This won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but I haven’t ever had much of a filter. Dad was always telling me I needed to think before I spoke. I tend to believe that thinking before speaking or acting makes Jack a dull boy, which is probably why most of the things I write are written by the seat of my pants. When referring to this dilemma where verbal communication is concerned I like to say my method of joking is like shooting from the hip. You miss a lot and folks stand around wondering why you are laughing at your own unfunny joke, but by the law of averages you sometimes hit your target and when you hit the target with a hip shot then you’ve done something awesome.
Anyway, despite my personal dislike of thought before action, I have, through the constant vigilance of my wife, developed a faulty, and sometimes effective filter. I find as I get older that very often I recognize that a funny comment would be a terrible and offensive leap across that line I like to toe, and I am actually able to cut it off just as it is about to pass my lips. I probably look like I’m choking or something when it happens.
For a while my newfound ability to filter myself seemed such a waste. So many wonderfully inappropriate quips cold and dead, victims to my resolution to be a decent human being. Then all at once I realized that I was a writer, dammit, and I began to file them away. Now I create despicable characters to voice these thoughts so I can remain clean. I don’t go around claiming to be a shining pillar of virtue nowadays, but people say it about me…
When this method fails, I find that I can always fall back on what I like to call verbal white out. I’m with a mixed group of friends and manage to deliver some pun that simultaneously manages to offend anyone with Hattian blood, mocks both political parties, and objectifies Marcia from the Brady Bunch. Someone laughs uncomfortably into the silence, but scoots away from me with the rest, afraid I might taint them. Here is where verbal white out comes in handy. Just sprinkle it on, like pepper over an overcooked dinner. “Just kidding,” I say, and the conversation resumes.
Social protocol says that any who remain offended or even remember the exchange following the application of said verbal white out is in violation of the very laws of communication.
I guess this rambling post is a result of the fact that I get to speak this coming Sunday in church and my topic could easily offend people if I’m not careful. My topic is the roles of men and women in the family. I’m thinking of titling my talk, Feminism and the Gospel: I’ll iron the pants if you’ll please wear them.
Wish me luck.