Has anyone ever said something really ridiculously offensive or stupid to you, and in the moment you don't know how to respond but a few hours later you're like "OMG that would have been the perfect retort?" The French have a phrase for that: l'esprit de l'escalier (spirit of the staircase, which is presumably where you are when you get your brilliant idea).
If you've just had a baby, people feel particularly empowered to say horrifically dumb stuff. It seems there are things people feel fine saying to new moms that they just really, and truly, shouldn't. When you're on the receiving end of this stupidity, you're often so gobsmacked by the sheer thoughtlessness or cluelessness of the statement that you find it difficult or even impossible to come up with a reasonable response, let alone a witty one. Don't worry, though; I've got you covered.
Below I have included some incredibly silly, yet distressingly common things a new mother can expect to hear in the weeks following the arrival of her little one, along with a typical response and one guaranteed to chasten the most buffoonish of friends, family members, and random strangers who feel like you need their unsolicited commentary. You can go ahead to feel free to use either, but it might be best to keep the snappier quips in your head. Ultimately, unfortunately, sometimes you just have to remember, in the immortal words of Forrest Gump's mom "Stupid is as stupid does." Then again, I'm not the boss of you, so you live your best life and if giving them hell is required them give them hell you shall.
"When Can I Come Over?"
Actual response: A warm but non-committal, "We need to get things ready and settle in, but we will let you know as soon as we're ready. We're excited to introduce you to the little one!"
L'esprit de l'escalier response: "Oh my gosh, I'd love for you to come over ASAP. There's so much work you can do! What a sweet offer. You'll have to bring your own cooking and cleaning supplies though, because I haven't had any time to stock up the house. This is so nice of you. I'll send over the menu I want and a list of chores I need done sometime tomorrow. Oh, and try not to disturb me, please and thank you. I'll be in my room the whole time you're over with the baby and I'm going to need pretty much complete silence."
Probing For Gory, Very Personal Details
Actual response: "Well, I'd prefer not to talk about it."
L'esprit de l'escalier response: Focus on them with a wild-eyed stare and a crazy smile and say, "Do you want to see the pictures?"
"You Look Great For Someone Who Just Had A Baby"
Actual response: "Thanks."
L'esprit de l'escalier response: "You look really good for an dunce who doesn't understand that it's almost never a compliment if there's a qualifier."
"Did You Get 'The Extra Stitch'?"
Actual Response: *taken aback disgust and disapproval so strong you can't even form words*
L'esprit de l'escalier response: "Oh yeah. My fetish happens to be experiencing painful, less pleasurable sex to please my partner. Of course not, you jerk! What kind of sexist nonsense is this? That's not even how vaginas work. It doesn't make the actual vagina tighter; it just makes the opening smaller. Stop talking to me for a while, you're bothering me."
"You Look So Tired"
Actual response: "I am tired."
L'esprit de l'escalier response: "Thanks! That's actually the look I'm going for. I've watched so many online make-up tutorials on how to get the circles under my eyes just right and I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of it. Honestly, it looks effortless, but it takes hours to achieve this look."
"She Doesn't Look Anything Like You"
Actual response: "Well, genetics are funny sometimes."
L'esprit de l'escalier response: You have two choices here.
- "Well, a ton of the custom parts were on back order so we just got the floor model."
- "What do you mean? OH MY GOD! THIS ISN'T MY BABY!
"When Can You Have Sex Again?"
Actual response: "Well, they usually say 6 weeks, but I haven't talked to my midwife (or doctor) yet."
L'esprit de l'escalier response: "Actually I'm a virgin and sworn to a life of celibacy. If you'd like, you can call me Mary."
"Is Your Kid Sleeping Through The Night Yet?"
Actual response: "Not yet, unfortunately."
L'esprit de l'escalier response: "Ugh. No. I also haven't seen my kid apply for a single job yet, either. Not. One. It's like, how long are you just going to sit there, kid? Take some damn initiative."
"You Know What You Should Do...?"
Actual response: "Oh. Well, um, thanks for the tip."
L'esprit de l'escalier response: This face...
"Oh. You're Not Breastfeeding?"
Actual response: "No, we felt bottle feeding was the best choice for our family."
L'esprit de l'escalier response: "Of course not, silly! Boobs are just for looking pretty in push up bras and selling beer. Duh."
"Are They On A Schedule Yet?"
Actual response: "Honestly, we haven't even tried yet. They're a bit young for it."
L'esprit de l'escalier response: "Yep. In fact, what time is it? 2:45? Now is the time of day when we tell you to stop asking such ridiculous questions!"
"Oh. You're Still Breastfeeding"
Actual response: "Yep."
L'esprit de l'escalier response: *look down, act surprise* "Goddamnit, they found the boob again! How do they keep doing that? It's crazy, I tell ya!"
"Oh, I Could Never Go Back To Work. I'd Miss My Baby Too Much."
Actual response: Honestly, I'd just go with an icy stare on this one, because seriously?
L'esprit de l'escalier: "Yeah, but wouldn't you know it, we wound up with one of those babies that needs to be clothed and fed. Talk about unlucky, huh?"
"I Lost The Weight Right Away"
Actual response: "Oh wow. That's neat."
L'esprit de l'escalier: "I'll need some tips, because I'm pretty determined to get down to the baby's weight: 7 pounds 10 ounces. That way we can share clothes."
"OMG, I Could Never Stay Home. I'd Go Crazy."
Actual response: "Every family has to figure out what works for them."
L'esprit de l'escalier: "Me too!" Then start acting completely insane until they get scared or uncomfortable enough to leave.
"When Are You Having Another?"
Actual response: "We haven't even thought about it yet."
L'esprit de l'escalier response: "I'm waiting for the store where they sell the babies to have a sale. Then I'll probably pick up, like, half a dozen. That way I never run out."
"Your Boobs Are HUGE!"
Actual response: "Uh, thanks?"
L'esprit de l'escalier response: "These aren't boobs. I actually just stuffed beach balls down my bra. Looks good, right?"
"Why Does The Baby Cry So Much?"
Actual response: "That's how babies communicate pretty much everything at this age."
L'esprit de l'escalier response: "Probably because of something you did, like ask that question."
"You're So Lucky To Be On Maternity Leave. I'd Love A Vacation Right About Now."
Actual response: "It's not exactly a vacation."
L'esprit de l'escalier response: "It's great. The baby and I are going to go zip lining at four, and then after that there's a luau back at the hotel with actual fire dancers! And tomorrow? Surf lessons! We're pretty pumped."
"Treasure Every Single Moment"
Actual response: "Yes, babies are wonderful."
L'esprit de l'escalier response: Unsmilingly hold your baby at arm's length and let him throw up on your visitor. That'll teach them to treasure every moment.