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Think before you speak

March 23, 2009 - Betsy Bethel
You should always think before you speak. Especially if you are the President of the United States.

By now, you've all heard about Obama's "Tonight Show" blunder, during which he commented on his poor bowling skills and recent score of 129 — "It was like the Special Olympics or something," he told host Jay Leno — and millions of viewers.

I don't think this is what Obama had in mind when he said he wanted a transparent government.

It was a thoughtless thing to say. Read Colleen Carpenter's blog post, "Oh My Mr. President" on the OV Parent Web site,, for reaction from a local mom of a child with special needs.

I am glad for Obama's swift apology. I hope he takes up the offer of the Special Olympics bowler who challenged him to a game! I personally have bowled against some folks right here in the Ohio Valley who are part of the Cheerful Bowlers from The Seeing Hand Association — they are blind or visually impaired — and they bowled much higher than 129!

I admit, we all do make thoughtless verbal blunders from time to time. Luckily, our impromptu gaffes are not telecast internationally.

I have made lots of stupid comments that I wished I'd have swallowed and that I wondered why they occurred to my brain in the first place. Haven't we all?

The one that comes to mind quickly is minor — to me — but it's the one about which I took the most heat. Out dancing with some friends from the Macdonald Pipe Band about two years ago, some '70s music came on. I and a friend started doing "the bump," and I yelled over the music to her, "My mom taught me to do the bump!" My friend, who was just turning 50, was mortified. I never intended it to be hurtful; it didn't occur to me. Thoughtless, is what it was, and I heard about it from her for months! It's now a running jab at ME, and it definitely taught me to watch what I say and to get to know my friends better before making jokes. A joke is only a joke if the listener finds it funny!

I know there are other times I've contracted foot-in-mouth disease, but I can most quickly recall the times hurtful things have been directed to ME, usually unintentionally. I laugh when I tell people about them now, but at the time I felt a little bit of a bruise forming smack dab on my ego.

Here are my most embarrassing moments of late. Hope you enjoy them! They are in descending order of my mortification level:

4. Several years ago, we were in a hot tub at a hotel with some friends in the band. I took off my glasses because they were getting all fogged up. "Hey!" a bandmate said to me like it was the first time he ever saw me. "You ever considered getting that LASIK surgery?" This is a classic example of a "backhanded compliment."

3. During our girls' weekend, my mom was telling a story and she mentioned something about how much she liked having a clean house. I spouted something about how that's not a high priority for me. She dismissed me with an "I know" ... and went on with her tale. Ouch.

2. My mother-in-law is moving in this week. When discussing what she needed to bring or what she could sell or give away, she asked: "Now, Betsy, do you have an iron and an ironing board?" Yikes.

1. At the chiropractor a few months ago, a fill-in doc whom I'd never met performed my annual exam. I was wearing black pants. As he checked the length of my legs, he asked: "Soooo, what kind of dog do you have?" I wanted to melt into the examining table.


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