This Uncomfortable Moment began at 1:48 p.m. EST today. I have uncontrollably relived it in the hours since, and will continue to do so. I submit it here for a) your enjoyment and b) my expiation.
On my team at work, a lot of links to stories get sent around as pitches for things we might want to feature. Today someone sent around a link to a story about a company that offers "birthday boot camps" for kids.
The article featured a picture of a little girl straining to do a push-up in the sun. It also mentioned sweating and jumping jacks. For a birthday party.
I don't usually chime in on stories, but this one amused me and I decided to send around my snarky take on it. We have about 16 people on the team in total, and being relatively new, I haven't really gotten to chat with anyone or joke around very much. I miss having that and was in a good mood, so I replied to all:
"As a kid, would you be psyched to be invited to this party? To me it sounds about as fun as an All-Vegetable Theme Party or a Litter Clean-Up Bash."
I was pretty pleased with myself. Pathetic as it may be, I have secured most of my friendships (and possibly most of my employment) in life by making people laugh. Particularly in a work setting, I can be withdrawn and awkward. Amusing people is a wildly effective way to compensate for this. I discovered that in elementary school, when a little thing like creating an ironic, Barbie-like mermaid character named Sandy Seaweed deflected attention from the fact that I liked to wear plaid skirts with tights when other kids were into Gloria Vanderbilt and Polo.
Two minutes after that e-mail, my world came crashing down.
Coworker reply: not that you had any way of knowing this but the woman in the piece is [sender's name redacted]'s wife, hahaha
It seems that most people on the e-mail knew this fact, except for me, which led to awkward silence all around. Offices present a unique opportunity for discomfort, with everyone in cubes communicating online. Never has so much been said while remaining unspoken. When something disrupts the fabric of the atmosphere, you can sense it: people type at a different rate, there's more giggling, the air is tenser.
I sat there red-faced and nauseous and alone, having caused one of these electrical storms with my unintentionally blatant and rude diss of a coworker's family business. Thus commenced my Hugh Grant apology tour. I wrote to the offended party directly, and then I wrote to everyone, and then I flagellated myself in an in-person meeting.
I mean honestly, what do I know? Now that I think about it, my brother got push-up handles for Christmas and my sister's kids were thrilled to drop and give him 20. Maybe kids across the country are clamoring for a Biggest Loser experience. What do I know?
Watch how people react if and when you ever make a faux pas as dumb as mine. Two people were brave enough to (gently) let me know that I had been a jackass. Two others were kind enough to let me know they sympathized. Otherwise, I was on my own.
When it comes to this particular disaster, I've done everything I can. I'm pretty sure at least one coworker now thoroughly disdains me because of this. Some insults you can't joke your way out of.