Dear Captain Awkward,
Are there times when the FU should not be silent when telling people the STFU? If so, do you have a combat guide for mild-mannered ladies who wear pearls and read a lot of Jane Austen?
Wanting to Get out the Sticks and Stones
Oh, my ladylike friend, one day you will be on the subway and a creepy strange man will be leering at you and trying to talk to you, and where before you may have just tried to focus extra-hard on your book or retreated back into your happy place of recalling last night’s ball at Netherfield or mentally cataloging your spice rack, something will snap inside you and you will say “Listen, you creepy, disgusting motherfucker, why don’t you take five steps back from me because I just cannot handle your goddamn bullshit today” and it will feel fantastic.
Not everyone curses like a sailor in an extremely unprofessional manner, when, say, teaching a class on lighting for film and finding that every single light in the kit I’m using to demo is broken in a slightly different way. Invective might not roll off the tongue for you, which is okay, because people who are just learning to cuss end up sounding kind of cute when they try. It’s especially noticeable from novice actors and directors who attempt Mamet or Mamet-like (Mamet-ish? Mamet-y?) dialogue. They overemphasize the swears because the little kid inside them gets excited about saying them or they want to be dramatic, so the rejoinder to Creepy Subway Guy (above) comes out as “Listen, you creepy, disgusting MOTHER (pause) FUCKER, why don’t you take five steps back from me because I just cannot handle your GODDAMN (pause) BULLSHIT today.” Amateur hour.
Thankfully we have Miss Julia Sugarbaker to turn to in times of crisis. Look, it’s been a long time since I’ve watched an episode of Designing Women and I have no idea what she’s so mad about in this clip but I’m pretty sure I agree with every word she’s saying.
You might have to age into that some to get the right mix of patrician elocution and crazy eyes, but that just means it’s something to look forward to! Does anyone know if Dixie Carter attended some kind of Auntie Mame-training academy and, if so, can I go, too? Maybe there I can learn to cultivate pointed silence in the face of vapid absurdity.
If you want to ride down the middle of the road and can master a sufficiently cutting tone, here are some all-purpose phrases that might get you through a trying conversation if you’ve exhausted “Really,” “Wow,” and “What.”
- “Well, I’ll be doing the opposite of that, but thanks for your opinion.”
- “It’s amazing that you think that’s your business.”
- “Let’s just pretend this never happened. It will be less embarrassing for you.”
When I am rich and dead, teenage girls will get copies of The Portable Dorothy Parker and The Handmaid’s Tale* from my dead rich lady foundation, so that they learn exactly how depressing and terrifying life can be and develop the necessary sarcasm and drinking skills to cope. Dorothy Parker could bring the pain.
“So, you’re the man who can’t spell ‘fuck.‘”
-Dorothy Parker to Norman Mailer after publishers had convinced Mailer to replace the word with a euphemism, ‘fug,’ in his 1948 book, “The Naked and the Dead.”
Have you been watching Downton Abbey? Because Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess Lady Grantham is delightful. When I use the word “cunty” to describe her character’s amazing ability to deliver a backhanded compliment, please believe that I mean to convey only respect and awe.
Lady Grantham: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”
Mrs. Crawley: “I take that as a compliment.”
Lady Grantham: “I must’ve said it wrong.”
It seems what is required is to just remove one’s filter. Strip it right off. Why wait for dementia to set in when you could be enjoying an unfiltered life right now?
I hope you found this educational and improving. Shall we take a turn about the room?
*What else (besides Auntie Mame, can’t believe I left that off) should we add to the curriculum for the Academy for Wayward Girls Who Want To Stay That Way?