Q: What to do, as a full-grown adult, when a classless coward seated near us makes a loud, public and derogatory comment about your mother (a FORMER friend of hers) after your unknowing mother walked out of the restaurant? And your father tells you — as you're fuming and about to confront the situation — not to go over there and not to say anything? Because this former friend's husband, who was seated there and clearly upset by his wife's behavior, is a good and longtime friend of your father and a good guy toward us? And your father tells you not to say one word to your mother?
Shouldn't my father have defended his wife? He's religious, gentle and afraid of confrontation. And as a 40-year-old, was I right or wrong to obey my father despite my instincts to stand up for my mother?
A: I understand you're reacting in part to a father who's "afraid" of confrontation; such fears can cast a shadow of defeat over decisions to walk away. I also get that a silent exit is not as satisfying as standing up for your mom.
But please trust that there are other reasons not to engage with such a person.
One is that firing back would lessen the attention on her poor character. One person slinging insults looks much worse than someone who trades insults with another.
And, you risk turning public opinion in her favor. Her husband was "clearly upset" with his wife's boorishness, which is an appropriate and effective natural consequence of her actions. Had you counterattacked, he might easily have come to her defense instead.
And, besting a heckler is harder than it looks; most of the time, you wind up saying something derogatory yourself, thereby validating a coward.