September 16, 2010

The Art of Conversation

It's already Thursday, which means it's time for another writing assignment from Mama Kat. This time I chose prompt #5, "Describe an awkward conversation you had with someone recently." The timing was perfect, as I had an awkward conversation just this past weekend.

First a little background. I live in the same town where I have spent most of my life. We moved here when I was 2, and except for a 2-1/2 year period from the fourth grade until the sixth, I have lived here ever since. It was when we moved back in the middle of my sixth grade year that I learned "you can't go home again."

We lived in Jackson, Mississippi during those 2-1/2 years, and while Jackson was alright, I spent the entire time dreaming of moving back here. In the beginning, I hated being the "new" kid with the "Yankee" accent. (Believe me, it only sounded like a Yankee accent to kids from the deep South.) While I got used to living in Mississippi and made plenty of friends, it never felt like home. I wanted to be back with the kids I'd "grown up" with, the kids who really knew me.

What I didn't understand then is that there is a huge difference between kids in the third grade and kids in the sixth. They change physically, for one thing. They're pre-teens. They're bigger, they don't look like little kids anymore, and even the blondest kids usually have darker hair. Aside from the physical changes, 2-1/2 years is almost a fourth of an 11-year-old's life. It's truly a stretch for them to remember that far back.

So it was a shock to me to come back and discover that kids I had known since I was 2 had no memory of me. I couldn't blame them, because I was having a hard time recognizing them, too. It wasn't long before I gave up on the old friends and started to make new ones.

While the kids forgot me, their moms didn't. When they make the connection between the middle-aged woman they see in front of them and the child they once knew, the first comment is invariably, "Didn't you used to be blonde?" I usually answer something like, "Yes, but now I get to pick any hair color I want."

Last weekend I ran into one of those moms, who was with her daughter. She introduced us and then turned to her daughter and asked, "Don't you remember Margaret?" I could have told her that her daughter didn't remember me 6 months after I left town, but I refrained. The poor daughter looked totally baffled. Good grief, it has been 42 years since we moved to Mississippi, but the mom persisted, asking the standard question, "Margaret, didn't you used to be blonde?" That didn't help either. The daughter turned to me and asked me my maiden name. "The same as it is now," I responded, taking the awkwardness to new heights.

She turned to her mother and said, "I just don't know." Meanwhile, I was remembering the dinner I made the mistake of eating with her family and how her father wouldn't let me leave the table until I had eaten every. single. bite. I came from a family that allowed children to stop eating when we were full and I was absolutely stunned that this man would think my eating habits were any of his business. Just thinking about it has my stomach begging for an antacid. 

Still, the mother wouldn't give up. "Are you sure you don't remember her?" At this point, I was starting to wonder if someone had thrown a cloak of invisibility over me. Did they realize I was still standing there...and that I could hear them?

I was feeling sorry for the daughter because it wasn't her idea to be placed in such a difficult position. But then she leaned towards her mother and said, "I don't know. I'm not even sure we're the same age."

Excuse me? I wasn't sure if I should be flattered or insulted, but I was sure that I was done with the awkwardness of the entire conversation. "Yeah, we're the same age, and I remember you. It was nice seeing you again."

I still feel bad for the daughter, even if there's a possibility that she thought that I was older than she is. (Surely she thought that she was the older one though, don't you think?)

At least I won't be eating another meal with her family. Oh dear, where is that darn antacid?

Until next time,

I thank my God every time I remember you. ~ Philippians 1:3


  1. Great post...and you're right: you can't go home. It's sad but so true.

  2. You described that so well... Many of my conversations are awkward as I'm not much of a conversationalist. But, if my mother ever put me in such an awkward conversation, I'd try hard to carry on a better one than this chick did. The conversation with my mother later would be very awkward for her... "Mother, if you ever do that again, I'm probably going to have to clobber you." I can tell that you have a low tolerance for fools and foolishness.

    As for the being required to eat every last bite...happened every night at my table and it was no fun at all. I still remember with horror the Thanksgiving that Uncle T doled out the food. There were those beautiful desserts all over the buffet, but none ever passed my lips. I couldn't eat all my dinner.

    (Remember the single conversation we were having the other day? Good heavens! I have a short memory. My daughter and both nieces are single women all past their mid-twenties and I was a single woman for 16 years. So I know more about single than I was letting on. ;> )

  3. Wow. Did that really happen? An entire family with no since of tact.

    I love your response though. Classic.

  4. This is hilarious! I felt sorry for both of you! Man, what a meddling mother. Stopping by from the writer's workshop. :) I'm your newest follower! I love your response, and I'm SURE she thought you were younger!

  5. Oh wow. I have moments too, where I see people and I *know* I know them from somewhere, but it takes a while. Usually, I just come out and ask, "Where do I know you from?" rather than try and fake my way through it. Typically, the lightbult goes on after the person is gone and then I say OH YEAH.

    I think it's awful, too, that the dad insisted you eat everything on your plate. I don't hold my kids to that rule, and I wouldn't make anyone else's kids do that, either. Especially if you don't like what's served (though I try to have at least one dish everyone can eat), or if you're full, or if you justplain old don't want it. EEK!

  6. Sandra, I wish we could go home, but I guess we develop character when we can't. ;-)

    Vee, I thought you had been through a period of singleness. Thanks for clarifying that.

    Katy, it really happened that way - no kidding.

    Adrienne, thanks for the follow! I keep telling myself that she just thought I looked too young to be her age...

    Kathy, the lightbulb often goes off for me after the fact, as well. I like to think I'm better at faking it though. LOL.

  7. dear margaret,

    if it makes you feel better, NO one ever
    remembers me. i think it is a gift to be
    somewhat invisible, especially at the
    grocery store without makeup in my
    horrible uniform.

    sorry that silly mother and her insensitive
    daughter made things so awkward for you.

    oh brother.

  8. ps. this was VERY well written, as in send to
    a magazine to publish, well written! i felt
    every incident as if i were living it. not hungry

  9. Thanks, Lea! If we ever see each other in the grocery store without makeup and wearing bag lady clothes, I have one request: I'll pretend I don't see you, if you'll pretend you don't see me.

  10. You can go home but not everyone will remember you, but like you said YOU remember them!

    But that is definitely a moment I would not have wanted to share!

  11. I don't know how that works. I'm a twin so everyone seems to remember me.. Except they won't remember my name. They just call me twin. Sucks

  12. Single and Sane. Nice name for a nice blog. :D

  13. Hi. I came across your blog through another blog I follow and have signed up as a follower. When you’re free, please do visit me and let me know what you think of my blog and leave a comment. If you like, do follow as well. I am always open to great new people and interesting websites. Look forward to hearing from you.

  14. Wow! It's fine that she doesn't remember you, but she could at least say, "Sorry, I can't remember where I know you from" or something like that.