Debbie Downer is the name of a fictional Saturday Night Live character played by comedian Rachel Dratch. Debbie is a girl who always manages to bring everyone down. Her comments are negative. She never smiles. Her conversation is dull, her manners atrocious.
(The following is based on a true story. Real names have been changed)
Yesterday I attended a luncheon and had the opportunity to meet a "real-life" Debbie Downer. I was amongst five unlucky ladies who had to share a table with this unpleasant individual. Introductions were made, smiles were exchanged by all, except by her. In social gatherings those first few minutes are crucial, they usually indicate whether the occasion will be pleasant or not. On this instance, it soon became obvious that everyone was to be covered by a gloomy, dark aura so thick, it could have been cut with a knife.
Unaware of the terrible consequences and in an effort to keep the conversation flowing, one of the ladies turned to Debbie. It went something like this:
Nice Lady: "I just went to the Botanical Gardens and saw a wonderful orchid exhibition. Have you ever visited the Gardens?"
Debbie Downer (in a monotone, nasal voice): "I hate gardens."
Nice Lady: "Do you really?"
Debbie Downer: "They make me break out in hives and my nose oozes something awful..." She then proceeded to provide an appalling explanation about the fluid expelled by her blisters and other gruesome details. Once she started she did not stop. She seemed to have an obsessive need to bring down the collective mood and ambiance.
During the barrage there were discreet coughs and several attempts to interrupt and change the subject but Debbie just kept on talking. She jumped from the subject of hives to losing her job, her mother’s illness, her neighbor’s fatal accident, her near death experience from a snake bite. We were all dismayed. I kept giving furtive looks to the nearest exit as I calculated the distance and waited for the best time to make my escape. I noted some of the ladies were busy folding and unfolding their napkins, while others seemed fascinated by the food on their plates. We all probably looked vacant and lost. Luckily, there was a constant supply of wine and glasses were being refilled at a rapid pace.
I was very annoyed. I resented this person for ruining our afternoon. I resented social protocols that prevented us from simply walking out. I observed she was well dressed and could have been quite attractive if she would smile. I thought of the difference between being depressing (causing sad feelings or gloom) or simply irritating (to provoke displeasure, anger) She was both!
I looked around the room and noted everyone was having a grand old time, clearly unaware of the drama happening at our table. I tried to concentrate on the background music a String Quartet was playing but all I could hear was Debbie's voice, and that's when it happened. I found the situation to be so comical I giggled. It might have been the wine or just sheer hysteria, but once I started I could not stop. Of course, I tried to cover it up with a cough, but that made it even worse. The ladies, grateful for the distraction, were quite helpful and eager to come outside with me for a bit of fresh air, except Debbie, who (luckily!) said she "wasn't comfortable in open spaces."
On a lighter note I must add that the afternoon wasn’t a total disaster. I managed to meet two lovely ladies and I hope to see them soon (this time in a happy, cheerful place :0)
I hope you never get to meet a real-life Debbie Downer, but if you do, remember to use laughter to break the evil spell!
Photo by Weheartit.com