Mulling life’s awkward situations

Published 1:33 pm Friday, July 17, 2009

There are certain situations in life to which I will never know exactly how to respond.

There are those times when you ask someone you do not know how they are doing as you pass by. Then, not expecting an answer of any depth or magnitude, you find yourself bombarded with said individual’s difficult story. What do you say?

Or there is the reverse. What if you’re having a bad day and someone asks you? Do you say “fine” or “good” or something else that you know is not even remotely true?

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There is always the awkward, uncomfotable prospect of coming face to face with an ugly baby. And don’t try to play the righteous card and say that there are no ugly babies. Everyone who is completely honest with himself knows that he has seen an ugly baby.

You’re left standing there, attempting to conceal your whinces as you look the parents of this child in the face, choke back your own tears, smile slightly and say, “Wow. He’s…adorable.”

For me though, one of the most awkward situations possible is a wedding. Well, it is not necessarily the wedding itself that gets to me. It is the reception afterward.

What is appropriate to say?

I mean, I understand that “congratulations” customarily accompanies the consumption of some ridiculously expensive cake and lukewarm finger foods.

But is that really appropriate?

Think about when you normally use “congratulations.”

It is typically when someone has accomplished something.

It is normal to use for graduations because the receiver of the congratulatory greeting has achieved something measurable. Or you could use it when someone gets a promotion, hits a hole in one, has a child (even if the sight of said child makes onlookers wince in agony), wins the lottery, gets a much-needed vital organ from a donor or happens to come out on Uncle Sam’s good side after doing taxes. These are all notable circumstances in which an individual defies odds or perseveres through something.

So how is congratulations appropriate for a wedding? It seems almost to be a backhanded compliment of sorts.

“You found somebody who is dumb enough to hitch their wagon to you. Congratulations.”

It hardly seems adequate. Perhaps more than anything, it seems odd because “congratulations” usually comes at the end of a thing and a wedding, for all intents and purposes, is simply the beginning. So are you saying, “Congratulations. You have no idea what you are in for.”

That fails to strike the right chord.

So there I stand, excessively costly cake and watered down punch in hand, unsure of what to say to this elated, clueless couple. And all I can really think is, “Please God. Don’t let them have an ugly baby.”

Jeremy D. Smith is sports editor for the Demopolis Times.