Alison Berkley: The woes of having a big mouth
December 3, 2002
My best friend in Aspen is mad at me.
Of course I deserve it! As the daughter of two shrinks, I was always encouraged to say whatever is on my mind and be totally honest, no matter what the topic or who is listening.
Throw a little alcohol into the mix and the soap opera of interpersonal drama in a small, uppity town like Aspen, and you’ve got potential for major disaster the second my mouth starts flapping.
Knowing that my brain-to-mouth connection is about as well rigged as a man’s penis-to-emotion connection, I try to avoid bad situations by surrounding myself with tolerant people who love me no matter what.
But this time it was like I stuck my finger up a lion’s ass (sorry for the crude visual, but this girl’s anger was like, totally startling). My Brittany Spears defense (“Oops, I did it again”) held about as much water with her as the Roaring Fork did this summer … we’re talking pebbles and mud, with only a trickle of hope.
Being in a fight with someone within the confines of Aspen social circles sucks. Even when I’m not thinking about being scared of running into her, I can feel it coming anyway, in the gondola line or the coffee shop or at the bar. It’s been 10 days of living with that feeling. She still won’t talk to me.
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You could say I was born with a silver foot in my mouth, a quality I inherited from both my parents. My father is an honest man who will sometimes speak his mind a little too freely and seems to be missing that same filter that I am … I think it’s called tact.
He once innocently asked a black acquaintance how he got to be so tan (to which the man calmly replied, “I’ve been working on it for 45 years”).
He made it through medical school, yet he can never remember people’s names. He’ll try to stall them with a frozen smile and searching eyes (as if the name might be printed on their forehead somewhere) and still gets it wrong.
He especially loves to do this to my new boyfriends, a little test most have passed with flying colors (or should I say color … a nice shade of red often referred to as blush). He worked his ass off for every penny he ever earned, treating psychopaths and rich divorcees 60 hours a week for 35 years, writing endless prescriptions for Prozac and Viagra and never lying on his taxes.
He wears his heart on his sleeve, flirting shamelessly with my mom and doling out his affections for us kids like we are still 8 years old. “Geee, honeeeey, you look ad-OR-able,” he’ll say, exaggerating his vowels the way people typically do with infants and pets. There is no “letting your guard down” in our family because we were never taught to put one up in the first place.
My mom is honest in a totally different way. She’s one of those people who returns her food if she’s not totally happy with it (“This is inedible … take it back”), and has been refunded hundreds of dollars by not being afraid to voice her complaints.
She is a genius on the phone, demanding to talk to one supervisor after another until she gets what she wants. A social worker for 35 years, she has calculated intuition about people and can usually tell within the first five minutes if, a) their parents are alcoholics, b) they suffer from ADD or PTSD or OCD, or c) they’re dyslexic, depressed or anxious and what kind of medication they’re taking, took or should take.
It’s annoying when she makes these hasty conclusions about people, mostly because she’s always right. We talk on the phone every day and tell each other everything. One of my boyfriends was so scared of her that the first time they met, he dug through his luggage as if he were looking for something every time she came into the room.
I do believe truth telling is an art form, even if it does make people hate you. I certainly didn’t get this far by wanting to be popular.
I had enough of that in sixth grade, and all it amounted to was boys chasing after me on the playground and trying to unsnap my bra. Who needs it?
So what if my father’s extended family is freaking out over my “exposing their lives in the newspaper and all over the Internet?” Who cares if my Dad and brother wanted to kill me after I wrote about getting laid?
Why should I worry that Miss Stairmaster USA actually called me on the phone to confront me about whether my article about going to the gym was based on her? Or that my roommate’s good friend’s father actually owns that gym and maybe didn’t agree with some of the negative things I had to say about it?
It’s kind of like when your dog barks every time someone’s at the door or a baby spits up all over you … it’s not like they do it on purpose just so they can offend you, it’s because that’s what they’re wired to do, because it’s in their nature.
I can’t escape my big mouth (especially when juxtaposed by the smallness of Aspen) because it’s part of who I am. So I’m going to say the wrong thing and then I’m going to want to talk about it.
Every time I sit down to write some load of crap about spending Thanksgiving in California at my cousin’s mansion in Newport Beach with my screwy family and their pet chicken, I come back to this. My fingers hit the keys and out comes the truth and so the cycle continues. There’s really nothing I can do but sit back and wait and hope she forgives me. Oops … I did it again.
[The Princess’s e-mail got shut off because she forgot to pay the bill so send your gripes to email@example.com.]
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