The Etiquette Lady

Homework:
Your homework was to report back on dealing with rude comments. Truly, you all did badly. No one seemed to answer! Really, enough dear readers. Do your homework!

This Week’s Lesson – Rude Conversations
It continually astounds me, the sorts of things that people will discuss in public. Truly, dear readers, do you think that those around you want to know the ins and outs of your marriage, or your body? Honestly, enough.

But, that’s not quite the point of this column. I was recently at a lunch with a group of colleagues, and I found myself wanting to crawl under the table. I’m not even sure I want to write about what they were talking about. In fact, I don’t. Sufficed to say it involved matters best left behind a closed bedroom door.

Perhaps I’m a prude, perhaps merely respectful of what should stay between husband and wife. I’m not sure. Whatever I am, a crowded restaurant is not the appropriate time or place to discuss this part of your relationship.

An uncomfortable conversation may be conversation that you think is inappropriate to time or place, it may be overly personal, it may be racially charged. Whatever it is, the point of uncomfortable conversation is that it makes you feel uncomfortable. Here are some suggestions for getting yourself out of the conversation.

Decide When to Stand Up
Perhaps it’s just me, but I won’t sit silently through conversations that insult people. I won’t stand by when someone insults an ethnicity, a gender, a type of disability. This doesn’t mean that I will stand up and have a rant, but I find a comment like “I find it offensive to call a person from the Middle East a Paki. Please don’t use that term in front of me.” to be quite effective. You would be surprised how often this silences their comments.

Obviously those of us in the IF/Dead Baby world are aware of an entire series of comments about those subjects that cut to the quick. I think those are worth an entire column of their own.

Change the Subject
Interject at a pause, somewhat firmly, and ask about the local sports teams, the weather, really anything. All you need to do is change the subject. You might have to do this twice. Sometimes it can even be effective to look up and smile and say, “Ok Kelly, that’s enough about you, let’s talk about Fred now. Did you hear that he recently held a poetry reading. Fred, why don’t you tell us about it?”

Make a comment about the subject being discussed
Try to inject a bit of humour – “oh my tender ears”, or “my, that’s a mental picture I don’t need.” Don’t be mean, but do be a bit firm. If the conversation is particularly sexually charged or scatological or blue, and their are small ones around, it’s perfectly acceptable to say “Please, not in front of the children, that’s a conversation I don’t want to have with them.”

Leave the conversation
Can you excuse yourself from the conversation? Move to the other end of the room, the table? All you need to do is politely excuse yourself? “Oh, I think Susan in the corner needs to speak to me.” or, “Oh, I must go and ask Dawn about her recent Nobel Prize. Please excuse me.”

If you are the hostess
And you over hear an inappropriate conversation, you need to speak up. It’s not ok to let it pass. Your job is to make all of your guests feel comfortable. All of them. That means you do not allow one guest to ruin your event.
“Oh Helen, let’s not talk about that, I wouldn’t want to upset Aunt Myrgatoyd.”

Your Homework:
Dear Readers, do try this week. Your homework has nothing to do with this topic. Your assignment is to sit down at a table with your family and friends, and eat a meal, with all the correct silverware. Report back.

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9 Responses to The Etiquette Lady

  1. jess says:

    But what if nobody said anything rude/offensive that we could give them the death-stare for? I’m not very easily offended, I guess.

  2. Susan says:

    ALWAYS cross the room to talk to me but know that Dawn can’t even spell Nobel prize. I’m messing with you. And now I’m off to do my homework.

  3. ..... Carmen says:

    I definetely failed on the last bit of homework, but my husband did not. We were at a party this past Friday night, when a complete stranger came up to us. She started with “who are you related to, you two teeny boppers”. Yes, she said teeny boppers. She then asked how old we were. Nate said 28, I never got the chance to say 30, because she was talking again. Asking us if we had kids, then upon hearing one, went on a tangent asking “are you having another?” Nate and I both got quiet. He looked at me. I at him. And I said my non brave answer of “no, not yet” which prompted her to go on a ten minute speel (or more) on how we should have children young, and close together, because that is how she found out she had cancer. Nice. How did my hubby handle this? He interjected, looked at me and said “Honey, I think your Dad is looking for you”. He saved me and not 5 minutes later had also excused himself. I need to take a lesson from him!

  4. Aunt Becky says:

    Mrs. Spit, you’re a true lady. When I hear stuff that I don’t like, I make it well known that I don’t like it. Let’s just say it involves swearing.

    But I’m no lady. You knew that.

  5. Brown Owl says:

    Dear Mrs Spit,
    does sit down at table with friends and silver include campfire and hotdog sticks? would a shared spoon be considered – silver? pleae advise.

  6. Tash says:

    wow, you’re so not gonna like my post today.

  7. Jen says:

    See, I never leave my house, so I never had anyone say anything rude to me. I’m saving it up though, I’m sure someone will soon.

    Matt and I use the icy silence and sideways glance at each other when something rude comes up in conversation. It works quite well. Plus, he can raise his eyebrow.

  8. Heidi says:

    I want to meet Aunt Myrgatoyd.

    Does a dinner at a restaurant while on vacation count?? I was quite proud of a group of 5 adults a 3 year old and a 4 month old eating ribs with no elbows on the table and being fairly clean about it all!!

  9. Maureen says:

    Dear Mrs. Spit,

    I had full intentions of doing my homework. I even had a day picked out. Easter Sunday dinner. It was to be dh, ds1 (age 2.75 years), ds2 (age 9 months), MIL, SIL, and nieces (ages 14 years and 9 years). So why I wound up setting the table the way I did:

    DH- he HAS to have a steak knife and a serving spoon (in addition to his fork and regular knife… he doesn’t use teaspoons, they are too small). If he does not get these items and we are in our house, he goes and gets them. So it is less conspicuous if I just give them to him.

    MIL- got bronchitis last Saturday (as in 8 days before dinner) and decided on Thursday night she was not coming for a visit (they came from out of state Friday)

    SIL: Does not like foods being mixed so she wants multiples of utensils, for some reason I don’t understand, particularly more than 1 knife.

    Nieces ages 14 years and 9 years: neither of them are allowed to have any type of knife (including butter knives) because they might hurt themselves. SIL serves them and then cuts up all of their food, butters bread, exc. I draw the line at letting them have cups with lids and straws on at dinners like this. If they spill, we will clean it up. Both of my boys drink out of open cups (2 year old independently, the 9 month old with help), they can manage or have something after the meal. So no knives are allowed by them as per their mama.

    DS1: He uses a fork well and is starting to use a knife (not a very sharp one, and with lots of supervision; but he does butter his own bread (unevenly) and can cut tender food (as was all of our food at this meal). So he gets a fork and a knife. Do I hear you asking about a spoon for him? Hmm, lets leave it at he calls it a “fling” right now. We are working on not using ones spoon to fling food at others at many meals. However I did not feel like correcting him throughout this meal, it was Easter dinner and my SIL and nieces were here as guests. So if I didn’t give him a “fling” a.k.a. spoon, I would have a much more peaceful meal.

    DS2: As previously noted, he is 9 months. So he gets a plastic baby spoon that he mainly uses to bang his tray and his finger food with.

    So if you are keeping track, this leaves just me that I wouldn’t have to modify the place setting. Ahh, but that is not true either… I need an extra baby spoon to feed above 9 month old.

    So I will take a fail for this assignment. I did think about trying it…

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