Is It OK To Say That?

Birdie knew there were certain questions you shouldn’t ask. Like “When is your baby due?” So many times, people weren’t expecting a baby, and they didn’t appreciate you telling them their look was more appropriate for pregnancy. Birdie hadn’t had anyone accuse her of pregnancy in a long time, although her girth would qualify her, even if her age didn’t. But she’d been asked some other questions that had left her wondering, “Is it ok to say that?”

“You look tired. Are you alright?” the concerned, syrupy woman says in a concerned, syrupy voice. FIRST OF ALL, Birdie doesn’t know this woman that well, and so she would not open up to her if something WAS wrong. And also FIRST OF ALL, telling someone they look tired is a sure-fire way to MAKE them tired. Birdie is thinking, “I WASNT tired, but I am NOW.” While out loud, she is smiling and saying, “I’m fine. Thank you for asking.”
Birdie wonders, “Should I assume that because this woman –this Vera Lowdown person–has trampled all the ‘Be Nice’ rules, that it is all bets off, and now I can say something that’s not polite? Like, Wow, Vera, you have enormous earlobes. I read where aging can do that to a person.”

Is it ok to say that?

By the way, her name isn’t really Vera Lowdown. Birdie calls all snarky women Vera Lowdown. The real Vera Lowdown was a girl in Birdie’s college Milton class who ALWAYS, after an exam, would ask about Birdie’s score. Birdie would say something like, “Oh, I got an 87.” And then Vera would ALWAYS say, “I got a 93 .” or I got a 98, 90, 95, 450. Any number higher than what Birdie got. Vera is not one of Birdie’s Facebook friends.


The latest questionable question came from a guy called Noah Goodwin. Not his real name, but because he’s always trying to be funny, well, you get it, right? Anyway, Birdie and her friends are sitting in the local cafe having breakfast when Noah walks in. He comes over to their table to say hi because this is a small community, and this cafe is a sort of meeting-place where people hang out and connect. So Noah begins saying funny things as is his custom, and all of them do what’s expected which is to laugh and banter. All very friendly. Anyway, Noah says something clever to each woman at the table, and when he gets to Birdie he asks in a mock-gruff tone “What are you looking so grumpy about?” Noah’s not trying to be mean–just funny, because that is his goal in life, a goal she heartily approves, but…

Is it ok to say that?

His question catches Birdie by surprise, and it’s like a big vacuum cleaner hose sucks all the words right out of her head. Looking like a goldfish plucked from the bowl, she tries to process this “grumpy” comment, and while processing, her snappy-comeback-quotient plummets.

She thinks things like: “I don’t feel grumpy. Do I really look grumpy? I think this is my normal look. Oh, no! My normal look must be a grumpy look! Aagh! I wonder how many other people have noticed? This is my normal face, and it’s grumpy. I have ‘grumpy’ normal face. How embarrassing! Quick! I need a witty reply, because everyone knows if you look grumpy, it’s okay, as long as you are also witty. Birdie’s logic goes in the ditch when she is flustered.

Given some time, Birdie begins to see it in perspective. Well, maybe not. But, she can play it over and over and over in her head, and think of things she could have said to show that she was totally unfazed. Of course, she will never get a chance to say these things because of the big vacuum cleaner and because there are no do-overs for stuff like this.

Replies that Birdie thinks might have diverted attention from her “grumpy” normal face, but she couldn’t think of them at the time, and now, it’s too late.
1. Thank you.
2. Sorry, I have gas.
3. What’s it to you?
4. Oh, yeah?!
5. Nanny, nanny, boo boo.
6. I’m smiling on the inside.
7. Well, you’re just a big old meany head.
8. My dog just died.
9. A silent, baleful glare. (Birdie is sure she has a head start on baleful glares, what with having a normal, grumpy face.)
10. So, who made you the smile sheriff?
11. None of your business.
12. You’re not the boss of my face.
13. I’ll tell you why I look grumpy, if you’ll tell me why you think you’re funny.

Is it ok to say that?



10 responses »

  1. As always, clever…as you examine some of the more acute perplexities of human interaction. I was working so hard to determine the true identity of Vera Lowdown and Noah Goodwin, but was completely thrown off my thought process when I began to howl at your list of too-late perfect responses. I’m sure you will have another opportunity to sport this fine array of comebacks. In the meantime, keep scowling and honing your caustic yet delightful humor. Is it okay to say that?

  2. Wow, people say whatever pops into their heads, don’t they? that drives me bonkers. I have had more than one person tell me “You look tired.” Finally, after the 483rd time that my mother-in-law said it, I punched her in the face. Okay, that is not true. It was more like a light smack, not enough to leave (a very big) bruise or anything.

    Seriously, worse than the insulting things you just mentioned, what about the crazies that ask how much you paid for your house? why don’t I just tell you what I earn at my job and what my real weight is too while I am at it? The last time someone asked me what my house cost (and come on, is that not why God invented Zillow?), I did not bat an eye. Instead I smiled and politely said, “Three million dollars. It was a bargain.”

    My so-called “friend” nearly fainted, and then she said, “I guess it must be a reeeeeeeeeeeealy nice house.”



    • I’m not exactly the snappy comeback queen unless it counts if you wait two days, look the person up that insulted you, remind them of what they said, and then deliver the zinger. Just not the same effect. 

  3. Paula I really liked this. Very clever and some fantastic lines like “His question catches Birdie by surprise, and it’s like a big vacuum cleaner hose sucks all the words right out of her head.” I hate when that happens! HA! And I love “You’re not the boss of my face” and am planning to use it the next time someone says, I look, tired, bored, mad or stupid. (I have a feeling I’ll be using it a lot!) I love your alter ego Birdie, too!

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