Friday, February 24, 2006


My cousin came to visit last summer. We hadn’t seen each other in over 4 years. It was fun catching up on events, shopping, hiking, dining, checking out the local music scene etc. Before she was leaving she said she had the best time. The only thing she regretted was that I wasn’t as sharp-witted or sarcastic as I used to be. She missed my old sense of humor. I didn’t know what to tell her.

I have been trying to think about what she said. It is true but why? What changed? Did love soften me? Or was it something else? Age? Wisdom? Have I become too mellow?

Don’t get me wrong, I was never mean to everyone. For some reason I have always found it difficult to laugh at people who are generally nice or well intentioned even if their methods leave something to be desired. When my friends made fun of someone like that I would often protest. But I never had a problem cutting people down to size with a few choice words when they deserved it either. People who were being deliberately cruel or bullying others or flaunting their superiority with the sole intention of making someone else look bad. My sarcasm and blithe, cutting comments were reserved for them.

Around 2 pm I went down to the post office to drop off a package. There were two girls right in front of me in the line. In their late teens or early twenties. Very fashionable, pretty. Just in front of them was a middle aged middle eastern woman, slightly overweight, frumpy and clearly having a hard time filling in a form. She kept asking people for help. The two girls were making fun of her. It took a few moments for me to realize that’s what they were doing. They were making fun of her clothes and shoes, her complexion and her poor English. I felt my temper starting to rise. And then one of the girls turned to the other, grabbed her by both hands and in a mock pleading tone said, "Please, promise me you will shoot me and save the world if I ever start to resemble that."

I was furious. The words were at the tip of my tongue. And then I leaned around them and asked the woman if I could help. She looked so relieved. I said, "Why don’t you come join me and I will help you fill out the form. Let them go on ahead (pointing to the girls)." The woman positively beamed at everyone, even the two girls who sniggered at this, and walked over to where I was standing.

The girls rolled their eyes and turned to look at me. I could see it in their eyes, the amusement. And then they looked away. It’s easy to ridicule a poor old woman who doesn’t understand what you are saying. It’s a lot harder to intimidate an attractive and well dressed woman who meets your gaze smiling and unafraid. The amusement faded. They turned around and started talking about something else. I helped the woman fill out the form and stayed with her until she was done at the counter.

Now I know what to tell my cousin if she asks again why I am not as sarcastic or sharp-witted as I used to be. It’s because I found a better way to silence people.


Blogger Bent out of shape said...

Yay!!! Yay for you!!! I loved that...

2/24/2006 5:32 PM  
Blogger srchngformystry said...

im glad you had the courage and the sassiness to best those two mean girls. guess you showed them who the fools were. too bad they wont realize it ever.

2/24/2006 6:33 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Just ran across your blog and find it fascinating. You have a great talent for writing.

2/24/2006 7:41 PM  
Anonymous doc said...

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2/25/2006 6:15 AM  
Blogger Coloratura said...

Much to be said for 'killing with kindness'... touché, well done and I would have done the same thing myself!

Are you salsa-ing yet?... just kidding!

2/25/2006 5:34 PM  
Blogger cherchezlafemme said...

coloratura, not yet. I really need to just sign up for a class..

2/27/2006 12:15 PM  
Blogger Craig C said...

Wow, you are incredibly nice.

I probably would have said something like, "Why don't you let 'these' go on ahead..."

Great blog.

3/01/2006 3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great blog... thanks for sharing your stories, thoughts, and insights. I agree with Tim, great writing! It's wonderful that you helped that woman out as well. That's the best way to silence girls like that- strength, maturity, and kindness.

3/07/2006 9:17 PM  

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