On Tact

salt_n_pepa.jpgI know I’ve been whining about it pretty much incessantly for the last five years or so, but dammit, it bugs me how my beard decided to skip “salt and pepper” altogether and proceed directly to “whiskey-soaked derelict.” It’s almost enough to make me convert to Buddhism in the hopes that I can re-roll for some more color-safe genes. Either that, or start pushing a shopping cart around the city, with a boombox playing “Purple Rain” on infinite loop and yelling at invisible people.

One thing it has taught me, though, is about tact, and how I don’t have it. A while ago I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in years, and her first comment as, “Wow! You look so distinguished!” Of course, my brain instantly translated distinguished to old, but I was impressed at how someone could so effortlessly come up with the right way to comment on the ravages of time, without skipping a beat.

I’ve never been able to do that. It’s not even that I’m thinking “Holy crap, you got old/fat/weird-looking and I can’t stop staring,” I really am a nicer person in my head than I seem to be on the outside. And I think that’s the problem; I hardly ever even notice stuff like that, so my brain is struggling to come up with something to comment on. It sounds like I’m struggling to think of something polite to say, when in fact I’m struggling to think of anything to say.

I’ve seen a lot of links to this article about introverts being passed around, and while it seems a little — I’m not sure what the word is, maybe “twee?” — it does convey pretty well the idea of social interaction being exhausting. But I’ve gotten old distinguished enough that I’m no longer envious of the “life of the party types.” Now I just want to be the kind of person who can make the kind of synaptic leaps to be able to see a person and think of something polite to say in less than a second with nary an “Uhhh….”