Lady Astor, to Winston Churchill: “Winston, you’re drunk.”
Churchill, responding: “Madame, you are quite right! I am drunk. But you, are ugly.” And in the morning, I shall be sober.”
This is one of my all time favorite exchanges. Before you think ill of me, please give me five minutes to articulate my three reasons for liking this so much!
First: it’s clever and funny!
Yes, we need to disregard that Churchill likely wasn’t pleasing to Lady Astor’s eye any more than his words were pleasing to her ears … it might be the classic pot calling the kettle black! … and it’s certainly understandable if male chauvinist pig comes to mind … and I suspect other men and women — drunk or sober — would indeed not find Lady Astor the least bit ugly …
But all that doesn’t pull me away in the least from the rip and cut of the repartee!
But if it offends your sensibilities; apologies, and read on for perhaps two more meaningful take aways?
Second: I just can’t help but see this little ditty as an awesome example of the power of implication. I am drunk. You are ugly… and in the morning I shall be sober quite clearly implies that in the morning she will still be ugly. He didn’t say that, but he didn’t have to… We are active participants in his insult, decades later! Wow!, no?
Brilliant, as I imagine our UK friends would say.
Third: Extrapolating from Churchill provokes me to think of transitory and permanence. Churchill’s inebriation is a temporary condition. He will simply need time to recover. Lady Astor’s ugliness (as Churchill perceives and implies) is not temporary…
This is a valuable perspective for us to consider. If we can cut through the fog long enough to understand that our present condition will indeed not likely last, then our strategy might be to simply find a way to endure and buy time.
And this perspective isn’t just relevant for us in troubled times. When we find things going our way and life is good, might it not be equally important to realize that that also is likely a temporary condition? If we can bring ourselves to consider this sobering reality, might it not empower us to sustain and endure when circumstances change and life is not quite so rosy? Because we know… we know… that in the morning… one morning …
Because one thing leads to another. And another. And another. And things change.
And in the morning…
As for Churchill and Lady Astor, I don’t find it at all hard to believe that the exchange above led to this one —
Winston, if I were your wife I’d put poison in your coffee.
Nancy, if I were your husband I’d drink it.