Things I Didn’t Say: Zumba

I’ll never tell….you what I’m really thinking. I’m nice like that.

Part of being a Oreo in working order is perfecting the time-honored tradition of not speaking up when you want to. No need to get confused for RBP who shout in movie theaters and are too loud on buses.

The truth is though,that whether you’re an RBP, trying desperately not to look like an RBP or are just someone who is alive, no one wants to hear what you have to say anyway. Generally, in life, when people say things to you, they are not looking for your thoughts on their quip in return. They merely want to exercise their ego and have their opinion go unchallenged. Most interactions are just there to prevent silence from killing us all.

For example, imagine two people in an elevator, then consider the following three scenarios and their anticipated outcomes:

Scenario 1:

Person 1: How are you?
Person 2: I’m just okay. Got some troubling news from home and am really unprepared for this meeting–just not sure if this is the right field for me anymore, but don’t know that I can incur the risks of a career change.
Person 1: (set self on fire)

See how awkward it was when person 1 told the truth. Tsk, tsk.

Scenario 2:

Person 1: (says nothing)
Person 2: (says nothing)
Person 1 and 2: (set selves on fire)

Ugh. Spending a whole minute next to a human being without admitting that you can both see each other even though neither of you really has anything to say and you’re both hoping to just get off this lift and to the meeting that you spent all weekend preparing for…awkward. Painfully awkward.

Scenario 3

Person 1: How are you?
Person 2: Fine, you?
Person 1: I’m good, thanks.
Person 2: (waits for Person 1 to leave the elevator, then sets self on fire…because of circumstances related to an unclear conversation that was had with the spouse over the weekend…but definitely not because of a crap elevator ride…aaaaand, Person 1 didn’t have to get involved in any of that sticky personal business)

See how easy it is to avoid having to deal with someone’s issues.

And it was with that spirit that I held my tongue after Zumba class this week when someone thought it apropos to say to me:

“Love this class! You sisters are so lucky, though! I look ridiculous, but you with those hips–you look like you actually know what you’re doing out there!”

What did I say to her? Something along the lines of: “Hahah..yeah….” as I grabbed my towel and water bottle and headed to the bathroom before the tears started to fall.

What didn’t I say to her? While any number of things would have been perfectly reasonable responses, Oreos do not speak up and make a fuss. Here’s a smattering of what the tiny sassy lady inside of me might have said were she not being squished into oblivion:

  • “Sisters? I’m an only child.”
  • “Yes, we are lucky. We just flip the switch and the machine in our rears does all the work.”
  • “You realize that I am at a gym and a typical ‘problem area’ for women is their bottom, so your attempt at a compliment might actually be reinforcing my own body dysmporphia.”
  • “I noticed you were terrible. But don’t worry, it’s not because you’re white. You’re just bad. Very very bad at this.”
  • “Thank you so much! By reducing my ability to dance to the amount of melanin I have in my skin, you’re completely ignoring the hours and hours I have spent in dance classes, working with teachers, studying movement, practicing in front of the mirror, consulting with professionals, watching footage of myself and others and working on the self confidence necessary to remove the mental blocks to free physical movement….I figured that stuff was a waste of time!!”
  • “Ummm… if you’re so bad at this, maybe you should keep your eyes on your own reflection, creeper.”
  • (sets self on fire)

Just think what a ruckus would have been made if I blurted out any of the things I was “actually” “thinking” or “feeling.” More than one relationship has been ruined this way and even though you may be choking back words, as an Oreo, you at least get to choke them down with some lovely creme fraiche.

What’s the last dubious compliment you got? What did or didn’t you say? Let us know in the comments!

For more awkward artsy (non)conversations, click here!

For more awkward conversations where people clearly didn’t notice I was…um…black (shudder).. click here!

For the awkward result of a poorly worded engagement party invitation, click here!

For Mor-eo Oreo! Follow The Oreo Experience on Twitter (@oreoexperience)
Leave a comment here or at any of the above and let us know what you think!


  1. Love it. Very funny and yet so true!

    My favs…. Doing speed drills at my college Rugby practice; “Wow, I wish I was born with wheels like yours.” (wheels = running speed, NOT shiny spinning car rims). (I’m thinking, I wish I could do 10 beer bongs like you.)

    And another, “I just love the way you speak truth to power. Black people are sooo free!”

  2. “I noticed you were terrible. But don’t worry, it’s not because you’re white. You’re just bad. Very very bad at this.”


  3. Here’s one I heard recently: “Wow, you look soooooo young. I guess it’s true that Black don’t crack!”

    What I said – “Well, men in my family generally exercise into their 70’s, so we consider ourselves more healthy looking than young looking.”

    What I thought – “Well meth does crack… and it looks like your skin has been eaten up from meth use. You’re 15 years younger than me, and you look older than I will in 15 years. At least your sister is cute, so that old for your age look is not hereditary.”

    You’re right… you can’t always say what you think.

  4. Possible retort #5 kind of hit a nerve with me. When I was younger, I wished God would somehow force character limits when giving compliments. Ppl couldn’t simply say “Good job” or “you look nice.” They just had to emphasize that I couldn’t simply be smart or have a good work ethic on my own merit, but compare my ethnicity to Black Americans or compare my physical features with others.

    It sounds silly to explain it to others, but my therapist tries to appease me with the idea that it’s just a warped simile of white priviledge…along with an SSRI and a Valium.

  5. Must it be self immolation? What if you don’t have gasoline and a match? If you had a gun could you instead shoot them or yourself?

  6. Elevator senario 2 is just how we do it up north. That smalltalk bs is just a fake american invention.

    So at the gym. Do you have a nice pair of hips? Then its a compliment, or does it carry a wide load sign?
    No white man like a supermodelstick.

    1. Last week was the first published post using Delicious to maange links for my Sunday links post. a0I used a javascript from Delicious to insert a certain set of tagged links and their notes.

    2. Fyi most “sistas” have nice not so small hips. So if another woman says anything but your hips are so small, it’s an insult. She probably wished she had “sista” hips. That’s why she said it in that insulting/complimenting way, to comfort her own insecurity. Lol classic hater move!! You have to love it!

  7. All time favorite, I was the only black person in this class, so we could teach abroad, tru Oreo that I am. Person A she worked in Africa for a year and the group wanted to know how it was. Wow, they were ugly oh no look you because American blacks have been mixing with whites for years. Now you could imagine that I had a ton of things to say to her. I even for a moment felt my RBP moment coming, a shock for me.

    Then I remembered my Korean friends advice; so they all think we are Chinese I ever so politely say the equvilant of f-off in Korean and bow, they are usually so happy I spoke some Chinese to them. Not having another language to speak I referred to my other manner guide. The Oreo Guided Reference to sticky situtation and I said “oh, wow I didn’t know that my explain why I love tea and biscuits so much.”. Disaster totally diverted and everyone was happy and then I got stuck watching Titanic in the movie theatre with the same person, no time for depression. Submerge, Oreo maybe in soggy O-R-E-O = tears.

  8. Silence gets you nowhere but on a blog talking about what you should have said. Not speaking negative toward how you all deal with life….. God blessed us with mouths to speak and those that can’t probably wish they could. It doesn’t have to be a negative response because you will be just as ignorant. Speak up or lose your voice. God bless

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