July 1, 2014 by Melanie L.
I screwed up. I secured a career, got married, had two kids and only after I accomplished all that did I find the love of my life. (Moral police, hold your fire! I got divorced first.) In essence, I didn’t get it quite right the first time.
Frankly, screwing up is kind of my thang. Like when I took the SATs – oh, who am I kidding – any standardized test. My test scores were always higher the second time I took the test because I was too lazy or preoccupied to give it my best shot the first time.
I would like to think I’ve learned from my lifetime of bubbleheaded screw-ups and have finally committed to putting forth some effort up front. I exercise my new skills at every opportunity like, for example, when my new beau’s mother reached out to me for the very first time via an instant message. I decided I would not screw up this opportunity to connect.
Her message to me was short and sweet:
Melanie, looking forward to meeting you soon. Thank you for being so supportive of my son and making him happy.
First order of not-screwing-up was to respond. I must respond. Like a high-five left hanging, it would be a mistake to leave her message unanswered. But what should I say?
Second, I needed to craft the perfect response to make a good impression. I wanted my response to convey a number of things: that I was happy she reached out, that I’m looking forward to meeting her too, that I adore her son, that I’m smart and thoughtful and generally worthy of her son who is so damn near perfect he is nearly mythological.
Finally, side-stepping that swirling vortex of first attempt flubs meant I needed to convey all of the above succinctly and gracefully. I started drafting my response. I thought, maybe this:
Well, it must be your doing. You raised a wonderful man! Looking forward to meeting you, too.
No, definitely not. That would make me sound like a kiss-ass and no one likes those. I knew I could do better if I just gave it some more thought. Next I mulled over this instead:
Oh, it’s nothing, he’s so lovable I have no choice. Looking forward to meeting you, too.
Ugh, that’s even worse! “Nothing. . . No choice!?” My ideas were getting worse and worse.
I spent over an hour debating the merits of multiple iterations of seemingly similar responses all in the name of not-screwing-up. When it finally hit me, like the fabled song of the Sirens on Odysseus’ uncovered ears. I had steered myself toward the perfect response!
I knew just how to convey the extent to which I adored her son, my appreciation for his reciprocal affection, and my eagerness to meet her. Best of all, the response I had crafted was so perfect, it would convey how smart and thoughtful I am at the first impression, a sign she would surely take that I was worthy of her son.