L’esprit De L’escalier

Have you ever seen something and you wish you could have said something – but you didn’t? Has something ever happened to you and you never said anything about it – but you should have?

I am writing this blog from a vantage point of 4 in the morning and a day after I drink all night with my friends. You see, I always tend to feel so low after drinking. That’s why just a few minutes ago, I found out this thing called “hangxiety.” It is said that although people generally drink alcohol to lift their spirits, having too many drinks can leave us stressed, worried, or plagued with guilt. So I guess this is just all the hangxiety that is rushing through me.

Moving forward, let me share something that I learned from Tumblr many moons ago. The term l’esprit de l’escalier or ‘staircase wit’ refers to opinions and ideas that we express with clear, polished pithiness – and which always occur to us too late. It’s that feeling you get when you leave a conversation and think of all the things you should have said. In addition, there is no word in the English language for this.

As a writer myself, I am frequently afflicted with esprit de l’escalier.

But also as a writer, I’ve learned about how writing about burdensome experiences can help me take back my power.

Like this one time from years ago, I was in a table with the people I used to work with. We were all having a chill time. Out of nowhere one of my ‘straight’ colleagues shared his thoughts about the LGBT people. Of course, as a gay boy in the table, he asked for my thoughts as well. It was a healthy debate/conversation but you know those kinds of moments when somebody started the conversation with ‘no offense’ but you know deep down that you are about to get offended?

There was also this one time when I was drinking. I was with my friends and we got into a conversation talking about the same topic. But this time about transgender people, which I’m very passionate about because I am always fighting for equality. I couldn’t really remember or point out the whole context of that conversation. But even though I was super drunk, I knew I was hurting inside. Because nevertheless if it is really a safe learning environment for both parties, words are painful when they are painful.

While this friend was confidently talking about his beliefs, I was eyeing everyone on the table asking for help. But nobody said anything. I looked at one of my close friends and he was just silent. But I wished he at least stood up for me while I was standing up for myself. I could have made a clearer point by the time but I just chose to shrug it off because I value friendship more than anything. Even though I feel bad because I let fear getting on the way.

My reflection after Leaving The conversation:

It was the darker stage of twilight when I was walking home after that. The whole conversation keeps on repeating inside my head so I started imaging all the words I could have said. While listening to Spotify on shuffle, Matt Monro’s Born Free played and I shed a silent tear as soon as I entered my room.

Reflecting made me realize how small I was hours before that. I kept on thinking the scenario on the table while everyone, maybe unintentionally, turned a blind eye on while I was desperately giving the signal that was asking for help.

And so I swore to myself, I will never get into that situation again – silent. That the next time I’m gonna be caught in that situation, I will stand up for someone because the heart takes note of those little things. And actions like that end up being what wins us over; even if we arguably not win the conversation.

Photo by Cedric Letsch


  1. Cindy Gelpi

    My heart broke a little reading this. I wish I could have been there in that conversation and stood up for you. My daughter is gay and she has a “no offense” aunt who doesn’t believe in gay marriage. How can you not be offended by that when someone says your daughter doesn’t deserve marriage because she loves another woman? She (the aunt) told me that she could not support my daughter if she ever got married. I don’t know where to go from there in our relationship. I’ve opted for distance instead of enmity. I told her she is wrong and hateful and that I supported her daughter when she had a child out of wedlock because I cared more about my niece (her daughter) and her baby than outdated morality. I guess the point of my response is that there are a million people like me who are supporting you. Caring for you. Maybe if you could imagine us there at your discussion as you wait for support, your heart wouldn’t hurt so much. Your silent audience and supporter always, Cindy.

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      Marron Santillan

      Thank you so much, Cindy! It’s so comforting to know that there are people like you out there. Your daughter is so lucky to have you as her mother. Greatly appreciated, Cindy. Thank you!

  2. Karen :)

    Oh my friend, my heart hurts for you- and yet I hope you are proud that you have chosen to learn and grow from a terrible time. I have many dear family members who are gay (and have had to leave two ministry careers because I took a stand for them). Keep writing and know you are loved. Karen 🙂

    1. Post
      Marron Santillan

      Oh, Karen. My heart is so comforted by your message. First of all, I want to say thank you for standing up for your family members. And secondly, thank you for your message. Really appreciate it!

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