Hindsight is 20-20

What if you had the power to rewrite history? You do.

I am the queen of the perfect comeback. If someone makes an inappropriate remark, I am really great at thinking up a witty way to deflect the discomfort of the moment. The only problem is, I tend to think of the rejoinder about ten minutes too late…after the person has left the room.

L’esprit de l’escalier (staircase wit)

A French term used in English to describe the act of thinking of the perfect comeback…too late.

I find it cathartic to explore how I wish I’d responded. I use it as a springboard for my writing. I love doing this because the situation is already emotionally charged for me and I don’t have to work too hard to dredge up ideas or passion. It is so satisfying. Besides, why waste an awesome comeback?

As I look back at 2014, I can think of a several instances during the year where I really wish my timing had been better. Case in point:

I was out to eat with a friend (who wanted to remain nameless, but has allowed me to share this story) and her mother. Throughout the meal, the mother kept saying things to me like, “Wow, you can really put it away!” and “You must be president of the clean plate club!” She even asked the waiter to hold me back if he saw me start to lick my plate or eat the tablecloth. Who says that?! I was so taken aback that I actually pretended her barbs were funny.

On my way home from dinner, I came up with this: “Had I known the entrées at this restaurant came with a side of judgment and nastiness, I would have suggested we meet for dessert instead.”

Kabam! Take that!

Too late. She was already in a taxi, probably berating the cab driver. I went straight home and wrote out how I wish the scenario would have played out.

What if we could do it all over again?

What if we could jump into a time machine, and go back to stop the soccer coach we saw screaming at a child on the field?

Do you have concerns about writing about/to someone you know?

The following posts have some great advice:
Talking Taboo: Writing About Sensitive Topics
Polish Up Your Soapbox: How to Rant Without Being a Big Stupid Jerk

You might also consider writing in a different genre, like fiction, dialogue-only (such as you might see in a script or screenplay), or you can even create your post without letting your readers know the inciting incident.

What if we could tell our father-in-law what he can do with his offer of cooking lessons, as he eats the Thanksgiving meal we toiled over?

Have you ever heard a mean joke you wish you’d nipped in the bud? A fight between lovers that you wanted to stop? A call with customer service you wish you’d handled in a different way? A political speech you wish you could have interrupted? An apology that you know you should have made?

The end of the year is a great time to clean our slates in creative ways. If you have lingering regrets about a response you wish you’d made in 2014, here’s the time to play out the scenario and find some closure. Grab the steering wheel in a way you weren’t able the first time around, and get those feelings off your chest.

And, here’s hoping our timing is better in 2015!

Show Comments


Close Comments

Join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


  1. This reminds me of those cathartic emails that you respond to, but never send…. well, maybe you send a cleaned up, more diplomatic toned-down version. I had a well spring of saved drafts at an old job that were rich fodder for getting the writerly juices flowing. Happy new blogging for 2015!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. God, I can’t believe that this year is about to end next week. I am only getting used to the idea of 2014 and 2015 is already lurking around the corner. I have long list of so many things I could have done better. The trick is to sort them out and pick one to write a blog about.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful post and oh boy, have I ever been in such situations. When words fail me on the spot, I come home and write a story. Let me just say, it never ends well for the subject of my distain. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Trust me I have a few short stories and one that made my writers group say, “This gave me chills. I wouldn’t want to know this character. ” lol


  4. My husband is rather quick witted and always has a comeback waiting in the wings for an inappropriate or humorous comment. I wish too that I had this ability. Some times, people make off the cuff remarks without thinking about the impact it may have on the person.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Got the t-shirt, too. I have a weird one where I’m too quick, and am met with blank faces. Then someone else says the exact same thing later and all of a sudden they’re the quick ones. Grr.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This reminds me of the scene in You’ve Got Mail, when Kathleen is lamenting the fact that she can never think of a good comeback in the heat of the moment to her email buddy, who has the opposite problem, and he says to her: “beware, when the time comes that you finally say exactly what you mean to say exactly when you mean to say it….remorse inevitably follows.”

    I’m one of those who can’t think of comebacks until much later, and it would be interesting to hear from the other side: the folks whose quick wit was also a source of regret 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Loved this post and even enjoyed the monkey-brain thoughts that followed.
    Just think…what if our timing WAS “perfect”? I think, the near misses, blown-off appointments and faux paus put us right where we are supposed to be.
    That said, I’m almost certain I’ll think of something brilliant to say once I push “post comment.”
    Thank you, Robyn 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Other people’s nastiness says more about them than you but that’s no help when you’re the target. I am hopeless at come backs too and to polite to even think of retaliating. Like you I pretend that hurtful things are amusing. They aren’t. Thanks for sharing and I hope your timing improves. coming in 2015, zinger stinger foresight.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Glad to be back at it blogging. Posting this gave me a lot to think about in the way I handle things. I hope to enjoy other people’s posts, probably more organized then mine, about this past year.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for sharing the way Hindsight has inspired you with your creativity and for giving the gift of inspiration for a post (and food for thought).

    I have a love/hate relationship with Hindsight, partly because it seems to be such a know-it-all but where is it when you actually need it… it can’t be there because it is only there afterwards.

    Here’s my post – https://anupturnedsoul.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/the-humbug-of-hindsight/

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is too true. I can’t explain the number of times I’ve come up with a great comeback am hour, day, or even a week too late. I’m glad I’m not the only one suffering from this!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I can relate to this issue as well- thinking up the perfect response after the fact. It is one of the negative side effects of having a ‘good filter’ and being thoughtful. The filter is too good! I think too much! The most painful incidents of not saying what I wished I had though, come from not speaking a real truth that others were denying because it would upset the status quo.Those are the biggest regrets.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Isn’t having regrets part of spiritual growth? If we knew we could magic wand them away, how would we progress. Sure I’d like that magic wand, I’d probably wear it out in a day, but I fear the knowledge that it was in my possession, would make me self-assured possibly arrogant or smug. Being ones self isn’t always to be celebrated, but that’s OK.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wow! As a single man, my “gut radar ” reveal those kinds of people to sidestep if possible when I’m in the public that way.. But, my “gut radar” is not always on if I don’t plan to be sociable. I think their must be some kind of secret reward for being mean. You might ought to check into that and adapt. You have the chops for it. Also, I loved you story.

    Liked by 1 person

45 Responses While this challenge is closed to new entries, we encourage you to visit the Reader to find other avid bloggers.