What if you had the power to rewrite history? You do.
I am the queen of the perfect comeback. If someone makes an inappropriate remark, I am really great at thinking up a witty way to deflect the discomfort of the moment. The only problem is, I tend to think of the rejoinder about ten minutes too late…after the person has left the room.
L’esprit de l’escalier (staircase wit)
A French term used in English to describe the act of thinking of the perfect comeback…too late.
I find it cathartic to explore how I wish I’d responded. I use it as a springboard for my writing. I love doing this because the situation is already emotionally charged for me and I don’t have to work too hard to dredge up ideas or passion. It is so satisfying. Besides, why waste an awesome comeback?
As I look back at 2014, I can think of a several instances during the year where I really wish my timing had been better. Case in point:
I was out to eat with a friend (who wanted to remain nameless, but has allowed me to share this story) and her mother. Throughout the meal, the mother kept saying things to me like, “Wow, you can really put it away!” and “You must be president of the clean plate club!” She even asked the waiter to hold me back if he saw me start to lick my plate or eat the tablecloth. Who says that?! I was so taken aback that I actually pretended her barbs were funny.
On my way home from dinner, I came up with this: “Had I known the entrées at this restaurant came with a side of judgment and nastiness, I would have suggested we meet for dessert instead.”
Kabam! Take that!
Too late. She was already in a taxi, probably berating the cab driver. I went straight home and wrote out how I wish the scenario would have played out.
What if we could do it all over again?
What if we could jump into a time machine, and go back to stop the soccer coach we saw screaming at a child on the field?
Do you have concerns about writing about/to someone you know?
The following posts have some great advice:
Talking Taboo: Writing About Sensitive Topics
Polish Up Your Soapbox: How to Rant Without Being a Big Stupid Jerk
You might also consider writing in a different genre, like fiction, dialogue-only (such as you might see in a script or screenplay), or you can even create your post without letting your readers know the inciting incident.
What if we could tell our father-in-law what he can do with his offer of cooking lessons, as he eats the Thanksgiving meal we toiled over?
Have you ever heard a mean joke you wish you’d nipped in the bud? A fight between lovers that you wanted to stop? A call with customer service you wish you’d handled in a different way? A political speech you wish you could have interrupted? An apology that you know you should have made?
The end of the year is a great time to clean our slates in creative ways. If you have lingering regrets about a response you wish you’d made in 2014, here’s the time to play out the scenario and find some closure. Grab the steering wheel in a way you weren’t able the first time around, and get those feelings off your chest.