Thursday, September 26, 2013

If you can't say anything nice...

I want to believe with all of my heart that people are inherently good. If I only focused on the news then I would always be proven wrong. However, I'd rather look on the bright side of things than be negative all the time. Of course, sometimes someone says something to me and all I can think is "Please don't reproduce." It's amazing the things that people will say to each other. It doesn't seem to matter if you're lifelong friends or strangers in line at Starbucks, no one seems to understand the concept of appropriate topics of conversation. Or they've just forgotten how to operate in polite society (if such a thing even exists anymore). This is probably why some people don't leave their homes.

You know that part in You've Got Mail when Kathleen and Joe are chatting online about zingers? Of course, they don't know who the other person is and don't realize that they're talking about each other the whole time. Anyway, Kathleen wants to be able to respond to a person when they say random things to her or belittle her existence. Joe, who is excellent at the retort, suggests that he give her his ability to do this and he'll be the nice one all the time. Like Kathleen, I don't always have the right retort when people say really stupid things to me. Sometimes, I just can't put the words together. This seems to be happening to me more and more lately. 

How does one respond to awkward and insensitive comments? As I work on this whole leading lady thing, I realize I need some snappy retorts that are also witty and insightful. I want to answer and shut them down but not stoop to the same level. So let's play a game: I will tell you 10 of the most awkward/mean comments someone has said to me, the situation in which it occurred (if needed), and my response. You can tell me (in the comments) if I had a good response or what you would have said instead . You're helping me be a better leading lady and I'm helping you get some of your passive aggressiveness out - win for us all.
1. Is this your daughter? This happened a few weeks ago. One of my co-workers and I were at a liquor store in Clarendon picking up some items for a party. One of the clerks said this to me. Now, I'm 34 and my co-worker is in her late 20s - it is not physically possible for me to be her mother. And there's no way I look old enough to actually be her mother.
My response: I laughed and walked out of the store while she paid.

2. Oh, you have a cat. This implies spinsterhood and loneliness. I hear this comment more often than you think. That's probably not true - I probably hear it as much as you think I do. Here's the thing - I am not the only person in the world who has a cat. Lots of people do.
My response: A lot of times I show people a picture of Pumpkin. How can you question that face? And that pose? I also like to talk about how much fun it is to have a one performer circus in my living room. Some people don't find that funny. Clearly they don't have a sense of humor.

3. I can't understand why you're still single. You're so great!
My response: I've never had a good response for this. I once told one of my friends that my kind of greatness is an acquired taste. I don't like the self-deprecating feel of that comment so I need something else.

4. So you know that there isn't a guy out there that gets all the stuff that you talk about right? Maybe you should tone it down. True story: I was having dinner with a friend recently and we were discussing dating and the possibility of online dating. She was talking about creating her profile on one of the sites and what a process it was to create one that didn't sound fake or make her sound like a freak. She stopped her thought and said the above comment to me.
My response: I was really surprised that my friend said this. It was totally unexpected. Yes, I know I'm a little geeky about certain things but everyone's got their something. So, I said exactly that and sang a little bit of that Nikka Costa song that was on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She told me that proved her point.

5. You'd be so much prettier if you wore more makeup.
My response: I do wear makeup just not eye makeup and I tend to wear more muted lip colors. I can't see very well when I take off my glasses (and I love my glasses so no contacts comments) so putting on eye makeup is next to impossible. I have actually stabbed myself in the eye with a mascara wand and once put eyeliner on in a way that made it look like I belonged in a surrealist painting (not pretty). I stick to a simple concealer, powder, lip gloss regimen. That should be enough for the world. 

6. Maybe you shouldn't read so much. Or talk about books. Smart girls are intimidating.

My response: Disagree. Reading is awesome. I have always been an indoor kid and reading has always been my preferred pastime. If there was an Olympics for reading I'd probably win. I'm actually tracking the books I read this year after reading an article about the fact that Americans only read four books a year. If my smartness is intimidating then I don't have time for you.

7. You went to Paris alone? I bet that was fun.
My response:

A rare photo of myself that I like.

8. Is this low-fat? (or vegan or gluten free or whatever else a person can come up with) I bake a lot and I usually take whatever I make into work. This is what people ask me all the time.
My response: No. I get the gluten free one the most but I'm not participating in a gluten free lifestyle so I'm not going to bake that way. If I was making something specifically for you and you are gluten free, I would make the recipe accordingly. The low-fat thing kills me - cupcakes usually aren't. If you're worried about the calories don't eat it.
9. You'd be such a good mom!
My response: A lot of single women struggle with a response to this comment. I've never figured this one out either. I agree? But then again, maybe I wouldn't be. I could be terrible at being a mom. I could just excel at being a pet mom - my sarcasm doesn't really impact Pumpkin because she doesn't know what I'm saying. You don't know and I don't know.

10. It must feel awful sitting in a restaurant by yourself. I can barely go to the store alone. I'd die if I had to eat alone too.
My response: Why would you want to go to the grocery with other people? Grocery shopping is an activity that I would do alone even if I was married. People put things in the cart wrong (this is my mom's fault by the way) and don't even get me started with bagging - there is a system and you're doing it wrong. My normal response is this: When you travel for work as I do (and have since 2004) you really don't have much of a choice. You can either hide in your hotel room or go have a nice meal in a restaurant where someone will wait on you. Bring a book, a crossword puzzle, or develop your eavesdropping abilities (or all three so the eavesdropping isn't so obvious). I don't sit at the bar because of my ability to attract the creepiest human beings in a restaurant (it's my superpower). So I take a table. I know restaurants don't always like that but I tip well and I'm a good guest. Tip: Be extra nice to your waiter. I've gotten free wine, dessert, and a discount on my bill because I was nice and provided an oasis from the crazy of the larger tables in the place. And you won't die. Unless you choke on something and no one knows the Heimlich maneuver.

Now it's your turn Island readers. Give me some suggestions for how to respond to these comments and questions. They're not going to go away so help me develop and refine my leading lady retort. 

Next Friday: Our dear friend Bad Shakespeare returns to the Island to discuss the greatest show of all time, Gilmore Girls. I head over to visit the world of Bad Shakespeare and talk about some show called Breaking Bad. I don't know if you've heard of it. I guess it's kind of a big deal.


  1. First draft of responses:
    1. No. Is she yours?
    2. Yes. I have a cat.
    3. [Agree with acquired taste idea]
    4. There are guys out there who get most of the stuff I talk about. That's good enough.
    5. You'd be much prettier if you minded your own business. OR The world could not handle that much prettiness. I'm doing this for you.
    6. Only to stupid boys.
    7. Yes. It was great, thanks!
    8. No. It's good.
    9. Perhaps. Time will tell. Would you like a non-low-fat, non-gluten-free cookie?
    10. I'm not a remora.


    For #3 you can always go with classic Bridget Jones - underneath my clothes my entire body is covered in scales

    #6 - someone implied a few weeks ago to me that it was a waste of time to read so much and it made me uninteresting. If you get a good response for this one let me know too

    #10 - we were literally just talking last night about how great it is to go eat by yourself. My friend Pete even has a song about it. When that's out you can use it as your retort!

  3. 1. Heavens no! She's my mother...
    2. Actually, the cat has me.
    3. I'm busy working to save for the perfect mail order husband.
    4. Yeah, guys can be a little dense.
    5. Well, I wouldn't want to outshine you!
    6. Only to dumb boys.
    7. Perfect response.
    8. When was gluten ever free?
    9. Yes, the kids locked up in my basement always say the same thing...
    10. What, you don't like to listen to your own mind?

    OK, this was fun! Thanks for the good time.

  4. Y'all are good! I'm glad this was a fun exercise. The mom comment came up today (which made me laugh when it happened). I'm going to start working some of these into my repertoire.