My grandfather-in-law is in his mid-sixties and could easily pass for mid-fifties. He runs marathons, rides a Triumph Daytona, and is entirely in possession of his marbles… in short, he has absolutely no excuse (as my own far older and rather senile grandfather has) for putting his foot in his mouth so regularly and extensively as he does. There’s not an ounce of malice in him, he just hasn’t acquired the habit of thinking about things before he says them.
Of the many agonizing episodes I could relate, one stands out with excruciating, teeth-clenching clarity. My partner and I were visiting his grandparents at their house, and we were all out in the front garden drinking ciders, weeding, tidying and generally pottering. My grandfather-in-law was trimming the hedge by the front gate when an old school friend of his daughter (my mother-in-law) walked past. She stopped for a brief how-d’ye-do and within a minute or two the afternoon’s peaceful comfort was shattered by that cliche of well-meaning recklessness, “So when are you due?”.
As the woman was pretty obviously just overweight, my partner, my grandmother-in-law and I all froze and stared at each other in open-mouthed horror as the hot embarrassed silence drew ever longer. After a beat the poor woman replied that she wasn’t pregnant, and my grandmother-in-law hastened in their direction to smooth things over and change the subject. Before she could reach them, however, my grandfather-in-law had subjected the woman to a moment’s critical gaze, and after a thoughtful pause had asked her with sincere concern, “Are you sure?”.
There was nothing we could do, the blunder was irretrievable. I caught the woman’s eye as she mumbled something incoherent and fled; I can only hope she read my apology in my eyes. My partner’s entire family has heard this story now, and knowing the man in question as they do it is frequently the subject of hilarity. I can appreciate that the whole episode is actually very, very funny – but I think you had to NOT be there. 0905-11
If I had been the woman, I’d have leaned closer to your grandfather-in-law and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, but loud enough to actually be overheard, “I won’t tell anyone you are the father if you won’t.” And then laughed quite heartily.
Addendum: To anyone tempted to write in the comments that had you been the recipient of such a faux pas, you would melted into a flood of tears, collapsed in agony on the ground, weeped inconsolably for weeks on end and your life ruined, please read my further thoughts in the “Comments”. I publish these stories so you can learn how to respond with grace and a little humor.