I want to be The Comeback Kid, or at the very least, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
Not a “comeback kid” in the sense that I make some sensational recovery after a fall from grace, but as someone who always has the perfect rejoinder to any jab sent my way.
At my worst, I simply look like a dummy who has lost her ventriloquist, mouth agape, wordless, waiting for someone to feed me a line.
I don’t want to be a dummy. I want to be Julia Roberts, who when confronted with a snarky saleswoman and denied service, retaliates with the line, “You people work on commission right? Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.”
Maybe I just need a Hollywood screenwriter following me around, whispering in my ear those clever lines I apparently forget when I’m dealing with a nasty person.
It started decades ago; this inability to form a coherent sentence when faced with a verbal volley. An old boyfriend approached me at a party and delivered the world’s best/worst line while standing barely a foot from my face.
He said it with such aplomb that I had to admire the self-confidence he displayed while delivering this subtle attack. Had I not been on the receiving end, I might have clapped at his nasty jab. Instead, I became a dummy.
My mouth fell open, my heart beat faster and faster, and I swallowed hard. No words though. Just numbness and shock. Clearly his screenwriter was angling for an Oscar, while mine was on some sort of a writer’s strike.
He then turned on his heels, walked away and never looked back, probably never thought about the encounter ever again. I, on the other hand, have replayed that night over and over in my head, twisting and turning the scenario, creating the perfect Hollywood ending.
Not the one where he grabs my hand and apologises for his rudeness, but the one where I spit in his face, counter with some amazing few words of my own and walk away in complete smugness, leaving him speechless. But way back then, the words didn’t come. They got stuck somewhere between my heart and my mouth and never escaped.
To this day, they still don’t come. The best I can muster at times is, “Oh yeah? Well…well.” Pathetic. Better to remain quiet.
It’s not until I walk away from a situation that I am able to come up with the perfect retaliation, but it’s often too late. To double back and puff out my chest and stammer a less-than-fully formed reply would seem a little desperate. The moment is lost; I am lost.
My daughter is not a comeback kid either, though she fares much better when faced with a pressure-filled situation. Recently, when one of her former classmates attacked her with an anti-Semitic remark, she fought back. Maybe not eloquently, but forcefully. Raising her middle finger, she let the guy know how displeased she was with his comment.
Watch Mia Freedman reveal how she deals with haters below (post continues after video).
No words, just gestures, but still better than my standard stock-still response.
It might be that I lack moxie. In my head, days later, when I am fully removed from the uncomfortable encounter, the words come easily, but why wouldn’t they? It’s safe then.
But even with the best one-liner tucked neatly in my pocket, I question whether I would have the nerve to pull it out and use it. It’s not enough to be quick on your feet, you’ve got to be nervy too, and that, I am not. Sure, it’s okay if you offend me, but heaven forbid I offend you. Nice girls don’t speak up.
Which is why I tell my daughter sometimes it’s best to skip the nice part and go straight to personal advocacy. I remind her to never be anyone’s doormat, to give ‘em the finger, give ‘em hell, give ‘em all you’ve got, ‘cuz as Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman, “People put you down enough you start to believe it.” Time for a great comeback, kid.
Following a career as a copywriter, Amy Wallis chose to stay home with her two children. But with an empty nest looming, she begun writing again – this time while wearing pajamas! When she’s not blogging, she enjoys working out, working crossword puzzles and working herself into a parental worrying frenzy. You can find her on Twitter here.