One of my favorite scenes in the movie “You’ve Got Mail” is when Meg Ryan’s character finally tells Tom Hanks’ character what she really thinks of him. She tells her online love she can never find the way to say exactly what she wishes she could at the moment she wishes she could. But there, she finally does it, and immediately (in Tom Hanks’ character’s words), “regret immediately ensues.”
How many times have we all thought like that. Maybe your mother-in-law constantly nags you and you think, “The next time she says X, I’m going to say Y.” Maybe your boss always takes credit for your work and you think, “I’m going to call him on it next time.” Or maybe there’s a person who hurt you and you think, “If I ever have the opportunity, I’m going to tell her exactly what needs to be said in the nastiest way I can.”
But do those moments ever come? Do they ever really come? And if they do, do you actually say what you’d planned to say? Or would you regret it?
I think of the moment in “Sex and the City: The Movie” where Charlotte says she has practiced what she’d say when she ran into Big. “I curse the day you were born.” She says it, and it’s one of the most gratifying moments in the movie, immediately followed by her water breaking. But for a moment, just for a moment, you feel happy and proud of Charlotte for doing just what Meg Ryan’s character did in “You’ve Got Mail” – saying exactly what she wanted to say, exactly when she wanted to say it.
But why, when you know you should or want to say something, does that little voice inside you say, “Shhhh”? Is that a good thing? Is it our conscience trying to save us from embarrassment? Or humiliation? Or getting slapped in the face? What is that reflex and why is it there? Is being mean in a moment like that authentic, or just mean?
I suppose it’s just mean…which is why, most of the time, we walk away from situations like that and instead think what we would’ve said if we’d really had the courage.