The Etiquette Lady

Dear Heavens Readers,

I have, in my personal life, been besieged with questions about what to do with people who make annoying, inappropriate personal comments.

From my poor niece who was accosted by a woman who suggested that she and her husband should "get busy" they had been married too long with no children. (Unfortunately, this woman had no idea about the 4 babies lost, who should be with us and are not.), to the friend who had to answer questions about who the flowers were from, to a colleague who was asked about why she chose to leave her job to grow vegetables.


The Problem:
Here's the thing about personal comments. As near as I can figure, personal comments are made simply because the person making them has not got the brains that God gave sheep. The thing about making personal remarks is that the person making them is either utterly unaware of how rude they are, or they simply don't care.

We need to act with grace, whatever the rude personal tendencies of the person who is interrogating us. I suppose this means that we can't simply screech at the person who asks us stupid questions. But, and it is an important but, being gracious does not mean acquiescence. Being kind and polite is not the same as being a doormat.

Therefore, here is the etiquette lady's three-fold solution to rude personal comments.

Step 1: Look.
Please, everyone go and introduce yourself to a librarian, an old-fashioned school teacher or a Catholic sister. Observe their look. Perfect it. Most importantly - use it.

Stupid Questioner: "Mrs. Spit, are you too selfish to have children?"(1)

Mrs. Spit: Look.

Step 2: Take a deep breath. Then reply.
Do not get angry. There's really no point. Smile disarmingly, and say "That's a very personal question" or "My word, what a [blank] thing to say". Nothing more. Don't sermonize, don't insist.

"Mrs. Spit, those are the ugliest shoes I have ever seen."


"My word, what an unkind thing to say."

Step 3: Walk away
Now, you have given them the look, you have identified that the remark was inappropriate and hurtful or overly personal thing to say, walk away so you leave with your dignity intact. There's no point in having the last word. It's not going to be the last word.

It took me a long, long time to learn what my FIL had been telling me most of my life - when you argue with a pig, you both get dirty, but the pig likes it. Why, dear reader, would you argue over something that is simply going to make you feel bad. Why do it? You might feel better for a bit, but frankly, in the end, you are going to feel as bad as the person who made the remark likely doesn't feel. You can't fight rudeness and insensitivity. You can call it what it is, and then move on. You can't make another person feel remorse, that's up to them. Keep arguing and all you are going to do is make yourself look like an undignified banshee.

Your Homework:

Try this once next week, and let us know how it goes.
(1) Why yes, this was a real question I was asked.