7QT: Flannery O’Connor, Social Ineptitude, and More

1.  Last week I forgot to link back to our gracious 7 Quick Takes hostess, Jennifer To make up for such an atrocity:

There!  Credit!

2.  (In which she brown-noses:) For those of you who haven’t or don’t read Jennifer Fulwiler’s work, what the bageezes are you waiting for?  She’s humorous, thoughtful, kind, and, as an atheist-to-Catholic convert, brings to her writing a perspective we in the Bubble don’t get every day.  Besides, she’s self-avowedly a socially inept introvert and is therefore one of my heroes.  Witness:

The ladies at church seemed startled when I climbed out of the window of my minivan.

When the driver’s-side door handle broke the week before, I decided to avoid the overwhelming task of getting it fixed by learning to live without a functioning car door.  I was too tall to scoot over the seat and out the passenger side, but I grew up watching The Dukes of Hazzard and knew that entering and exiting vehicles through windows was a perfectly viable option…

You’ve probably guessed the punch line.  Now add a complication…

Unfortunately, one of my first experiences with these realities occurred in front of my acquaintances from church.

…and you have a recipe for socially inept, introspective introverted comic GOLD. (Quote from Style, Sex, and Substance: 10 Catholic Women Consider the Things that Really Matter.)

3.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m introverted, which comes as a surprise to some (okay, to all) who know me, because I’m a ramb-ler. By the babbling waters of Babylon, I sat down and babbled, babbled, babbled.  Sigh.  So a lot of people think I’m an extrovert.  So not.  Sometimes, when you let the introvert out of her introvert cave, she overwhelms others with every. single. thing. she’s. thought. for. the. last. eon.  Plus, nerves.  Bad combo.

That’s what happened today.

I was invited to a large mother’s group at a local church.  Normally I can’t stand these things; making small talk stresses me out to no end, I’d rather spend the time at home doing home things, and the very idea of a “mom’s group” seems so, I don’t know, culturally suburban.  Bleh.  But given that my son’s take-away impression of visiting local daycare centers was, “Other kids,” I’m thinking that maybe I need to make more of an effort.  Besides, I was invited by a colleague of my husband’s, who, he promised, is very sweet (and she is).

Let me cut to the chase and turn my story (it was gearing up quite nicely, wasn’t it? See?  Told you.  Babbler.) into a summary and say: I babbled.  And, at one point, babbled incoherently about something that, because I was incoherent, probably left a bad impression of me as a mom.  Oh, and I blurted once.

So I’m sitting on my pity pot, beating myself up, once again, over my inability to communicate effectively with the rest of humankind.

The play group was otherwise awesome.  We’ll be going again.

4. You know who else was socially inept?  Flannery O’Connor. 

Don’t be shocked.  She says so herself.

Every Flannery Fanboy and Fangirl who also happens to be a Jesus-Catholic-Fanboy/Fangirl loves to quote the famous, “If it’s just a symbol, to hell with it!” defense of the Real Presence. People, sometimes priests, even try to recreate it, using her words in a planned attempt to be just as shockingly profane in defense of the sacred.

People, don’t. You can’t and shouldn’t recreate the momentary inspirations of the socially inept.  And it was the response of one who was socially inept, as she says:

I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater.  (She just wrote that book, A Charmed Life.)  She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual.  We went at eight and at one, I hadn’t opened my mouth once, there being nothing for me in such company to say.  The people who took me were Robert Lowell and his now wife, Elizabeth Hardwick.  Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them.  Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend.  Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the “most portable” person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one.  I then said, in a very shaky voice, “Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.”  That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable (Habit of Being: “To ‘A.'”, 16 December 55, pp.124-125, emphasis mine).

Flannery’s exact words were the fruit of her weakness.  She was a woman who spent most of her days living in her head, except when she was (as is implied) dragged out and forced to mingle in smarmy New York faux-intellectual circles.  Nervous, she couldn’t speak; when pressed, she blurted out that oft-quoted line – a socially-awkward blurt.

Humanly speaking, there are other ways of challenging the Mary McCarthys of the world to reconsider their positions – employing the Socratic method, perhaps, or simply charming the socks of the intelligentsia so that they can’t hardly believe such a charming person could be a faithful Catholic as well.  (Cardinal Timothy Dolan comes to mind.) Those with social graces and the smarts to match find ways of defending the point with more ease and aplomb. I’m sure those around the table thought Flannery strange, and I doubt Mary McCarthy went away converted.

You can’t plan to say what Flannery said and have it be effective.  You can, however, believe that Flannery, in that time and in that place, was graced to bear the cross of social awkwardness and the painful judgment of glittery salon in order for her words to resound beyond that situation as a moment of great Christian witness.

5.  Does that make any sense?  I’m afraid I’m not making my point clear.  But these quick takes are getting a little less than quick (babbling again!  Darn it!), and I need to wrap this up.

6. Smoked Paprika.  Just. do. it.

Chicken + butter + agave nectar + smoked paprika + kosher salt + pepper.  Roast. Baste a few times.  Easy.  Delish.

7. I promised my sister-in-law some pictures from Halloween:

With Brown Bear’s mitts. Enthused.

That’s all here.  Go visit Jen.


  1. spilisz08 says

    Your number 4 is awesome, and so very true. You can’t force those things. Also, I love Flannery so. I do great socially if I’m with other devout Catholics; if I’m with anyone else, I always offend someone. Sorry folks, I can’t turn it off. :)

    I love your page, especially the banner. Very nice.

    • Rhonda Ortiz says

      Thanks! I’m glad you like the site.

      There’s a balance between the prudence of social politeness and fearing to offend, right? O’Connor’s response was, as she said, the only one she was capable of giving, because the Eucharist is Life. I’m sure there’s quite a bit more to that conversation that she could have responded to and didn’t. Just a guess. But she responded in all seriousness to the most pressing point, that of defending the faith.

      To site not the most saintly example, I’m reminded of a Stephen Colbert interview with an academic on his new book about the devil. At some point the comedy turns off and apologetics turns on – for just a few moments. We can joke and have a good time until it actually turns on heresy… (Warning: Language.) http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/149094/february-11-2008/philip-zimbardo

  2. says

    People are way too self-absorbed and think too much of themselves to focus on (what you call) your tendency to babble. When the moms left the social setting you describe, they were thinking not about what *you* said but all the stupid things *they* said. Human beings are their own biggest fans and they love to think most about the clever (or not so clever) things they say and sadly, aren’t focused enough on what others say. (Admittedly, I’m guilty of this myself) This is what makes the saints the saints, I think, because they really do think about what others say. I offer this to make you feel better…. I hope it did…maybe it didn’t… :)

    • Rhonda Ortiz says

      Well, it certainly confirms me in my own self-absorption! (I babbled, I babbled, woe is me…) LOL. But, seriously, you’re right, and remembering this would help me allow my own mistakes to roll off.

  3. says

    I did a similar thing at my homeschool group last week and am still making phone calls of repentance… one left (the hardest one, wouldn’t you know!)
    Oh, and the bear mitt forces an artificial thumbs up. Hilarious juxtaposition with his (adorable) face.