May 7, 2010

Foot Removal 101

We’ve all done it. We’ve opened our mouth and inserted our foot. While the intent may have been innocent humor, the result is still the same. Someone was hurt by a thoughtless remark.

I used to work at a grocery store. I will never forget the first time I rammed my foot into my mouth so deep, I’m surprised I don’t have sneaker treads on the back of my throat. I was on hold with a bank to see if there were funds for a check. The person on the other end of the phone didn’t seem particularly bright or astute. As I sat waiting on the phone, rapidly losing patience, I turned to my co-worker and whispered, “I’ve got a real retard on the other end.”

My co-worker had a child with Down’s syndrome.

Another time I was talking to someone about how I had picked up relish at the grocery store three trips in a row, forgetting that I had picked it up the previous week. I made the self-deprecating remark that I had early onset of Alzheimer’s.

The neighbor I said it to had a parent with Dementia.

This week, I made a remark about being unable to control what my fingers did when I typed and called it keyboard Tourette’s.

The friend who read that comment has a child with Tourette’s Syndrome.

Each time I have made these thoughtless remarks, I never know how to unsay them. Instead, I want to thank the folks who pointed it out to me. It’s never easy to admit being wrong, but it’s a lot easier than continuing to offend. I think it’s a valuable lesson to remember that when we make jokes, if it is at anyone else’s expense, it ceases to be funny. It's a brutal reminder to really think before we speak.

My sincere apologies as well as a thank you for the wake up call. My shoe isn’t very tasty, and I really would like to remove it from my diet.


  1. That was a good post Kim. We've all been there. What a good reminder to watch what we write everyday. Also, thank you for being self-depracating in your remarks, and honest. So few people have the ability to mock themselves anymore. It's a quality I admire! :)

  2. I am on Google Alerts for any mention of Tourette's. I have a 12 year old son with TS and OCD and ADD. I get so frustrated with people who make casual remarks regarding conditions that are real, conditions that make people suffer. But I have to say that it's nice to hear someone admit her mistake and make amends. A mistake remains a mistake only if no lesson was learned. It sounds like you learned how hurtful these remarks can be to someone who has to watch her child punch himself in the stomach repeatedly as he sits with tears in his eyes. Tourette's is so much more than repeating words. It is painful both emotionally and physically. We've all made remarks we wish we could "unsay" but at least you took the high road and admitted that you were wrong. If you wish to learn more about what TS is like for a child you can visit my Tic Dock page on
    Thank you for your apology to all who are affected by TS.

  3. Moxie & Kris, thank you for your input. I think it's also very brave for someone to tell you when they are offended. That's no easy task either. So I would say a lesson has truly been learned today.

  4. Yup... we all do it. Well said, Kim. I've recently placed my loafers in my gapping maw as well.

    The best thing we can do is plead for forgiveness. That you did it publicly says a lot about your character.

  5. Oh Kim, what a timely post. I just inserted a size 8 and the person I offended is not accepting my 3 apologies. I wish I had more impulse control. After a person tells you they are offended, I think it's only fair to accept their sincere apology. I'm at a loss in my situation.

  6. Let me tell you about a friend of mine. She once made a joke about wanting to start a dating service for people with cancer and wanted to call it Fatal Attractions. She said it to an audience of mostly cancer patients. And the response she got was laughter. And maybe it was because she also had cancer, but I think they would have laughed no matter who said it. It wasn't meant to be hurtful or callous or thoughtless. And yet I gasped. I would have thought it was insensitive. But that wasn't the intent nor was it taken that way. Yes, many of us need to learn how to talk to others. But I also think many of us also need to learn how to listen to others. We've become politically correct to the point where we can't do anything or say anything for fear of offending someone somewhere. I think we need to be able to laugh at ourselves, at our imperfections, at our tragedies, because if we don't laugh, all we'll ever do is cry. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not condoning anything that is done in the name of hurtfulness. I'm not suggesting some people get a thicker skin. I know that other people's comments, joke or not, can trigger a feeling of sadness or pain. But. The source is important. The intent is important. I know, Kim, you are a sensitive and caring person. You are a sensitive and caring writer. And for that reason I can't find you offensive. Oh, yeah, and that friend of mine? She died. And I tell that joke about the dating service whenever I get the chance.

    Brenda S.

  7. Thank you for your sincere, heartfelt apology, Kim. It really means a lot. It has been an especially difficult time for Brett and it hurt to read your original comment with all that he has been going through lately. You know I am the first person to laugh at myself, but when it's your child that is suffereing, it's so much more difficult. Thanks again. Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day. Wendy

  8. I like what anonymous said, above: "I think we need to be able to laugh at ourselves, at our imperfections, at our tragedies, because if we don't laugh, all we'll ever do is cry."

    I also like that you were also sensitive enough to apologize.

    I find a lot things funny that others might not. The key, as a writer, is knowing when to share it, I suppose. Sometimes we goof up, and that's okay, too. We learn, we move on.

    You're brave to keep writing!


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