I cashed out my items at the supermarket the other day and my total came to $19.04.
“Oh, 1904!” I said. “That’s the year I was born!”
The young clerk remained expressionless.
“Um…” I said, “that would make me 110.”
“You don’t look a day over 109,” the guy in line behind me joked.
As I was driving home, I found myself wondering if the clerk hadn’t said anything to me because she was bad at math and had no clue how old someone born in 1904 would be, or if she actually thought I’d been one of the original passengers on Noah’s Ark.
I also began to think how sometimes I’ve unintentionally blurted out things that might have insulted or offended people, and how many times I’ve had people do the same to me. Immediately, those insults began to pop into my mind.
Take, for example, the time I went shopping for a dress to wear to my cousin’s wedding. After trying on at least a dozen, I finally found one I loved.
“It’s gorgeous!” the saleslady gushed. “And I have just the accessory to go with it!”
“What’s that?” I asked, smiling at my reflection in the mirror.
“A girdle or corset,” she answered. “It will smooth out all of your midriff bulge!” (This, of course, was long before the words “muffin top” or “body shapers” had become popular).
I put the dress back on the rack and left.
Then there was the time, back when I was in my 30s, when I was working as a mystery or “secret” shopper. My boss happened to mention that a store manager had contacted her because he’d heard rumors about one of his male clerks allegedly making suggestive remarks to female customers. The manager wanted proof, so he asked if my boss could send a couple mystery shoppers into the store to act as “bait” to see if the clerk would try to hit on them.
“I can do it for you,” I offered.
“Nah,” my boss said, looking down at some paperwork. “I’ll need someone who’s young and attractive for this assignment.”
I was pretty sure she hadn’t intended for her statement to come out sounding that way, but I interpreted it to mean, “The only man you could attract would be one who’s been locked up in solitary confinement and hasn’t seen a woman in 20 years!”
My husband was an expert at giving cleverly disguised insults in an attempt to spare my feelings. One night, for example, after I’d tried a new recipe and then was forced to watch him eat it with all the enthusiasm of someone who’d just been told his fork had fallen into the toilet, he commented, “This meat is…interesting. And the flavor is really unique. In fact, it’s a flavor I’m sure will stay with me for at least the next three or four days.”
I think I’d have preferred to just hear him say, “This tastes like canned dog food! No, I take that back. Even the dog probably would bury it!”
Another time, early in our marriage, back when mini dresses were all the rage, I bought one that was so short, if I didn’t stand perfectly straight in it, I probably would have been arrested. Still, I modeled it for my husband.
He remained silent as I twirled before him, showing him every angle of my new dress.
“That’s a really nice blouse,” he finally said. “What slacks are you going to wear with it?”
I got the message.
But now that I’m older, I tend to just brush off any comments that might be interpreted as insulting.
Well, except for a few weeks ago when I was talking to a group of people about growing up in Manchester and one of the guys said to me, “You’re what – about 70, aren’t you?”
I really wanted to kick him.