Around the Bend: Gabby girl gets her party game on

I suffer from a mild but chronic condition known casually as Foot in Mouth Disease. There is no cure.
The condition is most common among people like me who (a) talk a lot and (b) are incapable of thinking before speaking. I’m the one who will greet sickly coworkers by saying, “Wow, you look terrible.” My genuine concern goes unappreciated.
This tendency to blurt out whatever is on my mind often results in awkward pauses. I might show up for an appointment with a stranger and say, “Sorry I’m late, but some selfish idiot with a black Durango was straddling two parking spaces so I had to drive halfway across town to find a spot.”
Awkward pause. And then the response, “Um, that’s my Durango.”
Darn it.
Or if someone at work gets a bouquet of flowers, my witty remark is, “Flowers? Who died?”
Awkward pause. And then the response, “My grandmother.”
Darn it again.
Often, I’m not even talking to anyone in particular. While glancing at tabloids in the checkout line, for instance, I’ll decry the wacky name a celebrity has chosen for her baby, only to have the person behind me say, “What’s wrong with ‘Raisin’? That’s my daughter’s name.”
Come on. How many people on this planet have babies named after dried fruit, and what are the odds I’d be standing next to one of them right then?
The odds are pretty good, actually, given that I am so tactless and so talkative. With the sheer volume of random verbiage that spills out of my mouth, some of it is bound to come out in the wrong place at the wrong time. So if I happen to mention my dismay that dolman sleeves are making a comeback (what’s next, Bonne Bell lip gloss?), you can bet at that precise moment a coworker will walk past my desk, her dolman sleeves flapping in the breeze, the faint scent of strawberry wafting from her shiny lips.
And she won’t be smiling.
Finally, however, after years of clamping my hand over my mouth — always a split second too late — I found out the other night at a party that my unbridled babbling does have its place.
To be honest, the evening didn’t start well. I broke the ice with this gem: “Isn’t it ridiculous when people have a family portrait taken with everyone wearing the same Christmas sweater? Ugh!”
Silence. A few people looked nervously over my shoulder.
I turned and saw hanging on the wall behind me a framed photograph of the hostess and her family, all decked out in identical embroidered Santa pullovers. It was the first awkward pause of the night.
But not the last.
By the second hour of the party I had offended anyone there who had ever (a) gotten a cartoon character tattoo, (b) used Christmas lights that blink or (c) left a cryptic, pity-generating Facebook status update such as, “It happened again. Why me?” I could barely see over the awkward pauses piling up around me.
But then things changed.
You see, this wasn’t the kind of party where people dance and slurp shots out of each other’s navels. It was the kind where a couple dozen women get together to socialize. Eventually, after drinks, hors d’oeuvres and conversation, someone breaks out the party games. Buzzwords, anyone?
And this is where the evening turned for me. You see, the object of pretty much every party game ever invented is the same: Be the first to shout out the answer.
My moment had arrived.
One game asked for phrases using the same word; for instance, “cat.” I blurted for all I was worth. “Cat nap!” I shouted. “Like the cat that ate the canary! When the cat’s away the mice will play! Raining cats and dogs!”
I was on fire.
What a change. My unchecked outbursts, which an hour earlier had prompted people to cross me off their Christmas party guest lists, revealed themselves as a competitive advantage at game time.
I’ve spent years, without success, trying to curb my propensity toward speaking without thinking. Now, for once, I don’t have to. Thanks to my party game verbal skills, my holiday schedule is booked every weekend night from now through New Year’s.
I just have to promise not to show up until after the drinks and hors d’oeuvres and — especially — the conversation.

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