Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tangled Small Talk: The Sisterhood of the Blurt

Have I mentioned that I am a secret agent? Probably not. It's a secret. It doesn't have to be a secret from you, though. Unless you are in the marketing department of a major grocery store chain, in which case you should probably just forget you read this. It's mostly a secret because it embarrasses me. I am a mystery shopper and have earned (I am not making this up) "premier agent status" because of the timeliness and accuracy of my work. Which essentially means that when the company is in a pickle, they call me and offer me extra money to drop everything and go to the grocery store of their choosing. It is a great power I wield, I realize. Do not be too impressed. It is my academic pride that finds this whole affair embarrassing and I frequently get disgruntled that I am pretty much a digital age Donna Reed with much shabbier clothes and wonder if I should give Betty Friedan a call for some advice. Except she's dead.

Today I had on my secret agent hat. It looks very much like my every other day hat. Which depends on what day it is, what the weather is, and the state of my hair. Today my secret agent hat was a basic gray knit toque - the sort that are favored by bank robbers and hipsters. I felt my bowler hat was a little conspicuous, my red silk cloche has grown suddenly to Mushmouth proportions and tickles my nose and it's not quite time yet for my cream linen floppy hat. These are essential details, ones over which I agonize most mornings when leaving the house. So I and my secret agent hat dropped the Hooligan off at school and then off to a local natural foods store where I had a list of 88 items for which to collect pricing data. Glamorous, no? It involves a lot of skulking around, pretending to be reading labels while glancing at the products in question, making a mental note of the prices, then running around the corner to a vacant aisle and scribbling down the prices on my oh-so-official sheet of paper before I forget them. And repeat.

Except today I ran into an acquaintance in the midst of my duties. Actually, I was pondering the six different brands of tofu in all of their assorted flavors and consistencies and wondering why, with so much selection, was the brand I needed absent? And this acquaintance of mine tapped me on the shoulder and said hello. Startled out of my secret agent tofu reverie, I jumped and said hello. She is a lovely woman. Her daughter is in the same grade as my daughter and they live up the hill from us. We see them occasionally on our walk to school and chat a bit. Have I mentioned that my small talk skills are appalling? The last time I saw this woman, we were both hurrying our respective charges up the last few stairs into the playground as the late bell was ringing, simultaneously advising the girls to "RUN!" So as we walked back toward home, we had a few blocks to chat. We discussed the new, earlier, start time at school this year and how it is well into the second semester and we are all still adjusting. I admitted to a certain wasting of fossil fuels from time to time in just driving the jBird the twelve blocks to school to save time and tardy slips. So far, so good. One more block to go without saying anything alarming or embarrassing. I could do this. Or not. "Yeah! Sometimes I just drop her at the corner and watch her until she goes into the school grounds so that I don't see anyone because I haven't brushed my teeth and I may be wearing my husband's shoes!" This was the last sentence I had said to this woman before I bumped into her in the grocery store today.

"Oh, sorry, I didn't see you. I was mesmerized by the tofu!"
She laughed and said, "Yes, it can be overwhelming." Yes, of course, tofu can be completely overwhelming. Everyone knows that.
"I suppose it doesn't matter much which kind I buy because I just grind it up and hide it in my children's food." I don't do this very often and when I do it is more out of financial considerations than nutritional or spiritual ones.
"Well, you should try this kind. It's to be savored, though. It's delicious." She hands me something that looks like a shrink-wrapped turd.
"Oh look! Tamari soaked grilled tofu! Mmmm." Both my monkeys and my husband would outright revolt if I served them shrink-wrapped turd for dinner and told them it was "to be savored" so, of course, I throw it in my cart.

Our discussion carries quite naturally from tofu to eating disorders and our own particular neuroses and how we create worse neuroses in our children by trying to rid them of all neuroses, etc. Meanwhile, in this tiny urban grocery store we are sandwiched between the tofu and the gluten free bread and at least five other shoppers are forced to edge around us and ask us to pass them things. And then the most glorious thing happened: an event of such epic proportions that has won me a dear friend for life. We got to that awkward point in a chance meeting chitchat sort of conversation where you know it needs to end or become strange but you're not quite sure how to make an exit, especially if you're blocking traffic in prime grocery store real estate discussing eating disorders.

Brief pause, and she says:
"Well, I have to go now because I am on my period and I feel like I might fall over because it's so heavy."
I very nearly hugged her and danced for joy. I have met, in the flesh, a kindred spirit in blurting bizarre personal information in inappropriate circumstances. In this simple declaration, she freed me from ever being nervous about talking to her again. Sure, she's beautiful and fit and smart and has the curly red hair I have coveted my whole life, but she blurts things! Giddy with our new found discovery, we stood blocking the grocery aisle* another five minutes or so, happily blurting things at one another. And then, as if it could get any better, we both did an awkward about-face and trotted off in our separate directions while blurting a few additional tidbits about constipation and not showering regularly over our shoulders.

I trundled around the grocery store for another hour, collecting prices on my list and some random groceries in my cart to make it look like I was doing something, feeling no longer like a beleaguered housewife doing housewifely things, but empowered. I am a secret agent, an odd duck who does random things to help out her family, and a Blurter. I am part of a sacred sisterhood who will never show up to Pilates with a skinny no-whip mocha and a fresh manicure. We of The Blurt will occasionally schlep to school in strategically disguised pajamas and men's shoes but we will never be called upon to solicit big-ticket items for the PTA auction. We are a sacred society of the un-cocktail party, where we can speak earnestly and suddenly, with too many exclamation points of bodily functions, strange growths, or the rat we found in our garage! We are there, diverting our morning breath with a cups of coffee, giving and receiving shrink-wrapped turds which we never intend to eat, hiding our premier agent status behind a journal and a grocery list, and lopping off conversations with non-sequitur! We are small in number, but mighty in courage! Hear us blurt! We are not alone!

*This sort of aisle hogging behavior, when conducted by others, sends me around a bend I don't like to visit. I completely realize the hypocrisy in this. I would, however, consider not getting upset if the aisle hoggers were of the Sisterhood of the Blurt. I would probably just blurt something random at them.


  1. I might fall over because it's so heavy. This is just too awesome to say anything else.

    1. First, I'm replying to the M half because I now love her as much as I love you, and I've only met you through the internet and once on the M Half's lovely farm. But, THANK you for the tofu-turdian-narrative and the heavy-period-friend-sharing. And all the other hyphenated experiences you just dealt.

    2. Okay now this just got even more fun. M Half is a good friend of mine, but the farm is Lazy W's (Marie) LOL We're both M's. But if M Half were HERE today, she would doubtlessly have read this aloud to me! HAHA

      Periphery, what can I say? Your secret shopper status is safe with me. Small talk skills are overrated, and blurting, I feel, gives people a secret thrill they just won't admit; your writing skills are way more important anyway. The status of my hair is a MAJOR deciding element in the quality of my day, too. Wish I could wear hats like you though.

      And please let me know if you ever see a Sisterhood of the Blurt membership t-shirt for sale on Etsy. I am in need of one. XOXO

    3. OOPS! Oh my goodness. WHY did I think "The M Half of the M-n-J Show was Marie Wreath?? Obviously, I'm extremely persuaded by one letter of the alphabet. I only hope I don't put all people with A or B or C in the same category. That would mean I would confuse my friend Amy with my friend Abe - - tragic. Sorry - and thanks for the clarifying moment!

    4. "Tragic." LOVE that. LOL I agree, though, that single letters can be VERY persuasive, so don't feel bad. LOL The neat part is that M Half is a big part of our farm. She has her own toothpaste and goose and everything. She even knows our wireless internet password.

    5. OK. I'm sitting in my counselor office at the middle school (the normal, grown-up, professional mask I wear in the daytime) laughing and snorting hysterically. I, too, am a BLURTER! I finally decided that, at age 57, to be a PROUD BLURTER rather than constantly sulking around feeling shame and embarrassment because I just can't get the verbal social boundaries "right".

      However, I tend to apologize on my blog before I blurt. I have distant Church of Christ relatives who read my blog and they are notorious non-blurters. This week, I blogged about my goal of losing enough weight to see my own pubic hair. Friends who worry about my reputation begged me not to, but I did anyway.

      Tara Adams, thanks for turning me on to this blog. And don't tell anyone I'm reading it at school.


    6. So, I about peed my pants laughing at this exchange. I am Margi, The M Half, and I live in Austin, TX. Marie lives at The Lazy W in Oklahoma. We are the adult equivalent of BFFs, though, so, it's a definite compliment to be confused with each other. We live about 6 hours apart, and it's true, I have my own obsessive goose and toothpaste at the farm for when my said goose decides to sabotage my drive home and instead encourages me to read aloud to Marie. That's much more fun than driving 400 miles, dontcha think? ;-)

    7. I love you so much Margi. And Periphery. And RDK. And Jenn, congrats on the weight loss!! Blurt on ladies. Blurt on.

  2. Oh boy.. Thank you so much for the smiles today. I so needed them.
    I'd also like to thank you for the links to these wonderful people. Now I have to add Donna Reed to my list. I'll watch it right after I finish The Andy Griffith show and I Love Lucy.

  3. I have not been this entertained in a long time. I am proud to say that I am part of the Sisterhood. I AM BLURTER - HEAR ME BLURT

  4. Love the blurting - great fun post and a picture in my head of team blurt. When I go shopping, usually after five, there's the high heeled crew in their suits with their little baskets instead of trolleys and I feel like a looser, jobless degreeless and heeless - but boy can I whip around the supermarket in my running shoes especially when I jump on the trolley when it's weighted full with tins and potatoes.

  5. Hilarious! I really did enjoy reading about getting the girls to school before that tardy bell rings! I am the school official on the other side of the desk - the dreaded one who greets the latecomers and hands out the tardy slips. It's a sucky job. I try to be friendly but I can get uber irritated with 8th graders who are tardy (by one or two minutes!) on a daily basis - really, folks?????????

  6. PS - NO word verification gig this time. Did you delete it? If so, I would love knowing how you did that. I'd like to do the same thing....

  7. I love this. I am not a blurter myself but I enjoy people who are. They have a unique gift of breaking the ice, the scripted moments, and cutting through to the real stuff underneath. They are a blessing!

  8. I think that this is why I end up spending so many hours addictively and compulsively living in BlogLand. Because it is populated with so many other Blurters and there are so few of them in my regular life that it makes me feel lonely. Here people laugh when I blurt instead of giving me odd looks. (Maybe they do give me odd looks, but I don't see them.) I have ended so many conversations inappropriately in my life, it makes me tired to even start one. If I may ask the Universe for one thing, let it be more Blurters in my life. I am very, very glad by the way, that I "met" you, even if not in the flesh.

  9. Isn't it fantabulous to come across a kindred spirit, unexpectedly, out there in the wild like that? I love the Blurt.

    Years ago, when I was blogging regularly (before I started blogging a little too regularly, if you know what I mean), just before a post or passage that I thought might be too revealing for certain delicate readers, I used a device I called the Blurt Alert. Confirmed blurter here--on the internet, in the grocery store aisle, sometimes at work. Yay, me! :)

  10. Long live the blurt! I'm that awkward girl that is so quiet that you almost think she's mute, and then ten minutes into the conversation finally blurts something inappropriate about something you said five minutes ago. Probably about my period. We'd get along great.

  11. We got to that awkward point in a chance meeting chitchat sort of conversation where you know it needs to end or become strange but you're not quite sure how to make an exit. This pretty much sums up every social interaction I have. I appreciated this post on so many levels- my husband walked in the room and asked me why I was giggling like a little girl. I told him it's because I now belong to an official sisterhood- it's no longer just me putting my foot in my mouth. LOVED it!!
    p.s. Shrink-wrapped turds is worse than 'normal' tofu? says the carnivore...
    p.p.s. I'm with JT- how do I get rid of word verification? I looked!

  12. BLURT ON! BLURT HARD! Thanks ladies for your blurted words of support!

  13. Another fellow blurter reporting in! I am a lifelong blurter raising my own blurter. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post!


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