Because B. and I grew up just a town away from each other, we knew many of the same people. In comparing who-knows-whom notes one day before we were married, he mentioned a girl I didn’t know from his old neighborhood with whom he had stayed in touch intermittently over the years. And who, by the way, lived in LA. My territorial antennae went up. “Anything I should know?” I asked. “Any romantic encounters?” B. looked at me solemnly. “Just one,” he said. “We shared a kiss in day camp. We were ten years old.” He cracked up. And ducked the pillow I threw at him.
Ms. Day Camp sent us a card when we got married. She included a postscript just for me: “I remember that B. was a great kisser! Wink, wink.” Just a harmless — if tasteless — little joke. So little it didn’t irritate me at all. Well, not any more than a tiny grain of sand irritates an oyster.
A few months later, Ms. Day Camp called to suggest we all get together. As it happened, B. and I had two extra tickets to an LA Phil concert at the Hollywood Bowl, so we invited her to bring a guest and join us, our treat.
It took B. and me about five minutes after arriving at the Bowl to realize that the evening was a big mistake. The friend (aka Ms. Snoot) complained incessantly (“My feet hurt!” Who told you to wear stilettos to the outdoor, multi-staired Bowl? “My sandwich only has mustard on one slice of bread!” You mean the sandwich to which we graciously treated you? “I can’t find a boyfriend!” Now there’s a shock.).
Ms. Day Camp, for her part, kept up a steady stream of sarcasm disguised as “just a joke.” Right. And Cruella de Vil was just a dog lover. She had really worked herself up to legend-in-her-own-mind status when she insisted on regaling the sweet older couple nearby with the day camp story. “And so I was the first girl he ever kissed!” she pronounced with unmitigated glee in what she thought was a big finish.
And it was. Although not in the way she expected. In one of those rare moments in life when you think of the perfect comeback exactly at the time you need it (thank you, goddess of quick thinking), I dropped this pearl: “You may have been the first girl he kissed,” I said coolly. “But I’m the last.”
Ms. Snoot snorted. The older couple high-fived. B. laughed outright. And Ms. Day Camp dropped her corned beef sandwich.
My message was two-fold. Don’t irritate an oyster if you don’t want to choke on a pearl.
And kiss off.
© 2013 Claudia Grossman