Well-Intentioned But Stupid None The Less

by admin on June 2, 2011

This story describes a terrible case of Foot in Mouth Disease on my part. I really don’t know what I was thinking…

I was working behind a bar at the time, and a regular young-ish female customer come in one day accompanied by an older lady who I had never seen before. I assumed it was her mother. Anyway, the older lady had what I thought was a terrible black eye and I found myself exclaiming, “Oh my god, are you ok, what happened?!” In return, I received extremely cold stares from both mother and daughter and a very frosty response indeed: “Nothing happened, it’s a birth mark.”

The ground could have swallowed me up. I stuttered something even worse after that as well, something about being concerned because it looked as though someone had hit her. As if that would have been appropriate thing to draw attention to as well. I’m fairly sure I never saw either of them in the bar again after that. So, cast me into hell because I thoroughly deserve it! 0525-11

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

A June 2, 2011 at 4:25 am

My mom had a pretty severe case of rosacea on her nose. It looked like she was always sunburned, had been crying, had a cold, etc. She always had strangers comment about her “sunburn” or wishing her a speedy recovery. She was used to it and always shrugged it off saying, “I’ll be sure to take care of myself.” I really wouldn’t beat yourself up too much about it. It was probably just a knee-jerk reaction to what you thought was a black eye. While it’s not okay, in my opinion, to ask what happened, I think that your concern for her was well intentioned.

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Quiea June 2, 2011 at 4:53 am

Oh dear… :(

I’m glad that the OP realized her mistake afterwards and so, hopefully won’t do it again.

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Giles June 2, 2011 at 6:19 am

This was in a Catherine Tate Show sketch almost word for word. She asks someone’s brother what he did to his poor head, and he responds frostily that it’s a birthmark. She quickly says “Oh, no, not that! Other side!” then proceeds to brush supposed dust off the side of his head.

No one really bought it, but it was pretty funny.

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Aje June 2, 2011 at 6:27 am

It was an accident and it’s not like bars are the best lit places in the world. It’s sweet you felt bad about it, but if you said sorry it’s okay to move on with your life.

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The Elf June 2, 2011 at 7:48 am

Yes, you deserve the flames. But you aren’t doing anything particularly unique. We’ve all had those well-intentioned foot in mouth problems. How many people have, for instance, asked when the baby was due when there is no baby? (winces, raises hand). Intent does count for a lot, but you also have to wonder how many times that poor woman has gotten that particular comment. Forgiven, and I bet you were more careful in the future! You better believe I do – now I won’t mention anything about pregnancy unless I see an acutal baby emerging from the woman or if she mentions it first.

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Dark Magdalena June 2, 2011 at 8:05 am

This is why I never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever (you get the point) assume anything. I have been the OP too many times. Thankfully, both the OP and I have learned our lessons!

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Katy June 2, 2011 at 8:19 am

Unless I’m going to give a compliment I’ve really tried to stop all commenting on a person’s physical appearance. Most people know if they have a blemish/spot/bruise/mark on their body or clothes. It can be annoying and downright devastating if people are pointing something out that you are already self concious about. Even if asked innocently and/or out of concern. I’ve always had a bit of a belly and have gotten the “Are you pregnant?” or “When are you due?” on several occasions. One lady’s response to me saying “No” was “Oh well you sort of look like you are.” WTF? However, if someone has food in their teeth or toilet paper stuck to their shoe then I will politely and discreetly let them know.

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Xtina June 2, 2011 at 8:24 am

The two women overreacted a bit to the OP’s comment, I think–surely someone would be understanding if a stranger who can’t see them well in a darkly-lit bar was merely acting concerned about what appeared to be an accident. I’m sure constantly having to explain an unusual mark would get old very quickly, but most people grow a pretty good sense of humor about that sort of thing and are able to discern a true “mis-speak” from rudeness when people comment.

Just the same, I hope the OP learned not to blurt out what immediately comes to mind! Nothing wrong with being concerned and asking an honest question about the way someone looks, but perhaps the knee-jerk response of “OMG, what happened!” should have been tempered with a little calmer approach.

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Just Laura June 2, 2011 at 8:38 am

I have a noticeable birthmark on my upper back. I don’t try to hide it, and most people figure out what it is. However, one person in high school said loudly in front of a lot of people, “Oh my God, what happened to your back?”
“It’s a birthmark.”
“Well it looks like you got burned. Maybe you should get that removed.”
“And the resulting scar would look better…?”
That (and a well-placed punched from a friend) shut him up. When we have something physically different, we must learn that people are going to notice. I think the OP’s comment was far less rude than most I’ve encountered with my birthmark, so I personally don’t think the OP should be cast into E-Hell. Perhaps E-Purgatory for a bit, but that’s all.

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Becky June 2, 2011 at 8:45 am

This happens to my son frequently, He has a large “stork bite” birthmark on his forehead. Although it has faded quite a bit since he was born, it is still prominent. I have been asked many times what he did to his head and I tell people it is his birthmark. I don’t make a big deal out of it and neither does he. He refers to it as his mark of power.

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Pam B June 2, 2011 at 9:01 am

Did anyone see Drew Brees when he was on Oprah after winning the Super Bowl? She had kissed him close to the birthmark on his face and then tried to rub it off, saying that she’d gotten lip stick on him… Misunderstandings happen!

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Angel June 2, 2011 at 9:10 am

This is why you do not comment on anyone’s appearance, no matter how well-intentioned you are. Even if she did have a black eye, you have no place saying anything about it.

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Susan June 2, 2011 at 9:21 am

Oh, I cringed for you! I’m sure, while she might have been annoyed at having it pointed out, she understood your kind inquiry. :)

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Andrea June 2, 2011 at 9:37 am

I would love to give the OP a pass for owning up to it, but my younger brother has a birthmark of this type and he is extremely sensetive about it. People seem to think it’s okay to comment about it all of the time, with a whole range of awful assumptions. It is a bit ridiculous.

Brother’s birthmark is large and dark and is located at the corner of his mouth. He had a series of extremely painful procedures as a child which reduced the size of the birthmark, but did not get rid of it. Unfortunately, his entire life, people have made comments about it. The comments ranged from well-meaning (like the OP’s), to accusations of child abuse by my parents. As he aged, many of the comments became assumptions that he must be a troublemaker who gets into fights. My brother has learned a series of gracious responses to use, but that doesn’t make the comments themselves okay.

I personally try to live by the rule that I learned here: I don’t comment on anything about another’s appearance unless it is something easily corrected.

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Louise June 2, 2011 at 9:50 am

Part of me agrees you were rude, although not horribly so. I mean, it’s not like you invited her to your wedding just for the gift. :-P So I suppose the lesson is to not say that kind of stuff in the future, which it seems you’ve learned. Brava!

But part of me admires your intentions. You thought she might need some help and this was your clumsy attempt. I do applaud that. It’s just tough to reconcile that with minding your own business.

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Wendy June 2, 2011 at 10:03 am

I think OP’s reaction was reasonable…she could have just fallen and smacked her face against something, after all…and been in need of an ice pack. Their reaction was off though. Instead of being cold, and rude themselves, the appropriate reaction would have been, “I’m fine…it’s just a birthmark. I know, it looks odd, doesn’t it?” and gone on with the evening.

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Craig Reed June 2, 2011 at 10:07 am

The first thought I had was that the older woman may have been beaten by her husband or boyfriend, and neither of the two ladies wished to admit it, with the possible consequence of having others dabble in their private affairs.

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Just trying June 2, 2011 at 10:12 am

I have a large birthmark of my own. There are two kinds of people who make any kind of comment:

1. The well-intentioned, but clueless.
2. The mean.

Most are well-intentioned, but clueless. I respond, politely, with “It’s a birthmark” and if the person is a child I might take some time to let the child look at the birthmark, see it’s harmless, not contagious, doesn’t hurt, etc. I do my best to include the parent in the conversation so the parent knows what I said and can follow up later.

Mean people are rare. I avoid them. They would be mean no matter what.

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Hal June 2, 2011 at 10:33 am

Honestly, that woman with the birthmark obviously gone about all her life exploiting the various reactions to her condition. Visible birthmarks are rare. If it looks like a bruise most would believe, understandably, that it is a bruise. While it is best to wait for an afflicted person to mention the affliction before anyone present does it is unreasonable to be offended when someone does mention it first. We must all remember to don a smile and a forgiving tone of voice when we must deliver embarrassing news. Never put another person in an uncomfortable position. The woman with the birthmark was ruder than the woman behind the bar.

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Elizabeth June 2, 2011 at 10:46 am

I think the only faux pas here is blurting out your concern in such a, what’s a good word, loud manner? The intonation of horrified concern would make anyone feel self-conscious.

That said, I cannot agree with the ladies’ frosty reply. I do not doubt that the mark is mistaken for an injury all the time, and this woman should be accustomed to it enough to be able to handle the remarks.

It’s not the same thing by any means, but I am very short, and have a round, rather chubby face. Even though I’m in my mid-twenties, I have people occasionally asking me if I am lost if I am trying to hunt down my wandering mother in stores, offering me coupons for high school students, asking if school is out for the day if I’m out at noon on a week day, and was once mistaken for a coworker’s “little daughter” by a visitor to the office. As mildly annoying as it can be, I would have to be deluded to the point of insanity to be offended by such assumptions! ^_^ When I see people like this lady getting huffy over some not very avoidable interpretations of their physical state, I translate it as, “How rude of you that I have this birthmark!” Maybe it’s just because I’m well-adjusted to my physical situation, but in cases like these, I think more grace is needed on BOTH sides.

Don’t feel too bad, OP. You had nothing but sympathy for this woman when you thought it was a blow, and apologized for your mistake. I’d say you’ve redeemed yourself :)

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Charlotte Vera June 2, 2011 at 11:04 am

Awww, I feel bad for the lady in question, but I feel bad for you too. My daughter has a birthmark by her belly button that looks like a really bad bruise. Whenever people see it they asked me how she managed to hurt herself there (it certainly doesn’t look like a typical birthmark). These unfortunate faux pas happen to the best of us.

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karma June 2, 2011 at 11:45 am

My personal rules for me:

1. Don’t comment on someone’s appearance until you’ve been around them a bit. You’ll realize after two or three encounters whether it was a birthmark or a lipstick stain.
2. Don’t ask about pregnancy; if you are not sure, chances are the woman will mention it. From my experiences, pregnant women LOVE to tell you how pregnant they are for good or for ill.
3. If you don’t know someone well, but you need to check on their state of well-being, you can safely say, “My goodness. Is there anything I can do for you?” If they are fine, they’ll say, “Huh? Why?” and you reply innocently, “Oh, it’s just so hot/cold/wet/busy/quiet/etc. today. Anything I can get/do for you?’ It makes you look thoughtful and gets you out of the pickle you almost got into. Works every time…..

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Ann June 2, 2011 at 12:35 pm

I have a large, very dark port wine stain that covers my arm from my wrist to just above my elbow. I’ve had people make comments about it for as long as I can remember… most of them have been either concerned or curious. (People most often assume it is a serious burn.) I usually respond with a smile, and “No, it’s a birthmark, I really don’t think much about it.” Because I don’t. When I do give it thought, I realize that it is very noticeable, and to many people it is probably unattractive.

As a child I was teased about it all the time, but I leaned to accept it as part of me. Only twice in my “adult” have I truly had people be rude about it. One was a woman who refused to let me wait on her when I was working in a bakery. She insisted to my manager that I must have some type of disease, and it wasn’t safe to have me near the food. The other was a sales woman in a dress shop when I was shopping for my senior prom. She would only show me dresses with sleeves (it was the 80s), and she insisted that I must want to cover the mark. I actually bought a strapless dress that day… from a different sales person.

I guess my point is that it would be easy to assume people are being intentionally rude or cruel, but more often their remarks and questions come from a kinder, if thoughtless, place.

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siobhan June 2, 2011 at 12:42 pm

I think people are extra concerned about black eyes, (real ones), but unless you know the person VERY well, you shouldn’t ask, in spite of a knee-jerk instinct. When I volunteered for a Battered Women hot line, I usually thought abuse when I saw a shiner, but I always waited for it to be mentioned. I’ve had a couple of b e’ s caused by me tripping over my own feet, which made for interesting stories.
Children are very direct about it, and Usually ask out of touching concern. I had the above shiner when I was still teaching(retired now), and every kid showed curiosity and sympathy, but never thought it was funny.
As Andrea said, if it’s something that can be fixed, immediately, like food on your face or teeth, a store tag, then it’s ok.
People are more than aware of any personal “imperfections”. You don’t need to tell them once more.
“Open mouth” made a mistake, apologized, and learned from it. He doesn’t need to crucify himself.

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Library Diva June 2, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I think it’s almost inevitable that you’ll blurt out something like that at least once in your life. Last week, I asked a co-worker what happened to her legs. It was on a Monday, and she was wearing capri pants. It looked like she’d been attacked by especially vicious mosquitoes, or maybe found a nest of sand fleas. I thought maybe she’d gone camping or spent the weekend at the beach. Turns out she has eczema. I was pretty embarassed, and felt really badly about it. She was cool about it, but still embarassing.

So what’s the polite thing for someone who didn’t intend to offend to do next, in situations like those? As much as I like to think it’ll never happen to me again (and I certainly don’t go around asking questions like that in general), I’m sure I won’t leave this life without inadvertently offending again.

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K June 2, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Well…MYOB. “What happened?” Seriously?

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--Lia June 2, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Granted the lesson is never to comment or make assumptions about strangers’ physical appearances. Then I had an evil thought: What if it WAS a black eye, and they were messing with you? You still shouldn’t have asked since there was nothing you could do to help and how it happened was none of your business, but could you tell in the dim light? Saying it’s a birthmark might be their idea of fun.

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Guapa June 2, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I remember going to the salon with friends as children for a birthday party and the lady putting on makeup was wiping off my face and started scrubbing it furiously and painfully… and I was like, “What are you DOING?” To which she replied, “You have dirt on your face!” And my best friend responded, “That’s a birthmark!” The lady was very kind and apologized… my face was raw for a week~!
Still, no big deal. It is what it is, and although it’s on my cheek and not my eye or nose, I can’t imagine getting upset by someone else’s concern. I tell the kids I teach that it’s ‘beso de un angel’ or, the kiss of an angel”

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grumpy_otter June 2, 2011 at 3:13 pm

I once encountered a small child with a giant red birthmark over half his face. And I said, “Aw, did you get a boo boo?” It looked like he had fallen and skidded on concrete. His parents were awful and snottily informed me that it was a birthmark. I said, “Oh, I’m sorry” to them, and then “You are an awesome superhero!” to the child. (I didn’t know what to say — “Sorry I mistook your birthmark for a boo boo?”) 24 years ago and i STILL feel stupid.

Of course I felt awful, but people with odd appearances need to get where this is coming from. Most of us, I believe, want to be perceived as people with empathy and consideration, and thus we might make a comment on something we perceive to be the mark of an event that caused pain.

That being said, “Why don’t you get that removed?” from all but the most close of friends is very rude. It’s like “Why don’t you lose weight?

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Robert June 2, 2011 at 3:18 pm

I had a similar experience when I was a waiter. My friend who had dropped out of high school had just completed his GED after finally, in his twenties, being diagnosed with dyslexia.

A few days after we had talked about his dyslexia and he showed me how it affected his writing I had a mother and a young boy about 7 or 8 in my section. Clearing away the plates I noticed that the boy had been playing with the kids games place mats. I saw that he was writing much like my friend (letters backwards, uneven spacing, letters above or below the horizontal lines, etc.

I thought to myself, “I should bring this up to the mother…if it IS dyslexia and it gets diagnosed early then her son won’t go through the hell my friend went through”.

Big mistake. Huge. I got screamed at about how there is nothing wrong with her child and how dare I suggest that there might be. I actually thought she might hit me.

I suppose the path to ehell truly is paved with good intentions (sometimes anyway).

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Sarah June 2, 2011 at 5:42 pm

I was rear-ended at a green light (lady behind me was impatient or probably just not paying attention). She probably hit me at 2 mph but when she got out her nose was all red…yep, I asked her if she hit it and she said no. Rosacea I suspect. I felt awful but uh, she’s the one who rear-ended me!

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Molly June 2, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Ouch, awkward. Still, you meant well. I had a woman think I was pregnant not long ago, and I understand where she was coming from – we were in a baby store after all, and I was lamenting that the girl clothes were so much cuter, shame everyone I know is having a boy – and I do have a potbelly! I just laughed and said “No, this is just fat” and moved on with my life – I expect the woman you spoke to did just that.

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Ange June 2, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Ohhh we’ve all been there OP, as long as you handled the aftermath well there’s nothing more you can do. I remember years ago a friend of mine had what looked like one of my long black hairs on her chest, I went to pluck it away only to realise it was attached… :-/

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Shalamar June 2, 2011 at 9:38 pm

I’m guilty of a similar thing … while I was still at my old job, a co-worker brought her newborn baby son into the office for everyone to ooh and ahh over. It was summer, so he was wearing a short-sleeved onesie. I noticed a very large, raised red splotch on his arm and exclaimed in distress “Oh no, what happened to his arm?” As you’ve already guessed, the chilly response was “Nothing, it’s a birthmark.” In my defense, it didn’t LOOK like a birthmark – it looked for all the world like a scab. That’s the only excuse I’m going to give, though.

What goes around comes around, I guess – many years later, my daughter accidentally gave me a black eye. After the bruising had gone down somewhat, it looked for all the world as if I’d clumsily applied purple and pink eyeshadow to just one eye, and everyone kept saying “Uh, guess you got distracted when you were getting ready for work this morning, eh?” (The kicker is that I never wear eyeshadow.)

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Just trying June 2, 2011 at 11:23 pm

@Ann

“I have a large, very dark port wine stain that covers my arm from my wrist to just above my elbow. ”

That is EXACTLY what I have!!! Mine goes across the back of my hand, then up to just below my elbow.

@Laura

““It’s a birthmark.”
“Well it looks like you got burned. Maybe you should get that removed.”
“And the resulting scar would look better…?”

I have heard that at least one million times through my life. I just say “Thank you for your concern, but my doctor is pretty much OK with it, and so am I.”

Although… my dermatologist lovingly strokes my birthmark and imagines sending his kid to Harvard with the money he would make during the years of laser surgery it would take to remove it. I tell him “You can send your own kid to Harvard.” And then we both have a good laugh.

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Sarah June 2, 2011 at 11:53 pm

I have a fairly large brown mark on my back, it’s just a pigmentation thing (similar to a birthmark) but it looks like a huge bruise. Whenever anybody sees my back they ALWAYS say “oh my god, there’s a huge bruise on your back!!” I just laugh it off and say “no it’s just a birthmark, people are always asking me how I got such a nasty bruise” so the other person knows I’m used to it and doesn’t feel bad. It doesn’t bother me at all, it’s a bit unsightly and a pain to explain this every time I go to the beach or get a massage but I don’t see how that’s the other person’s fault – they’re usually just asking out of concern anyway. It might be rude to mention something like this, but I think it’s ruder to make a person feel bad for a genuine mistake.

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Bint June 3, 2011 at 3:08 am

I don’t see what’s wrong with asking someone if they are ok if you think they have a black eye. Yes, the rest of it was clumsy, but hey, we’ve all done it. But the OP thought the woman did have one. Too many people turn a blind eye to people’s injuries already. She was trying to be compassionate – however, awkwardly – and make sure someone wasn’t hurt.

I would far rather someone asked if I was all right (and I have had people think I have a black eye…I have very dark circles) than ignored it in case it was a faux pas. What if I really had been beaten up and was too afraid to tell someone unless they asked?

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Margo June 3, 2011 at 5:27 am

Well, you’ve learned from the mistake and won’t do it again, so don’t beat yourself up too much!

However, I can’t agree with posters saying that people who look different ought to understand or get used to it. Just because a lot of people may make rude or thoughtess comments doesn’t make it OK, or mean that the person on the recieving end ought to put up with it.

lthough you may feel that their reaction was over the top, this lady probably has to deal with lots of people making similar comments; it’;s hardly surprising that she gets fed up with it.

As a gerneal rule, don’t pass comments about other people’s appearances. If you feel that they may need help, then as Karma said, an open question asking if there’s anything further they need gives them the opportunity to respondif they do need something (although in most cases, someone who did need some ice/ to use the phone / to see if you had a back door they could leave by would be able to ask)

I think the only possible exception is where someone would clearly have a physical difficulty (such as someone using crutches, in a fast food restautant or self-serve cafe ) in which case I don’t think it is rude for a server or staff member to ask whether they would like a hand with the tray, but it should always be a polite enquiry, not an assumption.

With the balck eye / birthdmark scenario, unless you are a medical professional there is really no excuse for commenting or questioning.

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Molly June 3, 2011 at 7:50 am

I can see how this would be painful and annoying to the person with the birthmark, but I also don’t think it was rude. If you see a person with a broken leg or arm, isn’t it rude NOT to say anything? I feel that would come across as selfishness, like “clearly you have an injury, but I don’t care and I don’t want to talk about it.” I can understand not mentioning pregnancy, in case you are incorrect, but if someone appears to have a significant injury, isn’t it polite to express concern?

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Just Laura June 3, 2011 at 8:25 am

However, I can’t agree with posters saying that people who look different ought to understand or get used to it. Just because a lot of people may make rude or thoughtess comments doesn’t make it OK, or mean that the person on the receiving end ought to put up with it.

I think most of us with very visible birthmarks are only saying that we feel frosty glares and being rude back is completely inappropriate. We know there’s something obviously odd about us. Sometimes being understanding is better, or we would live life in a perpetually angry state.
Sure, I was less understanding of the guy in college who said loudly to his friend, “How can you want to date her – have you seen that thing on her back?” But comments such as that weed out the good from the bad. I went on to date his friend, because his friend said he saw me, and not the “little patch” on my back. The OP wasn’t being malicious in his or her comment. I see no reason to be angry.

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RP June 3, 2011 at 9:54 am

@Sarah – I think it’s completely legit to ask if someone was hurt in a fender bender.

@Margo – I agree that people who have something about their appearance that looks like something else doesn’t have to be happy about getting rude comments or having to explain what it is all the time but what happened to being gracious? Is it OK to snap at someone for making a mistake just because it’s a common mistake?

If being well-intentioned doesn’t excuse someone for mistaking a birthmark for a black eye then why should being fed up excuse a snappish response to someone asking about your well-being? It doesn’t.

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Alex June 3, 2011 at 11:44 am

I wonder where the breech of etiquette is when other people steal stories from other site?

http://lifestyle.msn.com/Relationships/Article.aspx?cp-documentid=8318975

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admin June 3, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Alex,

The Ehell story was submitted by email on May 25…..days ahead of the published weekly Miss Manners column. It was an odd coincidence and nothing more.

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ashley June 3, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I agree with Wendy, I think the OP made a reasonable mistake. Her customers could have been much more forgiving and understanding in my opinion.

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Claire June 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I have severe psoriasis on my arms and most of my body and have grown used to peolpe asking me what I have been doing to myself, is it a burn, etc. I also get “Oh, is that psoriasis/eczema? I have it/my mum/brother/neighbour’s cousin has that. Have you tried XY or Z for it?”

I know people are trying to be nice and I always graciously thank them for the information and if (as is usually the case) I HAVE tried the mentionedd treatment, I will say so. However, I really, really wish they wouldn’t do it. I manage not to be self conscious about it most of the time but I hate having it, I know its disfiguring and very obvious, its also sore and unpleasant and I would really rather not talk or even think about it. Having it pointed out to me like this always breaks my heart just a little.

Just thought I would mention this as its a similar theme.

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Enna June 4, 2011 at 4:33 am

The OP was uninentionally rude but people have been far ruder, I’m sure the OP won’t repeat the same mistake again.

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Kate June 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I have a birthmark on my face – not one which resembles a black eye, but a rather large, irregular sort of cafe au lait colour down the side of my face, stretching from level with my eye to my chin. It’s not as bad as many in that it’s not all that different from my skin tone, so it’s not so noticable that it causes a shock reaction, but it is clear, and I have had people often inform me I have dirt on my face, or that I’ve not blended my make up in. This may not be on the same par as people assuming I have a black eye, but either way, it’s a comment I’ve often heard, and I’m never offended or frosty – I generally just say ‘oh, that’s a birthmark actually’ and the conversation is done with. I don’t think exclaiming ‘what happened?’ was the politest thing that could have been done, but equally, I don’t think such a curt reply was needed – it’s just one as those things isn’t it?

As for birthmarks being rare – are they? I have 3, one of my face, one of my neck, and one on my hand, the latter two of which are both more obvious in colour as they’re very pink, so I assumed they were relatively common.

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slythwolf June 4, 2011 at 6:02 pm

I simply do not make any kind of comment about anyone’s appearance unless I know them well enough to know that they would want to hear it. Even things I might think are complimentary, someone else might be terribly insecure about.

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Tanz June 4, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Yes, it wasn’t the best idea to comment, but I’ll bet you’ve learnt your lesson! And besides, most of us have done this at some point or other.

We’ve also, many of us, been on the receiving end too. I had a funny instance of this when I was pregnant with twins (I’m very fat when not pregnant, which is important to this story). I’d gone into the insurance office to change our details as we were moving back to hometown to have and raise our babies. The girl behind the counter was young, bubbly and very sweet – she was also very chatty. Now, my hometown has a reputation for being very boring and she made a comment about “Oh – that’s an interesting place to move to!” so I replied ‘Well, it’s my hometown and I’m pregnant, so DH and I are moving back there to have our children.”

Her response was classic. “Oh! Congratulations! I thought you were just fa….”

She actually slapped a hand across her mouth and her eye bulged in horror at what she’s just said. She looked so hilarious that I burst out laughing: I truely couldn’t contain myself. And I told her it was OK, because I *was* fat, but she continued to apologise profusely and abase herself until I left :)

Funnily enough I wasn’t offended, and I think that’s due to 2 things; 1, she didn’t seem to connect any judgement to my being fat (that’s rarely true) and 2, she was so horrified at herself.

But I’ll bet she learnt her lesson that day!

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Marfy June 5, 2011 at 1:48 am

I’m a nurse, and once years ago I was on the elevator descending when a man got on at the Maternity floor, whistling casually. I smiled and said, “boy or girl?” he responded, “neither one–miscarriage.” I nearly died of embarrassment, even though he hastened to assure me that he and his wife hadn’t even known she was pregnant. Slowest-moving elevator ever.

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MellowedOne June 5, 2011 at 9:07 am

Don’t sweat the small stuff…that applies to you OP and really, the other person needs a healthy dose of it as well.

We’ve all had incidents where we “open mouth, insert foot”–intensely embarassing for us, but we get over it, move it and try not to do it again :)

As regards the other person–wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all just learned not to get our hackles up over every little etiquette breach and remark? Please! I’ve had remarks about my birthmark (wrist to shoulder), and other misc. stuff over the years. I just smile, kindly answer the curious folks, and move on with my life. :)

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