The trick is to fight fire with blazing fire

In the movie White Palace, Nora Baker, played by Susan Sarandon, painfully evades the busybodies of a Jewish household for hours.

In the movie White Palace, Nora Baker, played by Susan Sarandon, painfully evades the busybodies of a Jewish household for hours.

She drinks herself motherless and even steals a smoke in the bathroom. They all want to know what on earth stud Max Baron, played by James Spader, sees in the old bag.

Tired of the cold war, she comes clean. She tells them she shags Baron's brains out.

"I gave him a blow job," she tells a very unimpressed matrimonial type who retaliates: "I bet you did".

Baker hits back: "I bet you don't."

The moral? Don't be nasty to strangers. They might not give you the other cheek. I call it quiet insurgence. Call it what you will, but it lies dormant in most of us - until your actions ask for a counter blow.

I was reminded of the movie because my foreigner date and I were on our first date, minding our business, when along came some losers.

"Scel'ieshi", they asked for a lighter. After taking forever to light their cheap, loose cigarettes, they mockingly asked if my date would mind them keeping the lighter?

Maybe before the xenophobic mania, the statement would have flown past, but now such utterances mean war. We both jumped up and the minute they saw his soldier shoulders and my moustache, they backed off and asked under their breaths what I saw in him?

"Is the sex that good sister?" I knew "sister" was a euphemism for traitor.

"Better than anything I've experienced around these shores before," I said.

Their ashen faces! You would think I had castrated them.

If you are going to have the nerve to unleash revolting questions, you had better have the balls for the consequence.

So when my new bride friend asked for my two cents' worth on her new role recently, I gave her my theorem of reciprocation counsel because she's getting married into a traditional Xhosa family in Bizana, Eastern Cape. There are six brothers, their six wives and their 17 kids, some of whom have their own snotty kids.

And since my exile-born friend has no idea about the capacity of in-laws' abuse, I armed her. Why? Because one 16-year-old bride from the same village was worked to the ground, literally. They say it was a backache, and I say it was slave driving.

The emancipated bride that my friend has since become, came back to say she hadn't planned on executing the plan until she was told to forget about nursing her first-trimester pregnancy. The chores were to become her new baby. She was to wake up at 4am, feed the chickens, make fire in a Welcome Dover that had not been used in over 10 years, and basically make a frog sing first soprano.

The first breakfast began with a crocodile prayer followed by that famous look of contempt. I don't understand in-laws who treat their makotis like enemies, and not expect revenge.

The elders demanded tea, freshly-baked bread, biscuits, bush tea and cocoa, why is the milk cold? brown sugar? the works.

Frustrated out of her skull, she watched as they greedily gulped this and scooped that. Nothing was right and they all questioned her with frowns on their faces.

She said: "In case you are wondering why your drinks taste like a sangoma's concoction, let me put you at ease. You've had a combination of coffee, milk, cocoa, bush tea, tea and something more disgusting.

"Until you learn to treat me with respect, you may never know what else was in there."

Some call it a reversal of roles. I call it the taming of the shrew.