The Search for the Perfect Comeback

December 18, 2007

Invariably, in the hours and days following, I'm disappointed by the outcome. I become gripped by all the permutations of solutions that run through my brain. The woulda, coulda, shoulda. After the first couple times, flipping the bird or a nicely resounding "F--- YOU!" just isn't as satisfying.

It really is the search for perfection. The comment (or gesture) to end all comments. I'm sure many of you can relate.

I have two sets of comebacks under development: one for the sexist comments, and one for the racist ones. Of course, being a woman, the two offenses often blur together in all their "me sucky sucky" glory. Unfortunately, my comeback for sexism has lately returned to flipping the bird while continuing to walk. (What else can you do when people are making smoochy noises? It's just gross.) I could use some advice on this one, though, because sometimes it just makes the offender laugh.

On the racism side (and the reason I'm so fired up this morning), I've been playing with calmly turning to the person and saying, "No need for racism," or the like. Sadly, even though last night's offender was a minority, it didn't work. Instead, he said that calling me "Sumiyagi" was a compliment, whatever that means. My only hope is that he tossed and turned in bed last night, obsessed by the realization that, "Shit, I really am a racist," and had a conversation about it with his momma over his eggs and bacon this morning.

Fat chance.




unfortunately, rebecca, any response at all is the wrong one, because the whole point of hte game is to get your attention. if you give your attention, you've lost and they've won.have you noticed that the guys who call out comments at you are the lowest of the socioeconomic low? these are men the world tends to ignore and/or shit on.this isn't high school anymore. it's not the pure expression of social power. what it is, is finding a woman who is vulnerable--because she's alone or because she's a minority, or simply because she's a woman--and using her as a proxy for all of society. if they can get your attention, they've forced all of society to focus on them for a moment.sounds innocuous, but it's not. and just because they've chosen you as a proxy doesn't mean that you necessarily have the power and protection that they so resent not having. you don't have to play, and you don't have to lose.this is why i wear an ipod everywhere i go ... and sunglasses even on rainy days.
i think about this too. unfortunately, the only kind of words that pack that much firepower, are the same kind of weapons. sometimes you want to play that game; most times you don't. and i see Claire's point, but absorbing it into your skin in silence isn't a good way to live.i'm thinking next time, i'm gonna try Crazy. just start screaming and don't stop until they show fear. i'm a good screamer. this way they get to hear how i feel, and i get to send the ugly back out of my body.i'll let you know how that goes.
How one should properly respond to bullies and ignorant individuals really depends on your own personality. Sorry about your recent experience. I am sure it is much worse for minority women than for men. However, we all face these types of losers in school, at the office, and on the street. The following are approaches that I have used and have included comments regarding upsides/downsides.a) Punch first, ask questions later. This gets much more attention than words. Even if you get beaten up, the instigator will think twice before mouthing stupid comments in the future. The downside, of course, is getting beaten up. But you will get the first shot in. I do not advocate violence, but it definitely feels good when someone deserves a good whipping.b) Words and comments will only serve to make you feel better for a brief moment. You cannot educate the instigator. Responding will only incur more ignorant comments and will increase your blood pressure unnecessarily. And you will have improved nothing.c) Apply the Tony Robbins methodology. Ignore and move on. I am not advocating that one should take the higher road by keeping silent. Let the incident pass. Think about the good things in your life. Then, channel your any anger and emotion toward a positive endeavor.I think c) works as a rule thumb, but it’s the hardest one to accomplish. The most satisfying and successful is a) when applied appropriately. Forget about b).
Brad, 'A' may work for you. But it's really not a good option for women dealing with asshole men making racist comments or catcalls on the street.
Hear hear, Melissa. Brad, that was a sad demonstration of how men have NO IDEA what it's like to be a woman. The visceral fear of being raped or murdered is with us on a regular basis, and certainly in effect when a strange man is yelling racist or sexually demeaning things to us on the street.
Jolene, actually Brad suggested 'c' - which is remarkably similar to Cliare's suggestion. Which I suppose means that your response was a sad demonstration of a shortage of reading comprehension skills which are ever so important if one is to get real meaning from the printed word.So does a non-smarmy "hello" fall into the sam category as 'smoochy smoochy' noises?
Dear "Ummm,"Our friend Brad did not suggest 'c' to the exclusion of 'a'; rather, he ultimately recommended 'a' as the most ideal response, in spite of whatever shortcomings he acknowledged in each option. Even if you're, say, Brad and can vouch that what he said is not what he meant--this is indeed what he said. I'm afraid your sarcasm and condescension could not be more sadly misplaced; best redirect by looking in a mirror.
i was at costco on a very busy sunday afternoon. my sister and i gently tried to pass a very large, very slowly-lumbering white couple (on the left), with our shopping cart. the man, easily 6'4 and at least 225 lbs, got up in our face and ROARED "back off! back off!"i told him he needed to calm down. he and his wife, in front of their 8 year old daughter, started cursing at the top of their lungs, "fuck you, bitch. you need to shut up and get out of the way. fuck you!"i replied, "show some class. what a great example you're setting for your daughter" as my sister and i walked we walked away, they were still cursing at the top of their lungs and then i heard "why don't you go back to your own country!" (SO clever of them)i turned around and yelled "don't pull that racist shit on me. this IS my country. in 25 years, we're [i.e. folks of color] going to be running this country so if you don't like it, get the hell out!"their response: "yeah right!"the man had used his physical size to try to intimidate me and my sister. and then he and his wife OF COURSE resorted to the fuck-you-go-back-to-your-own-country spiel.i wish i had said, "so you've confirmed that you truly are a lower life form"or, i wish i'd shanked them right in their racist budweiser beer bellies. (assuming i knew how to shank, carried a shank, and could avoid prison) :)
Actually, Christen, sounds like you handled that pretty damn well. :)
Attempts by others to belittle you are their misguided actions in the attempt to sort out their own inadequacies. It's about them, not you. You can either totally ignore them or befriend them. Yes befriend them! These people are in a lot of pain and they need to know that you are human as well, and can share their pain. Once they realize we are all in this together, they will hopefully see the error of their ways. We are all different only on the outside. Be it black, white yellow, brown, skinny, fat, short, tall or somewhere in between!And no I am not affiliated with any religion. I am at best agnostic.From the mouth of the great philosopher Troy Brown of the New England Patriots. "Pride is dangerous thing. The more you have, the harder it is to swallow"