Foot in Mouth

by Anonymous

In the summer of 2002, I was a fresh-faced new associate at a big consulting firm. While most of my fellow recent college grads were still traipsing around Europe or having their last hurrah before entering the "real world," I was assigned to go on my first-ever business trip with my boss. We were to meet with a senior partner in the Minneapolis office (yes, I know, very glam!), who would go with us to pitch a proposal to a new client.

I was nervous and excited. I would finally get legitimate use out of my business cards (having my mom laminate one and display it proudly on her fridge didn't count as a legimate use in my book), and it would be my first time traveling in a suit. Here I was, jetting off on my high-flying career! Everything went well -- the senior partner in the Minneapolis office was a very nice woman, the client was easygoing, I didn't flub my lines, and we got the work. Yay, right?

After the big meeting, the senior partner drove me and my boss to the airport so we could catch our return flight. With work over for the day, the three of us chatted about our personal lives. The senior partner asked me what I had done the previous weekend. I told her that my friends and I had gone to a party at an apartment shared by two guys whom we'd known in college. The guys' apartment was impeccably clean and well-decorated. It looked like something out of a West Elm catalog, not the pigsty in which you'd expect two 22-year-old guys. I recounted how there were tea candles on the steps of the stairs, Asian-inspired floral arrangements, even placemats on the dining table.

"Wow," the senior partner marveled. "Can I have them come decorate my house?"

"Yeah," my boss chimed in. "It's not everyday you hear about two young guys having a beautiful apartment."

"I know!" I was giddy from my good performance at the meeting and about the fact that I was chatting casually with two senior people from work. To show how witty I was, I then added, "I'm going to bet those two guys bat for the other team, if you know what I mean!"

There was a bit of an awkward silence and then some laughter, but in my blissfully ignorant state, I didn't notice that anything was amiss.

After my boss and I had gone through security, she turned to me, and we had a conversation that made me turn red from head to toe.

"So, I know that when everyone starts talking casually, it's easy to feel like we're just among friends," she said. "Like in the car, just now."

Alarm bells were starting to go off in my head, but I couldn't figure out what had gone wrong in the car. "Did I say something wrong?" I asked.

My boss was such a nice woman. Clearly, the answer was YES!, but she said, "Well, no, but it's just good to be careful about what you say." Pause. "For example, when you said the thing about the two guys 'batting for the other team' ... well, what you don't know is that [Senior Partner's Name] recently got divorced because her husband suddenly told her that he's gay."

And that, folks, is how I learned not to make inappropriate comments in work settings!

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