Wherever a group of people gather, anything someone says – or doesn’t say, or does or doesn’t do – can be interpreted as a slight. At a recent international cricket match, a player from Australia was seen on live TV ignoring the outstretched hand of his opponent from Pakistan. Stuff happens. But was this a slight or oversight, did the ignorer have other things on his mind, was the ignoree slighted? No one wanted to take a chance, there were apologies all around, and the slight shift in the cosmic balance was righted.
But what if you are not on live television, and what if a slight might not actually lead to an international incident? How do you deal with that? Step No. 1 might sound obvious, but you must recognise the slight. What if the person you said “hello” to rushed past you without responding because he spotted that his favourite tree outside had just caused fire? Step No. 2 is to pretend that you were not slighted. And step No. 3, the most delicious of all, is to plan to get back at the person without appearing petty or spiteful.
Often slights are so slight – if you’ll pardon me – that unless you are a trained slight-spotter, it might go undetected. On the other hand, you don’t want your slights to be ignored. If you cross a street to avoid someone, the effect is lost if that someone doesn’t even see it. If someone you have known long can’t remember your name and thinks you are a serial killer, for example, you have every right to be slighted. But the trick is to make him feel he is in the terminal stages of dementia, and how you do it is half the joy.
“She was trusted and valued by her father, loved and courted by all dogs, cats, and children, and slighted and neglected by everyone else,” wrote one of the Bronte sisters. I don’t know which one, but they are all dead, and so no one can take offence.
So make sure the person you slight is alive, to begin with. Sometimes subtlety is the enemy of communication. At other times the slight might seem accidental. Perhaps the message ought to be reinforced by other means: verbal, gestures (slight of hand?) and so on. What is lost in subtlety is gained in unambiguous message-delivery.
Marriages are the nurseries of slights, actual and perceived. I once attended one where nearly everyone felt slighted. Some for where they were asked to sit, others for the wrong order in which the food was served.
If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, earth has no fury like a woman, man or child slighted.