I’ve learned it on dates, in job interviews, in sales meetings, and at parties. I’d go in wanting to make a good impression and say the right thing, but instead, I’d stick my foot—smack—in my mouth.

The times when I was in new territory and didn’t know what to say were particularly hazardous. I was likely to say whatever came into my head. Mistake!

Lesson: When you don’t know what to say, nothing is the probably right answer.

When I was in high school, the captain of the football team asked me for a date. Wow! But if you’re not into sports, what can you say when there’s a lull in the conversation? Not what I said!

We were in his car after going to a movie. After chatting about our thoughts on the movie, the car became quiet. Silence was my enemy, so I filled it. I started quoting poetry. Did the guy like poetry? I didn’t ask. I just said, “I love poetry,” and launched into a poem by E. E. Cummings.


I couldn’t stop myself.  I spouted poems, one after another.

“the little lame balloon man whistles far and wee and eddie and bill come running from marbles and piracies, and it’s spring….”

My football hero didn’t try for lover’s lane, or even stop for a root beer float. We pulled in front of my house at 10:12 p.m. Instead of a kiss, he said, “Ruthi, I don’t think reciting poems is something you should do on a first date.”

Calamity loves company, so I have to admit I was a little bit happy when my friend, Sally, had a similar problem. It comforted me to know I’m not the only person who has ever stuck theier foot in their mouth and whooshed a relationship out the window.

Sally couldn’t understand why she wasn’t connecting with men. She wanted a comfortable relationship. She wanted to get married. But it was another Saturday night and she didn’t have a date.

Over lunch the next week, Sally lamented her situation to her friend, Joan. “I’m tired of being single. I want to get married!” 

Joan put her fork down. “Don’t you have to date first?” 

Sally dropped her chin onto her hands. “Yeah.”

“Got any dates lined up?”

“No. I meet men, but it’s always the same story. We meet, laugh, have lively conversations, and seem to hit it off, but then no dates happen.”

Sally sighed and said, What’s wrong with men?”

Joan said, “Are you sure it’s the men?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I’m doing something wrong – but I can’t imagine what. I’m going to try speed dating this Saturday. Will you come with me and see what I’m doing wrong?”

They went and Joan listened.

Sally’s  first speed-date seemed eager to meet her. He introduced himself and asked, “What are your interests?”

Sally jumped into her answer with enthusiasm,

“Dreams! Dreams predict the future. I build dream boards to guide my dreams towards the things I want to happen. My new board guides them toward sharing my life with a wonderful man who loves travel and wants a family. I pasted love poems on it, along with pictures of happy couples, traveling, dancing, and taking long walks on the beach. I found some little plastic babies and added them to the board – one in a pink blanket and one in a blue blanket.”

Leaving Sally with her foot still in her mouth, her date ran from the building.

Luckily Joan was there to help. “Don’t talk!” she explained.

Then there was Robbie, who stuck his foot in his mouth not by saying too much…but by forgetting what he said.

He learned: You have to have a great memory if you’re gonna lie to your girlfriend — or your foot can end up in your mouth.

Robbie was getting serious about his girlfriend, Sharon. But he had one more weekend fling he felt he needed to get out of his system. Friday, he called Sharon to say, “I’ve been planning to spend this weekend with you, but I have the chance to do something I’ve never done before. Some of the guys from work are going deep sea fishing and invited me to come along. Would you be very disappointed if I went?”

She said, “Of course, not. Have a good time.”

So off he went to have his deep-sea-fling.

On Monday, he called his Sharon to report: “It was great. I almost caught a king mackerel, but it got away. I had a terrific time — just us guys. I’m so glad I went.”

From that point, Robbie focused on his relationship with Sharon, and it grew.

Six months later…

Robbie and Sharon were taking a romantic drive along the river. Sharon said, “I saw a documentary last night about deep sea fishing in Florida. It looked exciting.”

Robbie opened his mouth and stuck in the foot, shoe and all.

“Deep sea fishing? That’s something I’ve never done but always wanted to try.”

July 23, 2018