Yesterday I went to a meeting in New York, a "face-to-face" meeting/discussion/series of presentations with some folks I either don't know at all or have only interacted with via telephone. It occurred to me, when I noticed that one of the other people at the meeting was staring at me, that maybe it wasn't quite proper to be snacking on nuts while taking notes? Later, I wondered if he was staring not so much because of the nuts, but because I had my feet up on a chair? Maybe it was both?
For the record, I have a photo from that meeting of another attendee with his feet up on a chair, in the exact same position I was in, so it didn't seem entirely out of place. The fact that I dashed out of the room with a nod and a wave to the few remaining attendees in the middle of the last, least-formal discussion and then shouted back my thanks when the startled-sounding meeting organizer yelled his after me also made me worry, however. Wow, was that weird? Impolite? Worse?
I've never been particularly adept at social graces, I must admit. If I get it right, it's by accident, not by intention. However, I'm beginning to wonder if working at home hasn't made me worse in this area. Working at home is a wonderful, wonderful thing for me, but it also means that I get to indulge my already self-indulgent nature even more, that I mostly only have to please myself, that I have no guideposts about what's "normal" when it comes to propriety in the workplace.
A former boss once told me that I have no poker face, and that it was essential that I develop one when in the office. I got a *little* better at that over the next few years, but I fear now that I'm so out of practice—and the line between my personal and professional lives is so thin, being only a flight of stairs—that I'm back at square -1. Worse, I'm not only unaware of my own boundaries, I'm unaware of others', too. I need to find a way to practice social graces, to practice propriety. And I need to remind myself that just because I'm thinking or feeling it, doesn't mean I should say it.
So after an awkward day yesterday, when I had the sense that I committed a few faux pas, that I didn't really fit in with the group and made it worse by staying in my own little bubble, and that maybe I wasn't fit to be communicating with the wider world (in person at least), I probably should have put myself in a time out and reflected a little before broaching the subject of politics with my sister tonight. I should have known that I was so off-kilter that I would put my foot right in it, and boy, did I.
By way of background I should explain that, despite my protestations here that I am a staunch Independent and actually kind of a moderate, I am considered by my family to be a flaming liberal. This has been a running joke for years; my brother-in-law and I see eye to eye on practically nothing when it comes to politics and policy, and we've often argued for sport. My sister and I also do not agree on many things, but it's harder to joke about it, I think... and I forgot that when I said something tonight which turned out to be both hurtful and offensive to her on the phone.
I didn't realize it was offensive when I said it, though I suspected by her clipped response that she was angry; Al had to explain to me how awful it was when I related the conversation to him after hanging up. It wasn't enough that I'd said I'd meant no offense while on the phone. After five minutes talking with Al, I called back and apologized for being a complete idiot.
I won't even try to defend myself, aside from the context I've given above about feeling off in the social graces department. As usual, I was only looking at things from my point of view, and not anyone else's. I swear, if it weren't for Al I'd be even more of a self-centered, disrespectful bumbler than I already am.
I apologize again—profusely, publicly—to my sister and her husband, and hope that they can forgive me. To everyone else I've interacted with in the past week or so, I offer a general apology for being such a spaz. Please bear with be while I reacquaint myself with common courtesy.