Wednesday, 18 September 2013

I'm not Spanish; I'm just socially awkward.

There's a bit of a scenario building up at the moment and I feel I need to make a public statement before it gets even more out of hand than it already is.

Lets start with a bit of background information:

You should know that I'm a bit of a klutz.  I walk into doors and slip on banana skins and stuff.  This is the source of much hilarity for my friends and family, because when standing still, I don't look particularly unwieldy.  One might even imagine that I am serene and graceful.  The reality is that I am like a puppy at that awkward phase where their legs are too long for their bodies and they trip over themselves and knock things over all the time. "Sorry.  Sorry about that. I'll just wipe that up for you shall I? Oh God, sorry, not again."

Not only am I physically clumsy, I'm also completely socially inept.  I'm fine with people I know well, and I am perfectly capable of public speaking, but I blunder and stutter through the rest of my life like a cross between Mr Bean and Hugh Grant's character in Four Weddings and a Funeral.  Here are a few choice examples for your delight:

1. Due to a slight misunderstanding and not wanting to upset an old woman who'd got the wrong phone number, I pretended to be her granddaughter (who had the same name as me - please say that you can see how this occurred) and arranged to meet her to go shopping. Even though my grandmothers were both dead so it couldn't possibly have been them on the phone.  I can't think about this too much because I start imagining scenarios in which she might have been diagnosed with dementia because she was so convinced that she spoke to her granddaughter, who, of course, knew nothing about it.  Guilt.

2. I accidentally moved next door to someone who I had had a - liaison, shall we say - with, because on viewing the flat, I was struck with how familiar the surrounding area felt and how I felt like I'd been there before and how, in that case, it must be a sign from above telling me that it was my new home.  Turned out that I had been there before: In the front bedroom of the house next door. Now I looked like a stalker setting up a spy camp. Excellent.

3. I sat through a work appraisal with one hand covered in the excrement of a child that I'd just helped to clean up after a toilet issue (I was a teaching assistant at this point), rather than pointing out that I was, in fact, covered in shit and just needed to wash it off.  I really do wonder about this one, and where my brain was at the time.

As you can see, most of these issues were caused by that most British of traits - the fear of causing somebody else embarrassment.  Which makes it mildly ironic that I find myself in my current situation.  Read on...

Over a year ago I went for a run, wearing my husband's Italy football shirt. I stopped at the local shop for a bottle of water on the way back.  The man in the shop is foreign (no idea where from) and doesn't speak very good English, but is very friendly.

"Aha!" he said, spotting my t-shirt. "Italian! I knew you are not from here. You are Italian, yes?"

To be fair to him, he's not the first person to make this assumption.  I have dark hair, pale skin and very prominent cheekbones.  I do look fairly European I suppose.

"No, I'm just English", I replied.

Somehow he heard this as "No, I'm Spanish."

"Espana! Of course! We are both foreign here, yes? A very good country."

At this point, Hugh Grant took over and I decided that, rather than tell him that he had misheard, I'd just smile and nod.

I forgot about this exchange until I needed to use the shop again a month or so later and was greeted with a cheery "Hola!" as I approached the till.

I genuinely assumed that he'd just forget who I was, but every time I went in after that I'd think I was just about getting away with it, when he'd slip a reference to "my country" or a "buenos dias" in there, and we'd be back to square one.  By this point, I was too far down the route of no return to admit that he'd misheard me and that I am not, in fact, from Spain.  So, OK. I'd just pretend to be Spanish every time I went into the shop to save embarrassment.  What harm could it do?  No harm at all really, but it was getting pretty awkward a few months ago because he'd started buying in a range of tapas in order to make me feel more at home and I had to buy it.

You'd think it couldn't get any worse, wouldn't you?  But it could.  Because Rory discovered Dora the Explorer on TV a few months ago and is addicted to it.  For those not in the know, Dora the Explorer is a Hispanic American (I think - I don't know much about this culture, so could be wrong) and very annoying girl on an American TV show. She speaks both English and...well, I'm not even sure.  Could be Spanish. Could be Portuguese. I'm sure someone can tell me.  She's bilingual anyway.  Rory is very taken with her, and, amusingly, by copying her, he has convinced himself that he can speak fluent Spanish.  This is hilarious to listen to as he jabbers away, making up most of the words and punctuating them with the occasional genuine one. It's a lot like the episode of Friends in which Joey speaks French.

So, last time we were in the shop, Rory spotted a Dora the Explorer magazine and started waving it about in excitement, counting to 10 in Spanish and then launching into a particularly theatrical bout of semi-Hispanic gibberish.  Shop Owner Man was very impressed with this and beckoned his wife over to listen to "the clever boy who speaks two languages so young".  As a result, Rory now tells random strangers that he is half Spanish.

I really thought that this was the peak of the problem and that I was just never going to be able to go into the shop again, but the other day, I was approached in the playground by a mum that I vaguely recognized.  "I didn't know you were from Spain", she said.  Ah yes, she was in the shop while Rory was giving his linguistic performance.  "Hahaha, well, um, actually I'm from..." ("...Watford, and it's all just a hilarious misunderstanding", was what I meant to say, but at that point we were interrupted by the children having to line up, so I never got to explain).

There is only one way this can go now isn't there? And it's going to culminate in Rory and I dressed as flamenco dancers, having been asked to lead Spanish Day at school, isn't it?  Has anybody got any of those Muzzy foreign language tapes that are always being advertised? I think I'm going to need one.


  1. I love you, you tit! I end up in situations like this... It's not just you x

    1. I think "tit" just about sums it up.

  2. Psst - Alex is just trying to make you feel better. It IS just you :D

    GREAT post!

    1. Nooo, it can't just be me. In this infinite universe we live in there surely has to be a couple of others who are similarly afflicyed.

  3. Thank you! It has been just that kind of day where I needed reassurance that I am not alone. And just FYI - Dora is Latina, most people think she is from Mexico .... and she is the most annoying little girl on television. I was a very happy mom the day my son said he wanted to watch something else because Dora was for babies. And hang in there - how bad can flamenco dresses be! ;)

    1. Latina! That's it!

      And yes she is incredibly annoying. Any why does she put emphasis on the wrong words in sentences?

    2. Plus, I'm coming round to the idea of a flamenco dress. I think I could rock that look.

  4. Just in case.....


    You aren't the only one, I'm horribly socially awkward as well. It feels like I spend half my life going bright red, sweating and stammering apologies.

  5. Oh my....That is so funny!! Glad it's not just me who ends up in situations like

  6. You are a real life Miranda. Love it.

  7. You need to write a play! Very funny and Miranda-ish (as Raisin4Cookies said).

    1. Stop it, now! When my husband first saw an episode of Miranda he shouted "Lise! Lise! Come and see, there's a woman on telly just like you." :-(

  8. Omg this is hilarious! Thanks for brightening up my Sunday morning

  9. From a Spanish point of view (as I am Spanish) you are completely Birtish I must say, because British people usually don't know the differences between Portuguese and Spanish. But please... forget about wearing a flamenco dress. Just try to make a funny accent and stop saying "thank you" and "please" all the time, we seldom do it. With these tips you'll be fine. I love your post by the way.. I'm quite awkward sometimes and I felt identified with it :) And if you need some lessons, just let me know ;)