick and showing signs of increasingly failed health and erratic behavior. It turned out that it was all caused by side effects of a medication the doctor had put him on for something else. They only found out because he obstinately refused to take his pills one day, and all the symptoms disappeared.

As I was talking to Grandma, I told her how glad we were that Grandpa was feeling better. I added, “It’s a good thing he’s so stubborn, or you might never have discovered what was wrong! That’s a blessing in disguise!” Instead of the chuckle I expected, there was a brief pause on her end, followed by, “That’s probably true. By the way, Grandpa’s listening on the other extension. Do you want to say hello, Floyd?”

If I can’t have my rewind button, couldn’t I at least be endowed with the supernatural ability to fall through the floor and disappear at will?

Since I didn’t spontaneously burst into flames, I powered my way through the rest of the conversation with Grandpa, shared a few more newsy tidbits about the kids and whatnot, then gratefully passed the phone off to Paul so that they could at least comfort themselves with the knowledge that their blood relations are perfectly polite, even if the married-in part of the family is a little sketchy.

Since this latest episode, I’m starting to wonder if there even is a cure for Foot-In-Mouth Disease. What if I never outgrow it? I’ve done some internet investigation, and WebMD doesn’t even mention it. I’m thinking that I might start a foundation or something to get the ball rolling on research into this devastating malady. I’ll call it OOPS, the Organization for Oral-Podiatric Separation.

And just in case that doesn’t work out, I’ve laid out a small down payment on a derelict shack in upstate Idaho. It’s a bit ungainly, but then, so am I.

13 responses »

  1. You had me rolling on this one…and wincing a bit too. You see, I am yet another FIMD sufferer, and yes, I too am praying for a cure! I find myself saying the most ghastly things at the most in-opportune (sp?) moments, then later, wishing to God that He just ‘take me now!’ I hate the feeling of wondering if what you said really caused the poor unsuspecting soul all of the pain and unpleasentness that it’s caused you, the sayer.

    Should you find the cure, please email me immediately so that I too can benefit from it’s saving graces. Until that time comes, I guess I’ll continue to keep my feet as clean as is humanly possible, just in case there’s a taste-testing event in the near future 🙂

  2. I have this problem too, which is why I prefer to communicate with all friends and family members via email, where I can proof-read and delete before hitting the send button.

    About ten years ago I was visiting a cousin I hadn’t seen in awhile. He had recently been married and we stopped by their house to deliver a wedding present. At some point in our conversation we were talking about “collecting” and I said, “I can’t believe all these idiots who collect Beanie Babies, paying hundreds of dollars for these things. It’s just a stuffed animal!!!”

    The look on his face was priceless, as if I’d just called his wife an ignorant cow. He quietly replied, “We collect Beanie Babies. It’s fun to do together. We have over 3000 of them.”

    Sure enough, I got a tour of their basement, where 3000 of the cute little critters, most of them still in plastic, sat. I’m sure they sit there still, as the bottom of the Beanie Baby market dropped out soon after.

    If by some chance YOU once collected Beanie Babies, then I didn’t mean any of it.

  3. I would, right now, like to sign on for membership in OOPS.

    My entry – On a date recently I went on and on about how much I disliked Dallas, the flat landscape, the drivers, etc. etc. I told an amusing anecdote about getting lost there once. In reply, my companion stared at me in silence and finally said, “I really like Dallas. I would even consider moving there one day.”

    Insert foot in mouth. Swallow to hip.

  4. Katrina– Honestly, I do not think that all of those were so bad… I mean, the one with your MIL– was not great, but certain clothes look differently on certain people– and with your grandfather-in-law– well, I guess, I just call a spade a spade in my family and make jokes about it… as I spent some time over the Christmas holiday asking my dad to please stop taking his “obnoxious” pills. He would just laugh and continue on his obnoxious path.

  5. Will you please let me know when OPPS starts sending out their first newsletter about treatment options? As a longtime sufferer of FIMD, I’m sure it’ll be of interest to me.

  6. Katrina,

    Further reason why I read you every day!! This is hysterical (and oh, so true!) But let me say this, witnessing someone else with FIMD makes moments a little less serious and great moments to laugh about later (yes, do laugh!!) It’s all good, really!!

    I’ve had so many moments, but I remember once, in England, visiting friends of my in-laws (with my in-laws) the gentleman said that no man ever thinks any other woman, including his wife, can cook better than his own mother. Mishearing what he said, I vehemently injected, “Oh, but mine would!” While I was wrong, and meant to agree with my misheard interpretation, that my husband would certainly vouch that his mother is much better cook than I am, it was never remembered that way!! (Reason #476 why I’m now an out-law, divorced from their precious son!!)

    Thanks for the great laugh (and great writing!)

  7. Love this post. I’m just waiting for my seventies when I will forget everything and I can say anything I want and peeps will just write it off as dementia. As for Grandpa, he needs a sense of humor to go with his stubbornness. That was just darn funny.

  8. Oh my word.

    LOL. Are we related?

    Because I totally suffer this same disease; perhaps it is hereditary? Or maybe we caught it on the computer – one a them thar computer viruses you hear so much about? No?


    LOL This was hilarious, Katrina…

  9. man. i blush thinking of those episodes that are CARVED into my memory. i have so many!

    thanks for sharing yours. makes me feel like i am part of a club!

  10. This is one LONG post, with only one set of parenthesis! Yay! 🙂 Your resolution is working (not that I have a problem with parenthesis).

  11. Well, I just wish I could still bend like that baby in the photo!!! Anyway, I think the disease is genetic and comes from our mothers side!! I’m right there with you.

    Lots of love,

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