At an event last weekend, an acquaintance wanted to know how I was doing. “Are you still grieving?” she asked.
I had the impulse to say something clever, to let her know questions like hers can sting, but I couldn’t come up with anything on the spot.
“Always,” I said.
Later that evening, I thought I could have said, “Oh sure, I stopped at 6:37pm on October 14th.”
I always think of these things too late. My French-speaking friends call this “l’esprit de l’escalier.” Translation: “staircase wit.” Used when you think of the perfect retort too late, after you’ve walked down the stairs. Of course, the situation rarely arises a second time for me to use my premeditated response.
I need to be prepared. Plan ahead. And, at the same time, sound spontaneous. This requires that I conceive of all the questions and comments I might encounter. Rehearsing wouldn’t hurt.
I remember one of Ariela’s friends who used a wheelchair. When he was asked, “What’s wrong with you?” he yelled, “SCI” over his shoulder as he propelled himself forward at top speed. He had thought about this beforehand and decided that confusing people has some merit. Also, he was able to demonstrate his physical prowess, something I can’t claim. For the record, SCI stands for spinal cord injury.
I don’t know if I was ever swift enough for really witty retorts, but I know I need help now. I vacillate between having fun with the intrusive questioner, or as my kinder friends would encourage me to do, use this as a “teachable moment.”
If you have some advice about how to deal with unwanted questions, I’m open to suggestions.