”I carried a watermelon”.
It’s a phrase which, thanks to the classic film Dirty Dancing (just in case there is anyone out there who didn’t know), has come to be loosely translated as “I said something utterly ridiculous because I could think of nothing better to say”.
That’s how I interpret it anyway. That image of Baby stood in front of Johnny for the first time, desparately wanting to appear cool and failing fairly spectacularly is a formative early teeen lesson in how not to impress someone.
Last week I bumped into an ex for the first time since the rather complex implosion of our relationship. It’s kind of a blur but I recall that I actually held my shit together pretty well on one hand (no scratching , hitting or biting) but I’m also fairly certain I carried a watermelon at least twice during the rather surreal (but very civil) conversation. I’m not sure what one is meant to say on that first post breakup random meeting anyway – (especially when a significant amount of time has passed) there is not really any level of “how are you?” that seems appropriate – If anyone has any ideas then answers on a postcard please!!
The point is that so often when we think about challenging situations, personal or professional, we all have these fantasies about saying something cool, clever and witty right in the heat of the moment, just like in the movies. Think “I love you…I know”… “I can do anything I want to honey, I ain’t lost”… “Show me the money”… “Hasta la vista baby”… “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”… “You’re a smelly pirate hooker”. Scratch that last one, you know what I mean… and bonus Dora points for naming the films.
You know you’ve done it – whether it’s dramatically giving that bullying boss a piece of your mind, giving a big verbal up yours to that friend or partner who has wronged you or being exceptionally razor sharp and charming to that prospect you want to impress.
Alas, in my experience, those situations turn into reality maybe 1 time in 100 (10000?). My reality (again, fairly sure I’m not alone in this) is that I normally get by relatively coherently, occasionally rising above and rarely embarrassing myself. But for the 1 in 100 fist pump moments, the law of averages requires that there there will be a watermelon, and that is so often what sticks. I still remember accidentally asking someone how rivers flowed up hill…
If you’ve not said or done something equally stupid in your life, then I don’t think we can be friends!
But how do you learn to avoid saying something stupid whilst still actually saying something?
Well in my exhaustive research for this post (I googled how to have a clever conversation – it’s quite an amusing rabbit hole) I found WikiHow’s advice on how to have a witty conversation – just in case you are looking to improve your skills too. I’ve read it and am still not entirely sure if it’s meant to be tongue in cheek or not…
The only sound advice I can offer is to try and stop and think before you let words come out of your mouth. I know am really bad at this when I am feeling uncomfortable so at least I’ve given myself something to work on!
In the meantime, I’ve decided that instead of berating myself about my recent performance, I choose (have no other option!) to remember I’m human, stay humble, shrug my shoulders, face palm and then accept shit happens. One of Wiki’s tips for good conversation is to have a bank of amusing anecdotes to share and those watermelon moments certainly provide fuel for them. There are few ways to make people more comfortable with you than to share your own humiliation!
Besides, Baby did okay in the end right?