Two women standing in front of me in the checkout line this week obviously hadn’t seen each other in a while. Although I’ve often thought I have certain ESP-esque gifts, this instance didn’t require any intuitive brainpower.
“I haven’t seen you in a while!” the blonde one said, to which the brunette one exclaimed, “Oh my goodness! I haven’t seen you in such a long time!” Then they hugged and chatted and one patted the other on the shoulder and the other pulled photos from her purse to share and then the cashier finished ringing up the blonde one’s groceries and their impromptu reunion was coming to an end.
“I have to run, but it has been so great to see you,” said the blonde. “I need to run into you more often. I love talking to you because I don’t have to really think that much.”
And she was on her way.
The blonde was halfway to the parking lot by the time the brunette turned to me and said, “Wait ... what did she just say?”
I carefully considered my options. I could (1) stare trancelike at the magazine cover of the top 10 celebrities who have the worst cellulite and act like I didn’t hear her or (2) look her square in the eye and say, “I think she just said you’re stupid.”
I chose option 1.
“I’m sorry, I’m not sure,” I waffled. “I’ve never tried that brand of cream cheese before,” I said, pointing to her groceries on the checkout belt. “It looks delicious.” Great cover. This woman’s long, lost friend basically said she was a lame conversationalist and I’m commenting on her cream cheese.
Nothing like a good, old-fashioned backhanded compliment. In my lifetime, I have been the receiver of many, the giver of some and the witness to countless.
“It must save you a lot of money to not waste it on current clothes,” is one I bore witness to not long ago. Granted, the receiver of the backhanded compliment was wearing polyester pants that I venture not even Marsha Brady would be caught dead in, but they fit and were pressed and she looked perfectly nice. I was embarrassed, not for the polyester-wearer, but for the person making the comment. It only got worse when she tried to make amends as the object of her comment just stood there, looking at her.
“Your hair looks great. It really makes your face look thinner.”
I prayed for a hole to open up and swallow her right then and there. It made me wonder — does she really mean to be mean or does she just not know better? I believe there are those who know perfectly well what they are doing, and those who deliver them by accident. The ones who know what they’re doing are usually easier to spot, like the acquaintance who informed me that it was refreshing for them to discover that I am smarter than I look.
Usually not one for confrontation, I couldn’t help it this time.
“So are you saying I look dumb?” I asked. Silence. “Uh ... well ... no ...,” they stammered and laughed, as if laughing makes everything better.
“Good,” I said. “Because I would never dream of telling you that’s it’s refreshing to discover that you are, indeed, as dumb as you look.”
I wish, standing there in the grocery store line, I could have jumped to the brunette’s defense and offered a fantastic comeback line for her blonde friend. Instead, sigh, I was a wimp. But I did learn something from this experience.
Celebrities have cellulite, too. And a lot of it.
Good to know.
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.