For whatever reason, all of the genetic material needed for making meaningless conversation was maxxed out on me. There was none left over for my twin brothers, I guess. So when the three of us are dispatched to relatives for visits, I end up being the one who chats incessantly, filling any and all awkward silences, typically in an awkward fashion myself.
I’ve hopefully perfected these skills as I’ve grown older, making sure to ask meaningful questions, steering the conversation toward pleasant topics, etc., but let’s just say that in the early years, I wasn’t so much a skilled conversationalist but more of a nervous talker. I never met a pregnant pause I couldn’t destroy within seconds.
One summer break during our college years, my mom strongly suggested (read: here are the car keys, this is what you’ll be doing today) that my brothers and I pay a visit to our aunt and uncle who lived in Northern Virginia. While this was only a little over an hour away, we hadn’t spent a lot of time with them, and this was our first visit to their home. My uncle was my mother’s older brother and only sibling, and as things often are in families, it was complicated. But they were lovely people who loved us dearly and wanted to spend some time getting to know us more.
We had a quiet lunch, occupying ourselves with many bites of food. As it turns out, my uncle and brothers shared a love of sports statistics second only to their love of long periods of silence. Having an only child, I imagine their home was typically so quiet you could hear a pin drop. And while my brothers certainly knew the answers to my aunt’s questions, they sat still as stones while I prattled on, happy to let me do all the talking.
Which is how the most glorious of word confusions of my entire speaking tenure came to pass.
At one particularly long pause, as all gathered shifted their gazes from left to right, wondering who would be the brave soul to save us all from the growing awkward, I stumbled upon the topic of our older sister’s approaching wedding. Solid topic. No controversy possible. Material for days. Until the record-screeching moment when I announced their living plans for after the wedding.
“They’ve rented a condom in Annapolis.”
And there sat my brothers, silent as church mice, understandably shocked and unable to move.
Now had this been essentially any other relative, I could have cracked a joke, laughed off my slip, but NO, it had to be the quietest of politest relatives we have. Couldn’t have made this mistake in front of my rowdy Irish aunt, of course. She would have found it hilarious. She would have said something along the lines of, “That’ll be a tight fit,” and we would have all chuckled and each year it would have been trotted out for more laughs.
There was nothing to do but quickly correct myself and pray for death.
We remained at my aunt and uncle’s home for a solid two hours after this dreaded moment. This may have been the longest two hours of my life to date.
As we piled in the minivan to head home, no sooner had the sliding door latched that my brothers launched into a chorus of, “Icannotbelieveyousaidthatwhatiswrongwithyou”s. The three of us shouted it out, completely exhausted from the past 120 minutes of containing our laughter, horror, and really, our breath.
Suffice it to say, while my brothers never did up their pointless chatter game and still trust me to fill the silence for some reason, I made a wise decision that day: ALWAYS say condominium, never condo. It’s just a risk I’m no longer willing to take.