How My Mouth Gets Me into Trouble Again and Again

My par­ents really deserve a Pur­ple Heart for rais­ing me. I wasn’t a holy ter­ror, but I was, at times, a force to be reck­oned with. To be fair to myself, I never set the house on fire–just myself–but that’s another story. My mom and dad lived in a state of anx­ious antic­i­pa­tion because they never knew what was going to come out of my life in front of other people.

I can recall accom­pa­ny­ing my mother to H.E.B. when we lived in Waco, Texas. Every week my mother and I went down the same aisles of the gro­cery store and picked up the same things. When my mother changed her pat­tern, I would ques­tion why. I was prob­a­bly about five and we were on the bath & beauty aisle. Try­ing to be help­ful, I picked up large box of Kotex tam­pons and yelled, while run­ning toward my mother, “Hey, Mom, do you need any Kotex?” My mother said an elderly lady fur­ther down the aisle clutched her shop­ping cart and almost fell into it. Mama quickly explained in her We-Don’t-Do-That-at-Church that she was well-stocked at home. I didn’t know what Kotex were; I just knew that my mother often bought them.

When I was a teenager, we went to a fam­ily reunion. I found myself sit­ting next to my dad’s cousin, whom I’d never met, and try­ing to think of some­thing to say to her. My folks never gave me lessons on mak­ing small talk, so I quickly searched my mind for some­thing of rel­e­vance to share. I recalled that ear­lier that week I had caught Charles Fox on The Tonight Show, so I announced, “Did you know the guy who sings the theme song for Love Boat once went to a nude beach?” My dad’s cousin laughed ner­vously, excused her­self, and avoided me the rest of the day. I wasn’t try­ing to be provoca­tive, I was just try­ing to make conversation.

And there was the time I asked my grand­mother if she had sex with my step-grandfather in front of my uncle (her son). I will give props to Memaw, though, she answered the ques­tion, but later told me she was mor­ti­fied to answer such a ques­tion in front of her son. I thought, Well, why did you answer the ques­tion, then? Again, I don’t have a fetish for geri­atric love­mak­ing, I was sim­ply try­ing to under­stand. I had only recently learned about sex, which struck me as hav­ing a lot in com­mon with the movie Alien. I couldn’t fathom why any­one would let some­one else stick any­thing inside their body. One minute you’re hav­ing lunch and the next, a baby is explod­ing out of your chest. Why would any­one want to do that?

It’s almost been forty years since I almost caused that old lady to faint on the fem­i­nine hygiene aisle of H.E.B., and it still seems like the only time I open my mouth is to change feet.

Recently, a friend’s daugh­ter was catch­ing a ride back to col­lege with a man who was a friend of a friend. “Melissa said he’s a really nice man,” my friend said, more for her ben­e­fit, it seemed, than to jus­tify her deci­sion to me.

Before I knew it, I heard myself say, “You know, Ted Bundy was sup­pos­edly a really nice guy too, except for being a ser­ial killer and blud­geon­ing all those soror­ity girls to death.” The expres­sion on my friend’s face told me that my mouth had struck again.

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