My uncanny ability to offend . . .


If only i could get paid for all the times I say the wrong thing . . . And, brilliantly, once I know I am saying the wrong thing, I cannot stop myself, I must continue to say the wrong thing in different ways, harder, like someone banging in that damn nail even though it's crooked . . .

(And in fact, I think the book I'm working on now is an attempt to do precisely that. Get paid for offense, I mean. Not to intentionally offend. Just to be offensive? No, no, not that either. But it seems to me that as you soon as you mix sexuality and motherhood--uh, are they not inseparable? But we DO separate them; we feel we must; that's why mothers ditch their make-up and their tight jeans and wear rubber boots every day--you are bound to irritate a number of people. Sexuality, motherhood, telepathy, the mousy treadmill of North American work life, homosexuality, sex-workers, floral arrangement . . . Writing a novel that is NOT about a man imprisoned in solitary confinement IS SO MUCH FUN.) 

But not to change my own subject, that of offending people. Two in one week! Trungpa Rinpoche, the Buddhist teacher widely credited with popularizing Buddhism in North America, once talked about being too incisive, too sharp. Not in a truly intelligent way, but with something to prove, cutting too quickly to the chase, trying to mold events or even just a moment to one's will. He describes (I think it's in the book called The Myth of Freedom) how intrusive that can be, how it can frighten people away. That's not exactly what happened, either time, but obviously the passage has leapt to my mind for a reason.

Interestingly, both of the offendees were men with a certain amount of power and recognition. So, in a way, I can't help but be PLEASED I offended them.

But you see, that's my problem. I LIKE IT, even though it keeps me awake at night. Not because I feel GUILTY (au contraire) but because I know, sometimes, that it's not politic, it's not good for My Career. (Ha! An entirely different post. My career! A writer in the 21st century, hearing those two words, does not know whether to laugh or grimly check to see if it's too late to become a postman. Or a therapist. See: several of my friends.)

I can even offend people in a meditation sit. You know, during that after-the-meditation part, when you're all sitting around talking about the edifying subject raised by the guest speaker. And someone will say something or a topic will be raised,gingerly and respectfully, and in my most respectful manner, I will express--what?

My enthusiastic, SPARKY--as in flaming, hot, jumpy--DISSENTING OPINION, and I will have a bristle in my voice, a certain BUT tucked into my attitude, a je-ne-sais-quoi-mais-je-sais-tres-tres-bien in my spine. It's like a porcupine enters the room, looking for a place to scratch its back.

I can't help myself. Scratch here, I say! Closer! Just this spot right here, mais OUI! I'll just open my mouth a bit wider. . . Perfect!

Karen ConnellyComment