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 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.