Things I would say if I didn’t have a filter, Part 1

To the library staff during these freezing library days.
I know you mean well, I do. And I think you all do a terrific job. But look at me for a minute. I am wearing two shirts, two sweaters, a hat, a hood, my coat, fingerless gloves, and a third sweater around my legs. I am also drinking hot tea. Here, feel my nose. Is it still there? ‘Cause I can’t feel it anymore. Every person sitting in this section is wearing their coat. That poor woman over there hasn’t taken her hands out from inside her coat sleeves in at least ten minutes. How about you taste my water? Tastes like it’s been sitting in the fridge, doesn’t it? It’s just been here on my table for two hours. It takes me longer than this to get a bottle of wine chilled in my refrigerator at home.

To the woman who comforted my son on that particular day when he was inconsolable and I felt alone, and the one who told me he looked like a very well-fed baby when I most needed to hear that, and to my Whole Foods parking lot angel when I broke my pinky toe.
I don’t really know you, but I think I love you.

To the mother who has a conversation with me about how her child eats everything (but never candy), watches no TV, is always in bed and asleep before 8PM, was one hundred percent potty-trained by age two and half, adjusted seamlessly to preschool, has outgrown at least half of their toys, and how she, the mom, never loses her cool.
Unless I can have a conversation with you where I call your bullsh!t or your delusion, I’m not sure I see a lot of conversations in our future.
(The same general principle applies to women who talk about how they can basically binge-eat everything and anything, do nothing physical in the interest of their fitness/health, and look like a stick. I know about two people who could say this in earnest; they’re the ones who don’t need to talk about it. The rest? No tengo tiempo.)

To the two women who were having dinner together at a nearby table at a restaurant recently.
Could I be your friend, too? You two seem so cool. The parts of your conversation that I overheard–it was more than I care to admit–made you sound like terrific ladies. I am a good baker, I’m reasonably smart, loyal, and a good listener. Plus my husband also tells me I’m funny. I swear I’d make a great girlfriend!

A time in recent memory when it felt awesome to not have a filter.
Saying a loud “Thank you!” that’s dripping with sarcasm when someone just went through a door and didn’t hold the door for me, especially when I’ve been pushing a stroller.

Times when my non-filter makes me go woops.
About once or twice a week, with my husband. When something comes out of my mouth and then I say, “Wait. Did I really just say that out loud?”

The day when having a filter was the right thing to do.
I was going for a walk in my neighborhood and I saw a young woman sitting on the hood of her car, crying. I went to say, “Are you okay?” Then I thought quickly. No. That’s trite, and obviously she’s not okay. But I couldn’t not say anything. Because she was distraught and I was the only other person around, and I happen to believe that this stranger and I are members of the same human family. I had just a few seconds before I was directly in front of her! When I was finally there, what came out was, “I’m sorry you’re upset.” We then proceeded to have a meaningful conversation–that didn’t involve oversharing or violate any boundaries among strangers–about what was upsetting her. I like to think it helped her.

The day when not having a filter really paid off.
At teaching job years ago, I’d had a paper accepted at a conference in Mexico. My passport was going to expire before the trip, and I’d have to request an expedited passport renewal. But I knew I didn’t have any of the reasons that would qualify me for one. Which was precisely what the man at the passport office told me. Angrily. Next thing I knew, I said,
“Couldn’t you at least smile a little?”
“Excuse me?”
“Smile, you know, smile! Couldn’t you at least do that? Or are you having a bad day? I know I let my passport expire and now I have this trip to Mexico. I get that. But as far as I know I haven’t done anything to you personally. So why be so mad? Maybe smile a little instead?”
“Tell you what.” He said, smiling. “Because you made me take a moment to smile, and no one’s ever done that before, how about you come back after 2PM today to pick up your new passport?”
Cross my heart, true story!

Additional photos from, and (I think) Laurie Alex on


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  1. These were really good to "hear", especially the ones involving helpful–and not-so-helpful!–mothers. Verdery

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