Stupid Stupid Person

Most regrettable thing I ever wrote? Easy. Summer of ‘93, a column about self help meetings. It started this way:

“Once, only old guys with thinning hair and pinstripe suits went to meetings,” it said in paragraph two. “Or fat ladies in hats. Or members of Alcoholics Anonymous.”

I positively cringe now at the sight of this glib targeting. I mean Old guys with thinning hair? Fat ladies? People in recovery, for Heaven’s sake? 

Here’s how this gem of a column started:

“You know the TV ad where the dressed-up woman says she’s too busy for a yeast infection? Well “What is she so busy WITH?” you might ask. Meetings of course! These days everyone goes to them. Pick up your local paper and turned to the community calenda,r as I am doing now…..”

I then went on to list some actual meetings, adding my own supposedly humorous details: For the Mothers and Sons Group, for example I wrote, “Thursday night’s topic: “Should You Still Be Making His Bed” and “How About With Him Still In It?” For the Body Image Group: “This week’s theme: I’m Okay (But Your Head Is Growing.”) And for the Women in Menopause Group I had two topics: “There’s No Flash like a Hot Flash” and “Making Rage Work for You.” 

I even made light of people with compulsions, as when I had an OCD support Group taking on both the topics (1) “DID I Turn off the Stove? and (2) “Counting Cars”.

But my real low point came when I got to the meeting of the Mild Head Injury Group, joking “What meeting?” “Is there a door to this room?” and, almost unbelievably “Duh.” 

Well THAT DID IT for one reader who having seen the column in her local paper, called the Editor to demand I be fired, and then sent a long denunciation of all my work to the Publisher. She called the piece “toxic tripe” and ridiculed especially the fact that I said “no offense intended” near the beginning: “It takes an irresponsible hypocrite to say ‘no offense’ before dishing out abuse about those suffering loss and crisis, and victims of crippling accidents.”

She also she led by calling me “Jabba the Hutt in espadrilles” which really threw me. 

Still, as stung as I felt, I knew I had to sit down and write a letter of an apology, which I did. Then, “Case closed.” I told myself. “Move on.”

Tick tick tick….

Then three years passed and one day a letter appeared in my mailbox complimenting me on a column I’d done about Cosmo the fashion magazine. The letter was signed only with the writer’s initials but I recognized them; and the return address; and even the type-face.

When I wrote back to say thanks for the kind words I added a spur-of-the-moment postscript: “I know this is you, M.” I said. “And I’m still sorry for what I did.”

And then and there this stranger and I began walking down a new road together. I changed and she changed and we became friends.

This story served as my column last week. I promised there to tell the rest of the tale in seven days so stop by again on October 11th for the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say,

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5 thoughts on “Stupid Stupid Person

  1. You were lucky enough to receive the precious gift of forgiveness And be given a second chance here, Terry! How lucky you are!

    With your letter prompt of apology to M, and her in turn, complimenting a subsequent column, you both demonstrated change And emotional and spiritual growth after that unintendedly errant column.

    I know I’ve made my own share of mistakes in my life time and in turn, have been very hurt by others mistakes towards me.

    In an unforgiving world as this, it is encouraging to see that something so hard, yet simple to do and receive as an apology, in this case, can allow both the unintended offender and receiver can go full-circle, if they both allow it.

    For me, this column has helped me to realize that in order for me to continue my own growth, I have to accept that while most of the world may seem very unforgiving at times, doesn’t mean I have to be. You and “M” have certainly demonstrated that here!

    Thank you for sharing this, Terry!

    xxxxxxx

    Patty

  2. This struck me, too, because it demonstrates how little people are aware of what they do when they hurt others. But also how much they do when they apologize. Unless you connect with a hard head who demands an apology several times over for one offense while having committed several for which she has never apologized, most hearts are soft enough to see the humility in your acts and the corresponding one from the person who accepted your apology. Never change, T; you are an angel just as you are.

  3. Oftentimes, the most beautiful flowers are found growing in a dump. Which means to say, here, two beautiful flowers rose out of an unlikely place, grew together, took on a different shape and color-changing the landscape toward a full flowering of greater beauty.

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