Sometimes you just need the right line to get you out of there. Out of the argument. Out of doing the thing you don’t want to do. Out of the room. “No” is best. “No” deployed with the certainty of Simon Cowell will solve many problems. But just in case you leave your Simon Cowell impersonation at home, these might work.
Can you help peel the sprouts?
– Absolutely. As soon as I get back from taking Rover for a walk/little Oscar to the bathroom/nan home to get her other glasses.
Do you think you’ll ever get married again?
– Probably not this afternoon. How’s your back doing/knees holding up/hip replacement coming along?
All this must be awful for you?
– Not compared to the funeral – or
– I don’t know, I’ve seen worse Christmas jumpers – or
– How are you finding it? Are you a Christmassy person? Oh, is that tree about to fall over?
My son could’ve done so much better than you.
– You appear to be upset. Would you like someone to take you home?
It must be nice getting all the sympathy and attention.
– I’m sorry you see it that way.
What you need to do is…
– I need to do things exactly as I’m doing them right now. This is what works for me. But thanks anyway.
The thing about you is…
– But enough about me, what about you? Or Rover? What’s the thing about Rover? I think it’s his smile.
And if you’re really lost for words, sometimes silence is best. People struggle to quarrel if you don’t answer back. And if you can swap an irritated expression for a patient one or walk away before they’ve even got started, so much the better. People tend to do what they think they can get away with so nip things in the bud.
Afterwards, imagine seeing their words written down on a piece of paper. In your mind, picture yourself scrunching that paper up into a ball and tossing it over your shoulder. It’s not worth holding onto and of no further interest. Now reward yourself with something you really like, like a bubble bath or an episode from your favourite box set or a dance to a blast of your favourite music. You did good.
First published in Widows and Widowers magazine Issue 5