Among my many personality disorders (incredible arrogance, extreme sarcasm, narcissistic tendencies, shameless self-aggrandisement, compulsive argumentativeness, condescending nature and so forth), the one that worries me the most is what I call my brain-in-mouth disease (BIMD).
It’s a pretty serious condition that is caused by the malfunctioning filters between my brain and mouth. That is a fancy way of saying I have no ability to judge during a conversation which of my thoughts are appropriate to share with people and which are not. I have been in plenty of situations that went something along the lines of:
Deeply unattractive woman at party: Hi, my name is Ursula. You are?
Me: Me? I’m … I’m the guy who doesn’t want to father any of your deeply unattractive children (DUCs).
DUWAP: Excuse me?
Me [walking away]: I’m happily married, I tell you. Married!
On the one hand, this is a good thing. For one, people who are close to me always have an update on what’s going on in my brain at regular 10-second intervals. That’s right; I never shut up when I’m with friends. Especially when I’ve had a few beers — which is pretty much all the time.
Where my BIMD becomes a problem (other than when accosted by broody DUWAPs) is when I have to speak publicly. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a problem. But I’ve gone and written that wretched book, which is starting wreak havoc with the peace in my life.
Paradoxically enough, the reason I prefer writing is because I have the luxury of indefinite time to collect my thoughts. The filters between my brain and fingers are fully functional, you see. But now that I have written a book, people want me to speak. To me, that makes just as much sense as entering Os du Randt in a figure-skating competition because he scrums so well.
OK, so I can’t get out of this speaking thing. Not unless I don’t want the free publicity — extra copies and all that. Beer guzzling is an expensive habit, you know. But this situation poses many dilemmas for me. Let’s ignore for one second that I might have to field questions from Redi Direko at the Talk Radio 702 studios in the near future and end up volunteering the fact that I’d guzzle her used bathwater if she asked me to. This would be problematic because I have no desire to spend my nights at the Formula One any time soon. Before you judge me consider this; Redi is the exact opposite of a DUWAP.
The defence rests, My Lord.
But I have slightly bigger problems than sipping on Redi’s bathwater.
Whenever I have to speak in front of a crowd that numbers more than two, I start panicking two weeks before. I start going through the whole thing in my mind which, according to the frauds who provide public-speaking courses for corporates, is an essential step in preparation. Going through the event in my mind has the same effect that I imagine it had on Saddam two weeks before last New Year’s. That’s right; accelerated bowel movement. This is obviously extremely bad advice.
By the time I climb on that podium, I’m a walking … no, twitching bundle of neurons just thinking about the 3 723 ways in which I can put my foot in it. I guess someone is bound to ask the retarded question, “But what could you possibly say that would be so wrong?” Oh ye of little knowledge! If you were wondering the same thing, then you have never taken the time to read my pieces. I am a deeply disturbed individual. Some of the thoughts that go through my brain should never, ever be converted to the spoken or written word.
Here we’re talking about an individual who ponders deep philosophical scenarios such as what life would be like if we all had genitalia on our faces. Would the balaclava feature prominently in Victoria’s Secret catalogues? Would perverts call those 31 numbers on e.tv and whisper, “Talk dirty to me; say ‘balaclava’?” See what I mean? Clearly, with my advanced BIMD, I should never be unleashed on an unsuspecting public — especially not on the airwaves.
And this is not taking into consideration the fact that I have a funny, squeaky and nasal voice. During those public-speaking courses in the corporate I used to slave for, they recorded me speaking once. Watching and listening to myself speak was an exceedingly disturbing experience. In a greatly irritating way. I have a tendency to “um” and “er” a lot, for instance.
My public-speaking style is somewhere between Frederick van Zyl Slabbert’s and the late pontiff’s. That means I’m marginally worse than Fred Khumalo, another writer-forced-to-speak. I had to give a speech at a wedding once. Two people who listened to my droning committed suicide within the next three days. This is clearly too much pressure to put on any individual. Nobody wants to be responsible for a mass suicide orgy.
I need help. Yes, yes, I’ve read that Dale Carnegie rubbish. No, I didn’t go on the course. Apparently the course involves standing up and speaking in front of the other participants. Like, DUH!
In the next two weeks I have three speaking engagements;
1. A book-club chat at the Rosebank Mall Exclusive Books hosted by one of Gauteng’s adult contemporary radio stations.
2. A radio interview on a national station conducted by an anti-DUWAP host
3. A friend of mine has asked me to be the MC at his wedding in Pretoria. He is basing this on the fact that he read my book and he thinks I’m funny. (“I’m only good at scrumming, you moron!”)
I’m sweating bullets. Somebody, help me.
Ndumiso Ngcobo is the author of the recently released book Some of My Best Friends Are White. (Two Dogs, ISBN 978-1-92013-718-2)