You’re a well-spoken, well-respected guy. I know that. And I’m sure it’s not just guys who think that. But every once in a while, when we get around members of the gentler sex, we get ready to say something, open our mouths, and make people wonder just how long ago it was that our brain melted.
What, you mean that’s never happened to you? I’m the only one that happens to? Rats… Next thing you know, you’ll be telling me I’m the only one with the third eye.

Well, gather round, come share my experience with me anyway.

The Sky

I was sitting next to an absolutely radiant goddess.

It was my first day of Magazine Design class, and as an exercise the instructor had divided us into small groups for a project. So there I was, in a group of four people. Two of them were girls who’d been in my editing class the semester before. I’d never met the third girl before. Her name was Amy. And trust me, I’d have remembered her.

The assignment was to take a story about mountain climbing (provided) and a photo of a guy climbing a mountain (provided) and make a good-looking magazine layout out of it. So there we were, four shellshocked second-semester journalism students who knew everything just six months ago. Now we knew absolutely nothing. It’s funny what a semester of getting your butt kicked will do to you. Nobody wanted to say a word. No one wanted to be wrong.

Naturally, I opened my mouth.

“We can take this picture and crop it, so we see this long, narrow section of rock with this tiny guy climbing it. So we’ve got tiny guy, big rock, and even bigger sky. We run that on the left-hand side,” I looked over at Amy (I liked doing that), “and we fill the sky with head.”

“Head,” or “Hed,” is journalism lingo. It’s short for “headline,” and sometimes used interchangeably with “title.”

Of course, in the context of sitting next to an intimidatingly beautiful college girl, that wasn’t what it sounded like.

I did what I could to maintain my composure. Amy nodded, then gave me a funny look as I struggled with my composure. The rest of the girls, thankfully, missed it.

I still throw around other lazy journalism lingo from time to time, like “graf” (paragraph) or “lede” (“lead,” the first paragraph of a story). But I never said “hed” again.

The Cow

I was at my then-girlfriend’s apartment, sitting in her room in a big circle. Rachel was sitting next to me, with her roommates, Korin and Michelle, and our friend Mark and his fiancee, Shannon. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but it didn’t hold Rachel’s attention.

“Let’s get ice cream!” she said, bouncing up with childlike energy and grinning ear to ear.

Everyone else agreed. That was always a good idea. But I’m getting sidetracked.

So Rachel trotted off to the kitchen, with me close behind. I got out bowls as she got out ice cream. She scooped out a couple of bowls and ran off to her room. I scooped out two more bowls. “This is really good ice cream!” I heard someone say as I came into earshot.

“I made it myself,” Rachel said.

I came into the room bearing ice cream. I looked at her. “You made it yourself?” I asked.

“Uh huh,” she said, nodding vigorously.

“All by yourself?” I asked.

“Uh huh,” she said, nodding vigorously, grinning even bigger and jumping up and down a little.

I gave her an inquisitive look. “The cow had nothing to do with it?”

Then Mark started laughing uncontrollably, and his fair skin turned bright, bright red. I realized what I’d implied (I’m a little slow sometimes, which is one reason why Gatermann calls me “Lightnin'”), and my fair but not-as-fair-as-Mark’s skin turned bright, bright red and I started laughing uncontrollably.

Korin, Michelle and Rachel started laughing uncontrollably, but more at our reaction than at what I’d said. At least that was what they claimed later.

Shannon didn’t get it. I think Mark explained it later.

The other reason Gatermann calls me Lightnin’

I was over at Gatermann’s. We were in his bedroom with a couple of girls. No, that wasn’t the dumb thing I said! And it wasn’t like that! It never could have been like that. You’ll see why in a minute.

We were talking about a really memorable topic: How our pants sometimes bunch up out front when we sit down and how annoying it is because it looks really bad when you’re a guy.

Normally not a memorable topic. But I have a talent for making non-memorable conversations memorable, as the last two hopefully demonstrate to you. But my finest moment was nigh.

“I know,” I said. “Sometimes you just want to,” I raised my fist, “and go BOOM!” and then I demonstrated–

And never finished my sentence. I had intended to say, “to smooth out the bunch-up.”

Well, I don’t know if it was punching myself in a sensitive area that smoothed out the bunch-up or if it was my post-punch rolling around on the floor that did it, but bunch-up out front ceased being my biggest concern really fast.

And I don’t think the three other people in that room had ever seen someone make such a big fool of himself before or sense.

Gatermann’s been calling me “Lightnin’,” every time I say something stupid or am the last one to get a joke, ever since.

Your turn: What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever said in the presence of a member of the opposite sex?