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Etiquette Is Not About Drama

I was back home from university for the summer holidays, and was attending a small street festival with a couple of friends who I’d known from my school days – let’s call them Erica and Magda. As it was quite local to where we’d gone to school, we saw lots of former classmates around. Then we bumped into one former classmate who’d we had all been friends with during school, but over the past couple of years had lost touch with, due to not seeing each other five days a week anymore. Let’s call her Amy.

Immediately, Amy said, “Hi,” to Erica, which made sense as she’d been slightly ahead of me and Magda so Amy would have seen her first. Then she launched straight into a catching-up conversation with Erica, without even acknowledging me or Magda.

As we were in a crowd, Magda and I stood off to the side and had our own conversation for the five or ten minutes theirs lasted, it by then being abundantly clear that Amy has no intention of engaging with us.

On the other hand, Amy could have speculated that you and Magda had no intention of engaging her based on your body language.

When Erica and Amy had finished chatting, and Erica rejoined us, we began discussing our surprise that Amy apparently hated both me and Magda now. Erica hadn’t noticed the blanking until we pointed it out to her, and began encouraging us to go over and say something to Amy, but neither Magda nor I wanted to cause a scene/beg Amy to speak to us.

A scene wasn’t necessary.  Simply walk up to Amy and say, “It was good to see you again”, while smiling with friendly sincerity, and then angle your body to send the clear, non-verbal message that you are disengaging from the interaction which allows Amy to either draw you back into a conversation or let you leave.   If you had done that, your etiquette conscience would have been clear and you would have a better understanding of where Amy was in her relationship to you.

I can only conclude that I had fallen out of her acquaintance between April and August, as she had invited me to her birthday night out in April (when I’d been back for the Easter holidays), which I hadn’t attended for more than a couple of reasons, namely: lack of money due to an unexpected, extended holiday (due to the whole Icelandic ash cloud thing), having to get an early train the next morning, and noticing from the other recipients of the Facebook email that there was a person I really wished to avoid who was going. The latter reason I feel was also valid, because it could potentially have ended with an unpleasant scene, as he is overdue a piece of my mind!

Or you could have attended as a guest, behaved as a guest and been civil to this other invited guest.

Anyway, I had messaged her before that night that I would be unable to attend, giving the first two reasons. Thinking about it now, she never responded.

So, being unable to attend her birthday night out seems to be the reason why I am apparently no longer seen as even an acquaintance to Amy. Not sure what Magda’s crime was, as she wasn’t invited to the birthday outing, so she must have committed it before then sometime.

Or maybe it was simply because everyone had “lost touch” for years as you wrote earlier and the relationship dynamics were changing as a result.

Etiquette questions: Is Amy completely in the wrong here? Should I and/or Magda have confronted her over her rude behaviour? Should I have gone out of my way to go to Amy’s birthday?  0914-10

I think you bring a lot of drama to your relationships with too much speculation, gossip and a black or white approach to how to deal with the possible issues.  Before you go looking to remove the etiquette twigs from Amy’s eye, it would be best to work on that huge log in your own first.

{ 33 comments… add one }
  • Sharon October 12, 2010, 12:49 am

    Wow! I hope the OP gets over herself and realizes that she does not have to confront every percieved slight that happens to her as though she has been spit upon.
    I would like to say that this is just because OP is realtively young and through the years she will mature and these things will no longer be an issue. But, I have seen too many peope who live their entire lives this way… eventually their lives become quite lonely because less and less people can stand the drama.
    I know that you are taught in school that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. But, that is physics, in human relationships sometimes you do not have an obligation to react in an agressive manner to every action that happens to you. Sometimes, you let it go and walk away.
    And, dear… when you walk away don’t do it in a huff… just stoll on down life’s highway.

  • Simone October 12, 2010, 1:29 am

    This really could have had a simple explanation. Perhaps after she started talking to Erica she just didn’t see you, or it was awkward to call out to you if you were a little distance from her. She may be thinking the same thing about you. It seems from your post that you did not initiate a greeting either. I would hesitate to say that someone was completely ignoring me until I had audibly and obviously greeted them and THEN they had ignored me.

    From your post I assume you are young (possibly less than 20?) so I don’t want you to feel that I am judging you. But as you get older you may find that this level of drama is (usually) not called for or warranted. Don’t be quick to see offence where there may be none. You will also probably master the art of going to a party where there is someone you dislike and just ignoring them (if the party is large enough to do so unobtrusively) or being civil without feeling compromised.

    Obviously etiquette is important to you, so that’s a great start.

  • Me October 12, 2010, 2:11 am

    I’ll bet a weeks wage that Amy went home and told her mother/sister/boyfriend/whoever, “I just ran into Erica, Madga and OP, and Madga and OP were wouldn’t even talk to me! I thought OP didn’t come to my birthday party because of holiday/train, but maybe she just hates me!”

    If you’re going to complain that someone didn’t say hi to you, I think you should always ask the question, “Well, did I say hi to them?”

  • Kai October 12, 2010, 3:37 am

    The OP says that she and her friends were in a crowd, and that Erica has been the first of the trio in a line. Is it at all possible that Amy did not see the other girls at any point?

    I slightly disagree with miss Jeanne in that the OP and Magda maybe put Amy off by their body language. After all, if two people are having a conversation that you are not a part of, you cannot exactly butt in, so it’s not unreasonable for the pair to stand off to the side talking amongst themselves while the other conversation continued. Perhaps they could have waved and smiled at Amy as they had their own conversation and maybe she would have brought them into the conversation.

    Either way, I think the OP is being overly dramatic and assuming the worst.

  • lkb October 12, 2010, 4:27 am

    @OP: Is it possible perhaps that Amy didn’t see or recognize you and/or Magda? You state you were in a crowd and people do change in appearance over time.

  • etimodnar October 12, 2010, 4:44 am

    I agree with our Admin. It seems that you’re making a mountain out of a tiny molehill. I’m going to pretend I’m Amy:
    I invite you to a party, for reasons you decline, whatever. I then see Erica at an event and catch up with her. I also see you and Magda there with her but at this stage I’m already in conversation with Erica and am very keen to catch up. I wonder if you’ll join us to catch up too, but you and Magda have your own conversation by the side. Maybe you were in the middle of a D&M and wanted to finish. Neither of your two make any moves to want to catch up with me, so after 5 or 10 mins, I cut short catching up with Erica because it’s getting awkward. I then give you all space because apparently you all hate me now.

    Given what you’ve said, it’s totally unclear and not very fair to assume that Amy hates you just because of the miscommunication. Particularly given Erica didn’t pick up on anything. I had a falling out with a friend a while ago and though we are polite and civil at mutual-friends’ events, there is a bit of iciness that can be picked up on; we tend to avoid talking to one another so as to not stir up drama (but at our friend’s recent kitchen tea and hen’s night, we both had a lot of fun and exchanged nice words to each other – yay!)

  • Typo Tat October 12, 2010, 4:51 am

    Hello, highschool!

    If Amy is as mature as our OP, this situation is not surprising. Each girl thinks the other one “hates” her.

  • jan October 12, 2010, 5:23 am

    Ah, the lives of young women. This reminds me of a scene from a teenaged chic flick.

    Life would be much simpler if we all were friendly and polite to everyone and honest in our relationships.

  • L. October 12, 2010, 7:07 am

    Maybe she didn’t recognize you. If you haven’t seen her in two years or so, your (and Magda’s) appearance might have changed more than Erica’s has. Also, in those two years, Amy might have started having vision problems. There’s also that problem we all have sometimes of “oh dear, I know her, but I can’t remember from where or what her name is.” It happens especially often when meeting the person in a different environment from the one we see/saw them in every day.

  • Kriss October 12, 2010, 7:08 am

    Sounds like you and your other friend immediately launched into a conversation of your own rather than give Amy a moment to finish her piece and address you. By the time she was able to say hello you were already wrapped up in your own conversation making it difficult and awkward. Perhaps you did have a falling out. As I get older the need to keep contact with exhausting acquaintances is less and less. Perhaps she found out the third reason you didn’t go to her B-day party and thought you were too childish to make the effort with, but now I’m speculating too much.

    You really read waaaay too much into these things. Do you also wonder if the relationship is over when your boyfriend wears a tie that doesn’t match his outfit? He obviously doesn’t care about his looks so it much mean he’s depressed about being in a relationship with you. Makes sense to me.

  • Princesssimmi October 12, 2010, 7:42 am

    Hmmm… I woul say ‘Hug her!’ but someone will rip into me for it, so:

    Are you sure you’re not being a little sensitive and over-dramatic? I agree with Admin.

  • DGS October 12, 2010, 9:15 am

    Made up, hyped up, overly sensitive, adolescent drama. If OP and her “frenemies” are already at university, it may be time to grow up and stop practicing black-and-white thinking, indulging in gossip and speculation and focus on practicing friendly, positive and appropriate behavior in all of her interpersonal relationships. A good rule to follow is, “assume positive intent until proven otherwise”. There is absolutely no evidence here that poor Amy had any kind of negative intent.

  • Smiling Charmer October 12, 2010, 9:27 am

    “…and noticing from the other recipients of the Facebook email that there was a person I really wished to avoid who was going”

    It seems to me the OP has issues with people in general.

  • Xtina October 12, 2010, 9:33 am

    Sounds like everyone involved here is young, with little experience on how to handle this type of situation. They will learn, with practice.

    Lesson number one is not to presume anything. The OP should have spoken to Amy, even if Amy didn’t speak to her first. The OP lost me with all the ramblings about the reasons she didn’t go to Amy’s party, but I doubt that Amy thought anything more about it after they had declined.

    OP, this is just what happens. Lesson number two: even good friends sometimes drift apart. It just means that life keeps you busy and if your paths don’t continue to cross on a regular basis, you spend your time (and they theirs) dealing with your day-t0-day activities. It doesn’t mean that you don’t like each other anymore or that someone is “mad”. But please do give that person the benefit of the doubt and engage them in conversation, and you may be surprised to find that it’s nothing more than the passage of time and different activities that’s caused you to lose touch.

  • Sarah Jane October 12, 2010, 9:55 am

    It seems a little dramatic to judge from this occurrence that Amy “obviously hates” you. It seems you could have at least caught her attention and waved. It also seems that Erica herself could have attempted to smooth over this situation (“Hey, Magda, OP, come over here… You remember Amy from school, yes?”)

  • Shayna October 12, 2010, 10:24 am

    *sigh* I know a lot of people who perceive just about everything as a slight to them somehow. It’s like walking on eggshells when you’re around them. Since I hit the big 3-0, I couldn’t be bothered. OP, you have some major sensitivity issues. You should evaluate your own behaviour before criticizing someone else’s.

  • LovleAnjel October 12, 2010, 10:34 am

    I am going to second some of the other posters who speculate that Amy may not have recognized them. As little as a year out of high school I couldn’t remember some people’s names, even if I saw them every day in class. Two years out and I knew they were from my high school, but not if they were in my year. Five years out, I get the sense that I should know who they are but I can’t go beyond general familiarity. At today’s point I don’t know who all these people friending me on facebook are, other than my high school is listed under their education.

    Good luck, it seems the OP’s future will be full of slights like this!

  • kero October 12, 2010, 11:45 am

    You’re making drama, but live and learn.

  • Monica October 12, 2010, 11:49 am

    I totally second and agree with the end of “Me’s” comment.

    We just had a discussion about this at my workplace.

    You can’t complain that “so and so totally didn’t even say hi to me!” unless you made an effort to say hi to them first. And made sure they could hear you.

  • Dani October 12, 2010, 11:52 am

    I just have to say kudos to the admin for even understanding what happened. I’m trying to figure out the perceived slight and am not having any luck!

  • Sharon October 12, 2010, 1:01 pm

    Shayna… you are wise.

  • Rosey October 12, 2010, 2:13 pm

    I can’t help but wonder if this was written by a one-stop reader, a lurker, or an active member of the forum. I had hoped the OP would come back and address some of the comments, but the feedback seems a little harsh.

    That being said, OP, I don’t really see the point where it was on Amy to greet you instead of the other way around. It also seems dangerous to extrapolate so much from one simple action – or lack thereof.

  • Me October 12, 2010, 5:34 pm

    Princesssimmi, lolz!

  • Babs October 12, 2010, 6:52 pm

    Like….are we in 7th Grade?? Good grief. Grow up! The thing to have done right off the bat is run up and hug her! Friends do that. They don’t stand off in the wings, sulking and waiting for someone to make the first move. That’s pretty childish.

  • Elizabeth October 12, 2010, 9:21 pm

    You can go to functions for friends even if someone you hate is there. Unless there was some serious slight against you, like fearing of your safety, you can suck it up for a friend. Fresh out of high school I had a falling out with a friend. It got really ugly, but I don’t wish to go into details. But you know what? We could still fake a smile when saying hello and then just ignore each other when we were at gatherings with mutual friends. I knew she hated me and she knew I had grown to feel the same, we didn’t need to make a production about it.

    As far as the “Amy” girl not saying hello. . . Well, you don’t know what was going on in her head. Maybe she does dislike you, maybe she didn’t see you, or maybe she thinks you hate her. Who knows without actually talking to her. Gossiping behind her back will not solve anything, though. And I am pretty sure gossip is not considered polite.

  • kudeebee October 12, 2010, 10:06 pm

    You were in a crowded area–Erica was ahead of you. When you caught up with her, you and Magda should have gone up to her and Amy and said hi and then you could have all conversed. Chances are that Amy didn’t see you if you two moved to the side and Erica probably didn’t know where you had gone.
    It is not like Amy and Erica were in a deep conversation and you came across them, it was a street fair where people go to see other people. I think you were rude to not have gone up and said hi.

  • Jayna October 12, 2010, 10:46 pm

    OP, did you ever consider walking up to Amy and saying ‘Hi’ to her first?

    I see more and more people with the inability to walk up with a smile and a greeting, as if we’re all trying to ‘outcool’ each other.

  • patty October 13, 2010, 12:14 am

    All I can say is, how lucky this immature girl is to have no real problems in her life. Because if she had anything serious to deal with she would not feel the need to manufacture drama to react to.

  • ferretrick October 13, 2010, 7:27 am

    If you continue manufacturing insults and imagined slights from acquaintances, and deciding that the person must “hate you,” you are setting yourself up to have a very unhappy life.

  • Maitri October 13, 2010, 4:57 pm

    When I was in my 20’s, I was very quick to take offense at every imaginable little slur. Some people are just not socially adept and say/do the wrong thing sometimes. If it were me in this situation, I’d just call Amy up and ask how she’s doing, or send her a hug on Facebook, or something. If she doesn’t respond, or responds badly, then I’d know for sure.

  • RP October 14, 2010, 11:33 am

    I completely agree with everything the admin said.

    @OP: In the future, maybe you should listen to your friend Erica. You could have easily said something when it was clear Amy hadn’t noticed the two of you and joined the conversation or said something afterward. Amy may have noticed the two of you talking but didn’t want to interrupt. Maybe she didn’t see or recognize you at all. Maybe she just felt awkward about approaching you since, as you said, you hadn’t kept in touch for two years now.

    I’m thinking that you must have sent this in while you were still upset about it. Perhaps there’s something else going on that contributes to why you think Amy now hates you that you’ve left out. Hopefully, after having some time to think on this while clear headed, you’ll realize that this wasn’t necessarily the slight you think it was and that you can’t conclude that Amy hates you based soley on what happened that night.

  • CherryBlossom October 16, 2010, 11:33 am

    While I agree that the OP clearly has a very pronounced dramatic streak and needs to quit overreacting, I have to disagree with some of the comments here. I think Amy’s failure to respond to the OP’s regrets about not being able to attend her birthday could simply be due to an oversight on her part, but it could be evidence of cattiness too. If the OP knows that Amy is the type to take such things in poor grace, then maybe it is better to let her make the first move when their next social interaction takes place? When Amy failed to even make eye contact with two of the three members of a party obviously travelling together it could have been significant, after all that in itself is mildly impolite. They ran into her in a public place, not a reunion deigned to facilitate catching up, so her singling out Erica to talk to for ten minutes is a little bit odd. I don’t think there is a possibility that the OP changed so drastically in appearance as to be unrecognizable to Amy either, especially given their apparent connection on Facebook and the fact that only a few months earlier they had been in communication, and I certainly don’t think it’s possible that TWO people could have. All that said I agree that the OP could have just struck up a conversation with Amy herself, regardless of any perceived coldness, she didn’t really have anything to lose after all.

    Also I think that if the OP knows herself well enough to know that a scene would have been inevitable with the other guest at the birthday party, then perhaps avoiding said party really was a better move. For all we know this fellow may have tried to start some drama too if he saw here there. At least her motive was a desire to avoid trouble for others, rather than a desire to avoid a headache herself, and she didn’t bring extra drama into it by informing Amy of this reason. She’ll have to learn to deal with such things some day, though.

  • kelly March 27, 2011, 9:40 am

    If the OP wanted to chat to Amy then why did she not do that, why was it Amy’s duty to start the conversation. Amy was there chatting to Erica (who also could have included the OP and Magda in the conversation), there was no reason why Magda and OP could not have made the move to join in rather than standing there expecting Amy to come over to them. They ignored Amy just as much as she ignored them.

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