I was reading The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath when…
(Wait, does that sound pretentious? It isn’t, really. I’m about to reveal my ignorance.)
…I came across the word infelicities. Plath described reading poems by ACRich (Adrienne Rich, I assume) that were “easy, yet professional, full of infelicities and numb gesturings at something.”
Since I’m constitutionally unable to read a word I don’t know and not look it up, I searched an online dictionary and got this oh-so-helpful definition: the quality or state of being infelicitous. I looked that up too.
Ever made an infelicitous remark? I HAVE. I don’t mean asking a non-pregnant woman when she is due, I mean the kind of comment that leaves you hoping the earth will open up and swallow you whole.
It was a decade ago and I still carry the shame. I was having a particularly stressful, hectic day at work when a co-worker called. Her father very recently passed away and she’d returned from bereavement leave but was out of the office one afternoon. She called about a work-related issue, greeted me warmly and asked how I was doing. I sighed dramatically and, in my frustrated and overwhelmed state, I blurted, “Well, I’m NOT DEAD.”
Luckily, she laughed. Then again, how do you respond to an infelicitous remark of epic proportions?
Anyway, I apologized. Profusely. Again and again. I should have shut up. If only someone had been there to hand me a STOP TALKING card.
This is a real thing made by Set Editions. Imagine the possibilities. Discreetly slide a card into a nervous girl’s palm under the dinner table when she starts talking about ex-boyfriends on a first date. Or hand one to the rude couple behind you talking during the movie. Or give a card to the idiot telling divorce stories at a wedding. Give one to the fool who won’t stop apologizing after telling an ill-timed death joke to a grieving daughter. You’d be doing us all a free public service.