I know this happens to everybody, but next time I’m determined to get it right. I’m going to say what I wish I’d said.
Earlier this summer, after years of making up my mind to do it, I dyed my gray hair, aiming for an unobtrusive brown. It came out a truly hideous tarry maroon. I was mortified and shed many tears. To me it felt as if every ugly strand was a sentence in my pathetic story: an insecure middle-aged woman tries to regain her former attractiveness on the cheap. And every stranger on the street could read my head like a book.
A day or two later, I was approached by a colleague, who lambasted me in public: “What on earth have you done to your hair! It was nice before, and now it looks terrible! I stopped dying my hair when it began to fall out!”
My weak response: “Yes, I know. It looks terrible. I’ve certainly learned my lesson.”
Now, I think this woman meant well. She just believes in speaking her mind. She probably felt I was living in a world of illusion, and someone needed to be truthful. Or she may have regretted her words and wished she could take them back. Many, many people blunder over boundaries with every good intention. I’ve done it myself.
What could I have said to stop this marauding woman and save both of us from her cruelty?
1. “I know you’d be horrified to know how upset your words are making me”?
2. “This is not something I want to discuss right now”?