Retort-challenged

Let us all take a lesson from a recent conversation at Pier 1 Imports.

I:  Excuse me, ma’am. Do you carry slipcovers?
SALESWOMAN:  No, we don’t.
I:  Would you happen to know of a store near here that does?
SALESWOMAN:  No, ever since ‘shabby chic’ went out of style, no one is making slipcovers anymore.
I:

I was in the car before I noticed my jaw was still hanging down around my neck.

What does one say after hearing a comment so mean-spirited? Where’s Winston Churchill when you need him? He was the king, rather, the prime minister, of snappy comebacks (“If I were your husband, I’d drink it”).

Driving home last night, after having been verbally assaulted at Pier 1, I suddenly remembered similar comments I’d received. This wasn’t the first time I’d been the object of a stinging, though perhaps well-meaning, insult. But my reaction has always been the same: stunned silence.

Because I’ve diagnosed myself with a watered-down version of Marilu Henner’s autobiographical memory, I can recall when each of these conversations took place.

March 1983.  After starting my first job out of college, I saved three paychecks to be able to afford a pair of shoes I wanted. They were two-toned, brown and tan Vaneli pumps. I loved them. The first time I wore them to work, a woman in the office said, “I like your shoes. I used to wear shoes like that, back when they were in style.”

August 1990.  An industry colleague approached me at a conference and asked me when my baby was due. I wasn’t expecting. It was then I started paying attention to my posture. And ditched that spongy double-breasted jacket.

April 1991. A woman seeing me try on a dress suggested, “Maybe it would look better if you wore a push-up bra.” I was wearing one.

March 2010. At a party, another guest, whom I didn’t know well, said, “You look great tonight. Not a lot of women would have the courage to wear pants like that.”

These obviously made an impression on me; otherwise I’d have forgotten them by now. Maybe now that I’ve aired them, I will.

What’s the worst candy-coated insult you’ve ever received? Better yet, who, besides Winston Churchill, can give me a snappy comeback? I’ll write it down and keep it handy for next time. It’ll be my retort card.

5 Comments

Filed under All Things Wordish, Beauty and Fashion, Foibles and Faux Pas

5 responses to “Retort-challenged

  1. I just received one at Christmas! I was modeling my latest outrageous set of flannel jammies from Nick & Norah, which feature skiing snowmen, peppermint stripes and a bright green background. She-who-will-not-be-named said, “I like your bright red toenail polish…it matches your FAKE red hair!” Snap.

  2. Deidra Darsa

    I have a potty mouth. My comeback to those comments usually starts with an “F” or something close to that.

  3. Sheree Moyer

    My most hurtful, after caring for my dear friend Joe his last year, was at the hospital. I came in to find, my ex-besty there. I sat down next to Joe and was petting his hand. She says, “Joe told me to tell everyone he does not want to be touched”, really snappy. I was mortified, heartbroken and utterly speechless. Still haunts me that I did not stand up for myself or for Joe. Some people just thrive on being mean. That is just one of the many reasons she is an “ex” best friend.

  4. Suggested retort? “Did customer service go out of style, too?”

    Snubbing: It was probably during my first year of marriage, when we were heavily into a fondue restaurant near here. For Christmas, I wanted to get Kim a fondue set, but couldn’t find one. I asked a sales clerk at a department store, who took one look at my tattered jeans and tee-shirt and said, “We have one by Calphalon, but it’s VERY expensive.” The accompanying eye-roll made it clear that she thought someone dressed like I was, could never afford such a thing. I simply said, “Well then, too bad you’re going to lose out on the commission” and left.

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