I Just Thought of the Perfect Comeback to Something Said About Me 30 Years Ago, and I Couldn't Be Happier

Illustration for article titled I Just Thought of the Perfect Comeback to Something Said About Me 30 Years Ago, and I Couldn't Be Happier
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I am being generous (to myself) when thinking that half the people reading this will have at least one of the following responses to this title:


1. Wait, what?

2. Why do you even still know what was said to you 30 years ago?

3. Or care enough to still think about a comeback that, unless you invent a time machine, will never happen?

The reality is that it’s probably closer to “no one gives a shit” than half. But if I only thought and did things in anticipation of other people hopefully caring about them, I’d just be Cory Booker. Since I’m not Cory Booker, I can’t be him, and I hope you don’t want me to be him, either.

Anyway, the process of giving intellectual and psychological bandwidth to uncomfortable shit no one else gives a fuck about is a hobby of mine. Now, it’s mostly in regard to writing: I’ll happen across a thing I wrote in 2014 or something, I’ll get mad at myself for a word in it (“Fuck! I wrote ‘use’ here when it clearly should be “usage!”), and I’ll spend the next 10 minutes debating whether it’s worth it to go back and edit.

And, well, sometimes it gets absurd. It’s nothing for me to be sitting in my living room, watching TV and/or eating honey roasted peanuts, and for my moment of mundanity to be interrupted by me screaming “fuck!” about messing up the steps when trying to heel-toe when Red Rat’s “Heads High” came on during an Alpha party on Buffalo State University’s campus in 1999. To supplement this ecosystem of awkward, I’ll then think about a) being so focused on the missteps that I knocked myself off rhythm, b) the face (bemused pity?) the girl dancing with me made, c) the “this was cool at first, but I think we’re done dancing now” face she made after the song was over, d) how crucial it was to have an interested dance partner during the reggae set, and e) how I fumbled that relatively easy bag with too much ambition. Of course, maybe my stubbed heel-toe had nothing to do with that. Maybe she was just tired. Maybe I stank and ain’t realize it. Maybe she stank and wanted to bounce before I realized it. Either way, why what happened happened doesn’t matter as much as how I felt—and still obviously feel—about it. And, again, I do this all the fucking time.

Like yesterday morning, while driving after dropping my daughter off at preschool, and my mind settled on an uncomfortable moment from middle school. It was a back-of-the-bus ripping contest, and someone (“Sam”) had gotten the better of me. (“Ripping” by the way, is a Pittsburgh-area colloquialism for jonesing or clowning or roasting or whatever they call it where you’re from.) I forgot exactly what he said, but it had to do with my sweatshirt being a bit too pink—which was a no-no in 1989. (It was a strange and arbitrarily homophobic time.)


I tried to argue that it was peach instead, but by then my efforts were futile. Pink had entered their collective consciousnesses, and my shirt, from then on, would be nothing but pink. And not just pink but the single pinkest thing. Pinker than Juicy Fruit. Pinker than horse gums. Defeated, I looked at my shirt with disdain, got mad at the entire color pink, and put my headphones back on. 

Yesterday, however, I finally got my revenge. As I was driving down 5th Avenue, I thought, “But nigga you got a fish!” Which, without context, makes absolutely no sense. In fact, I’m not even going to provide the context for it, because I know it still would make no sense. Just trust when I say that, for that time and that place, that would have been the PERFECT response to Sam. It was so perfect that I literally screamed it aloud in the car. “BUT NIGGA YOU GOT A FISH!!!”


And now, I’ve been happy since then because I finally found the perfect thing to say to a 10-year-old—30 years ago. So happy that I might find him on Facebook today just to say “BUT NIGGA YOU GOT A FISH!!!” and never, ever respond.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)



I feel bad for future you who remembers that Juicy Fruit is yellow.