So there we were at lunch yesterday.
Steve and I were sitting at a round table with a pastor and his wife from a nearby town, along with another pastor who was attending the event with his Hispanic associate pastor.
I knew everyone at the table except the associate pastor so in an attempt to be all smooth and non-introverted, I looked across the table at him and said, “I don’t believe we’ve met.”
When he told me his name, I smoothly came up with the perfect opening conversational gambit. I said, “Well, I know how much you must enjoy all that good cooking that Rachel does for the different functions at your church.”
He cast me a puzzled glance, looked worriedly at his pastor, and didn’t say a word.
And then it occurred to me, “Oh yeah, I know what the problem is. There are several churches in our state that host Hispanic congregations so probably the reason this guy doesn’t seem to understand what I’m saying is that he is one of the Hispanic pastors and doesn’t speak much English.”
So I turned instead to the pastor he was with and bestowing upon him my most charming, outgoing smile said, “You sure are a blessed guy to get to enjoy Rachel’s cooking every day.”
He also looked confused and muttered an unintelligible response.
And then it occurred to me. Duh! His wife’s name isn’t Rachel; that’s the name of his young daughter. His wife’s name is Mary! I had gotten the two names confused! That was obviously the reason both guys were looking at me with such quizzical expressions. Mystery solved!
I laughed in what I hoped was a delightful, self deprecating manner and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. My mistake. I meant to say that you get to enjoy Mary’s cooking, not Rachel’s! Ha, ha, ha!”
By this time, the associate pastor, his senior pastor and my very own husband were all staring at me with a great deal of consternation. I started to feel a little impatient.
I wanted to say, “Hey! What is it with you guys? Haven’t you ever heard anyone make small talk before? I thought pastors were supposed to be good at this particular skill. Why are you all looking at me as though I had just grown a third eyeball in the middle of my forehead? Hello?”
After an awkward and painfully prolonged silence, Steve smoothly picked up the conversation and pointed it in another direction as I slowly subsided into my chair and pondered the food on my plate. All of my efforts at being an accomplished extrovert and brilliant conversationalist had failed and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.
I mean, this pastor’s wife, Mary, was always talking on Facebook about her herb garden and all the wonderful things she loves to cook. She talks about how she’s always cooking for church dinners and for church staff gatherings. This woman is well known for her culinary skills so I couldn’t figure out why in the world everyone at the table was so puzzled about the fact that I had brought the subject up.
Had Emily Post recently created some new etiquette rule that I was unaware of? Had it suddenly become taboo to mention a friend’s cooking skills at lunch? Had I goofed? Had I committed a horrible faux paus?
I toyed with the noodles on my plate and listened idly to the newly reinvigorated conversation swirling around me. And then, in the midst of all the back and forth chatter, I heard something that triggered a brand new (horrifying) understanding of the situation.
I realized with sickening clarity that the pastor who I just been discussing Mary’s cooking with was not married to Mary. I had gotten my pastors confused. The one I was thinking of (who was indeed, married to Mary) lived four hours away and would have had no reason whatsoever to be attending our local pastor’s meeting.
Suddenly it was all clear. The puzzled looks. The furtive, worried glances in my direction as though I had taken complete leave of my senses.
I’m sure that that particular pastor went straight home and said to his wife, “Honey, you’ll never believe what that pastor’s wife from Manteo said to me. She first of all told me that I was blessed to enjoy Rachel’s good cooking and then, for no reason whatsoever, she suddenly started talking about someone named Mary instead. What in the world do you think she was doing? Do you think she was planning on scrolling randomly through all the female names she could think of? And who is Mary anyway?”
Since I am usually one of the few women present at any sort of minister’s meeting, I always feel a little extra pressure to represent the fairer sex well and to be charming, intelligent and even coherent. In all things, I strive to make a good impression.
Well, I made an impression yesterday, that’s for sure.
But it wasn’t a good one.