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People Can Smell A Boor Du Jour A Mile Away

Hello! I wanted to submit a story about an incident that occurred last week.

A bit of background first. The company I work for provides lunch for employees daily as a benefit. This is beneficial for us because it means lunch is free and we needn’t go out; and for them because it means we generally work whilst eating our lunch.

Due to limitations caused by my Celiac Disease, I cannot always eat the lunch provided. There are many options, but sometimes none of those options are suitable or even something to make an entire meal out of. On those days, I have a snack instead of lunch (I keep my own snacks at my desk) or I walk over to the large, chain organic store down the street from the office to grab a sandwich. Their meat is safe for me to eat, and gluten free bread is one of their options so it’s a nice treat from time to time when I’m tired of salad.

On this particular day, I have waited in line patiently so that I can place an order. When my turn comes, I mention my need for the gluten free bread and then give my selections. The man behind the counter is sympathetic and we strike up a friendly conversation about how wonderful the other breads look and how I wish I could have some. As we do, a man having a loud conversation on his cell phone steps up behind me. I do my best to ignore his phone call even though I can clearly hear the person on the other side of the conversation. He is asked where he is, and he says he’s at the store.

“I’m ordering one of my healthy sandwiches. Whole grain and hummus. Yep, that’s all. So healthy, right?”

I see the man making my sandwich smirk slightly but he doesn’t look up.

“Yeah, I know, I mean, I’m watching what I’m eating,” said as he suddenly leans forward toward my ear and says, loudly enough for several people to hear, “…unlike SOME people here.”

I am taken aback by the sheer audacity and rudeness but say nothing, hoping that he was referencing someone else he and his phone companion know and the lean was an accident. But it was not to be. “There’s this chick in front of me ordering this massive sandwich. No one needs that much food, but SHE especially does not. I mean, really!”

I say nothing, though I am sorely tempted to turn around and say to him, just as loudly, “Hasn’t anyone ever told you that an ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure? You look like you could be rid of about 200lbs of it.” However, I do not. I will not fight rudeness with rudeness. I am, however, very self conscious now thanks to this man’s assumption and passive aggressive attempt at weight-shaming.

The man making my sandwich has paused, a look of incredulity on his face. He then looks at me and says, loudly enough for the man to hear, “I know the gluten free bread is really, really small. It makes a normal sandwich look huge when, really, it would be fine on normal bread. I’m sorry that, due to your health, you can’t have the normal stuff ma’am.” He then hands me my sandwich, and I thank him and head back to the office.

But I wonder, what in the world makes people think this sort of behavior is acceptable? Who are you to criticize the food choices of a stranger, when you don’t know why they’re making them? Maybe, like me, they haven’t much choice. Not to mention the fact that you would do it in such a horrible way. If I was smaller, would he have said the same things?

As I stated above, I said nothing, but is that the right thing? What, if anything, is the right thing to say in such a situation? 0717-13

This is a classic example of how people are not stupid and need no help in recognizing rude boors.   In other words, we really do not need to respond to rude boors to make sure everyone in hearing distance knows, for certain, that this is a boor.   Boors are their own walking advertisements if we let them and Mr. Cell Phone Guy does a spectacular performance as the store’s boor du jour.   The employee got it and did as much as he could within his role of serving to mitigate the awkwardness.

If one must say something, the ornery side of me might have whipped out my camera phone, started recording and said, “Oh, PLEASE!  Repeat that again!   I need to submit this to Etiquette Hell and let it go viral,”   or,  “Smile!   You’re going viral!”   All done with an appropriately thrilled demeanor as if I had just stumbled onto a gold mine.

{ 74 comments… add one }
  • cashie July 23, 2013, 7:03 pm

    Boy, can I relate to these stories. I’m not overweight, but average, with body issues , so I’m reluctant to buy food or eat in public if it’s anything other than healthy looking. I would never comment on someone else’s food choices!

    At the grocery store deli around 8 pm one night, I couldn’t decide, so I asked the woman behind the counter for a small of two different types of potato salad plus a tamale. Not the healthiest but I was hungry, just off work, and I hadn’t eaten since 11. The woman asked if I was planning to eat it all that night. I was too shocked and embarrassed to make a snappy comeback. I just answered no and she Continued! To say that she can’t believe how much people eat at night. I never went back there.

    Another time, I was 3 hours into a 7 hour drive with my young daughter, exhausted physically and emotionally having just come from a funeral, and stopped at the closest place I could find… A grocery store deli, again. I started ordering sandwiches for both of us and the woman started to e/explain that it would be cheaper if i bought the roll, meat and cheese separately to build my own sandwich. With visions of squirting condiments and struggling to build sandwiches in my car, I said that’s okay, we’ll just order here. Instead of leaving it alone she said here, I can help you pick out the rolls and cut the meat and slice the cheese. By that time, I was simply too exhausted to argue, on the verge of tears, I turned around and walked out without another word… With her yelling mam, mam behind me.

    These are definitely not the only times people have commented or argued with me over my food choices in public. I try to stay home to eat, but it’s every where. The one area people feel free to judge and prove themselves boors.

  • Mlerin July 23, 2013, 7:05 pm

    As mentioned, body-shaming of women is common, and it starts pretty early. I’ve had the pleasure of encountering these people, starting in junior high.

    Junior high I was an awkward, gangly kid that wore loose, baggy clothes, and I was a big eater, but tall and scrawny. I heard things from both guys and girls, like: “Do you throw your lunch up?” “You’d look better if your clothes actually fit.” These two were the most prevalent.
    After a few months of this, I finally had enough. This response may send me to E-hell, but at the time I thought it was a good comeback: “You think I’m bulimic? I’m not, but I can start now.” As I said this I would move finger to my mouth. That one freaked the bullies out, and they dropped that one quick.
    In dealing with my clothes, I would smile sweetly and say “Oh, you want to take me shopping and you’re going to pay for new clothes? When can we go?” After awhile, they left me alone about my clothes, too. I knew that I’d grow into those clothes in a few months time, and that was why I wore them.

    Now, whenever someone tries to insult me (strangers), I simply cock an eyebrow and say “And I care about how you think about me, why?” It usually stops people. They don’t have a response, and most of the time, they walk away. Those that try to defend themselves, I simply remind them that we are not friends, family or coworkers, and that they are simply strangers that I’ll probably never see again. I hope that response and reminder gives something to think about.

  • Rug Pilot July 24, 2013, 12:11 am

    It’s her mouth and nobody’s business what she puts in it. As one who has many food sensitivities due to my Crohn’s Disease, I can sympathise with those who don’t or can’t eat things for any reason. I just found out the hard way that there is no good way of removing avocado from a sandwich after throwing out half the rest of the box lunch we got at a seminar.

  • Shannon July 24, 2013, 12:18 am

    @Cashie: I would cut the 2nd cashier (the one who offered to help you build sandwiches) some slack. It sounds like she was just trying to be helpful, and not in a snarky “why don’t you eat salad instead because it’s better for you” way, but rather in a saving-you-money-by-sharing-information way, which if you think about it is fairly admirable. As a server myself, I consider it part of my job (and the right thing to do) to share my knowledge of the menu and pricing so that customers can make an informed decision. So if a certain order can be placed in a more cost effective way, I will typically let my customers know. I always appreciate when salespeople show me the same consideration, rather than trying to profit off the consumer’s ignorance.

  • koolchicken July 24, 2013, 4:09 am

    I have Celiac disease myself. One day I was at my BIL’s house and his friend asked why I wasn’t eating any pizza, I told him I couldn’t because I need gluten free pizza and there weren’t any specialty places nearby. He proceeded to make a joke (implying I was some crazy health nut) and my husband who is a doctor, and sitting across from him calmly explained its a medical condition and how serious it is for me to follow my diet. The (packed) room fell silent, and he started apologizing. I like to think he learned something that day. In fact since then I’ve been to his house for a meal and his wife went totally out of her way preparing a meal (and dessert!) that would be safe for me. So some people are boors, and others just need to be shamed a bit to realize they should think before they speak.

  • Calli Arcale July 24, 2013, 9:29 am

    Mlerin, I hope that I have as much spine as you do the next time I encounter such rude people. I am fortunate in that I have not run into any since my last pregnancy. (Pregnancy, of course, brings out the body shamers in full force, amplified by the power of righteousness for the baby’s sake.) Your responses are perfect!

  • PM July 24, 2013, 9:42 am

    @Elle, that’s horrible!

    And add me to the list of people who would like to banish “food police” to that hot place where they put traitors and people who talk during movies.

    In December, I joined a national “point-based” weight loss program and have had great success using it. It’s been an adventure, trying new physical activities and finding substitutes for the foods and drinks I loved before. The difference in my appearance is remarkable, but I’m never going to be petite. I’m six feet tall and come from that classic Midwestern “big boned” stock.

    One of the foods I have learned to love over the last few months is sushi. I save up my points for the day before we’re going out for it, so I can get two rolls – one that I know I’ll like, and one that I’ve never tried before. I will admit that sometimes, the rolls involve ingredients like cream cheese or fried items.

    A month or so ago, DH and I ate at a sushi bar (a counter where you sit next to other diners) and I ordered my two rolls. As soon as my food was delivered, this smug guy sitting next to us starting telling me that sushi was very filling, so it was a good idea to just order one roll and “just because it’s sushi, doesn’t mean it’s good for you, so maybe you should slow down on the Philadelphia roll.” and he started recommending rolls that would be better for me.

    Before I could respond, my husband told him, “You’re going to want to mind your own business and let my wife enjoy her dinner.”

    Smug guy said, “Hey, I’m just trying to help. Some people don’t know how to eat healthy.”

    DH told him, “And some people have no manners. Enjoy your meal.”

    As much as I appreciated DH’s chivalry, I told him later that I could have handled the situation on my own. He said he was sure I could, but talking to the police about why I injured a stranger with chopsticks would have ruined our evening. 🙂

    I love my DH.

    Food police are bullies. It doesn’t matter whether you’re eating (in their opinion) too little or too much, too healthy or too “junk-y,” they’re going to use what they consider their superiority to bludgeon the other party into feeling like less. Less fit, less intelligent, less attractive, less worthy. The only way to defend against them is to ignore them or to let them know that you don’t care what they think.

  • PM July 24, 2013, 9:59 am


    I definitely agree with your assertion that people have a “how DARE you!” internal response to seeing a larger person who is comfortable in their own skin. I posted on the forum about an interaction I had at the grocery store. I was having a great day and was smiling with a skip to my step and this grumpy older man saw me and asked, “What do you have to smile about, fatty?”

    And as rude as this man was, I am ashamed to admit that my response to was to wilt and turn in on myself. Because when I was heavier, I’d been quiet, reserved and tried not to call attention to myself and I never received that sort of response from people. So clearly, the answer was to shrink back in like a turtle and try not to be so happy. That lasted for about five minutes, when I realized that was a crazy idea and I should just keep smiling.

    You can’t live your life in a way you think will help you avoid criticism, because this type of personality will find something to pick on, frizzy hair, crooked teeth, chicken legs. Something about you will offend their sensibilities and give them an excuse to strike.

    In the immortal words of the internet, Haters Gonna Hate.

  • Asharah July 24, 2013, 12:08 pm

    @cashie, I’m afraid those deli employees wouldn’t have gotten off as easy with me. When I’m tired and hungry I tend to be very short-tempered.
    Employee number one would probably be treated to me sarcastically asking her if she was payed extra to do commentary on the eating habits of her customers.
    Employee number two would be informed “If I’m willing to pay extra for a ready-made sandwich, then I suggest you do your job and make the sandwich before I find somebody to complain to.”

  • Asharah July 25, 2013, 12:21 am

    @Shannon, I would say if the cashier was actually trying to be helpful, she should have accepted it when cashee told her no, I don’t want to make the sandwiches myself. The fact that she kept pushing when a customer told her she wanted the sandwiches made suggests to me she was trying to save herself some work rather than save the customer money. The simple fact was she was responsible for a customer walking out because she failed to pay attention to what the person was telling her. Not very good for business.

  • The Elf July 25, 2013, 7:29 am

    Shannon, one suggestion in the name of saving money is fine. Pushing is not. What cashie described is pushing.

  • Calli Arcale July 25, 2013, 11:46 am

    I suspect the cashier pushing the cheaper sandwich option *thought* she was being helpful, but a second attempt is rude. In sales, it is tolerated as it is how the store makes money, but a second attempt that *costs* the store money is stupid no matter how you look at it.

    @PM: your dear hubby sounds absolutely awesome. 😉

  • Missy J July 25, 2013, 9:42 pm

    My Mom was in the grocery store buying candy for a party and this soccer mom pulled up next to her in the checkout line with her two children, and the two children spied the candy in my Mom’s basket and cried to their mother, “We want some candy. Why can’t we have any? She (pointing to my mother) is buying some” to which their mother replied, ” I guess she NEEDS it more than WE do.” My Mom is a little on the pudgy side, too.

  • LizaJane July 26, 2013, 12:37 pm

    Regarding people who feel the need to point out another’s extra weight, there’s always the rude but oh-so-tempting: “I may be fat, but you’re ugly. I can go on a diet. What are you gonna do?”
    I saw this happen once, and while good manners keep me from reccomending it, I had to laugh.

  • ebrain July 26, 2013, 10:48 pm

    Oh, had I been OP, I think the Icy Stare would surely have been deployed, as it has been in the past. If pressed, a terse “what an interesting assumption” might be applied.

    But I have noted that we women are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t: I have recently returned from a conference, which was held at a site where the chef had a remarkable talent for making lousy tasting food look lovely. I am overweight, and I’m trying to drop some pounds for health and because I’m tired of carrying them on my bike. As a result, my plate was seldom full (thanks to thoughtful food selection and careful portion control) and never emptied (thanks to the chef’s talent for serving yucky tasting food). I got comments about eating bad food (“you’re eating that creamy sauce!? I’d never!”) AND for not eating enough of it (“are you trying to be anorexic and starve yourself?!”)…all from people I’d known for only a few hours.

    Never have I so appreciated the admonishment not to JADE. Smile sweetly, state clearly “thank you for your concern”, and move on.

  • VBR July 28, 2013, 11:04 am

    This is exactly why I made the decision a short while ago to never consume anything other than a beverage if there is any chance that another person — even a family member, since they can be far worse than strangers because they think they’re entitled to be judgmental under the guise of “helping a relative” — will see me. I am sick of being judged for existing, so now I only eat in complete solitude.

  • Huh July 29, 2013, 8:52 am

    @MissyJ – “We want some candy. Why can’t we have any? She (pointing to my mother) is buying some”

    Because she’s an adult and can buy whatever she likes with her money. I’ve said something similiar to my own kids before when they’ve asked why I was getting to do something they weren’t. They’ve never asked me though why a complete stranger was getting something they weren’t! Because a total stranger is getting candy, they should too? Um, no.

  • Angel July 29, 2013, 10:50 am

    I have a friend with a gluten intolerance, which is slightly less severe than celiac disease but still, she gets sick if she eats stuff with gluten in it. Generally when she comes over I put out cut up fruit and veggies, and chips and salsa. I have discovered that many brands of tortilla chips are gluten free.

    That being said I couldn’t imagine not doing everything I can to accommodate someone with an allergy–any allergy including nuts, dairy, gluten, etc. There should always be at least a few options and you shouldn’t make the person feel badly about it! This was the first year that my daughter was in the peanut free classroom and while we weren’t allowed to bake and bring stuff in, we quickly found alternatives and these made all the kids happy.

    Celiac disease is nothing to be messed with. It’s just like any other allergy. Would you shove peanuts down the throat of someone with a nut allergy??

  • Anonymous July 29, 2013, 12:48 pm

    >>@MissyJ – “We want some candy. Why can’t we have any? She (pointing to my mother) is buying some”

    Because she’s an adult and can buy whatever she likes with her money. I’ve said something similiar to my own kids before when they’ve asked why I was getting to do something they weren’t. They’ve never asked me though why a complete stranger was getting something they weren’t! Because a total stranger is getting candy, they should too? Um, no.<<

    Actually, I think it's possible to answer that question without bringing the other person into it at all–instead, I'd say something like, "We're not getting candy right now, because you had/will be having Popsicles after soccer," or "We're not getting candy right now, because it's too close to bedtime and I don't want you up all night," or "We're not getting candy right now, but if you behave yourselves at the hardware store after this, we can go to the park." I know that "I'm an adult/So-and-So is an adult, I/he/she can do whatever" is a valid argument, but it's frustrating to kids, and it amplifies the "someone else can have XYZ, but you can't" thing, that's bothering them in the first place. So, I'd try to focus on what we ARE going to do, or give a logical reason for why I have to say no to what they want, and try to give them some choice in the matter. For example, one time, I was at the grocery store, and I overheard a mother asking, "Okay, Son, we can get ice cream this week, but then if we do that, we can't go go-karting after shopping, because the ice cream will melt in the car. So, you have a choice–go-karting today, or ice cream for the week. Which would you prefer?" Now, okay, some people can't afford to take their child go-karting on an ordinary Saturday afternoon, but replace "go-karting" with "park" or "library" or "free museum," and I think that's a reasonable choice to give your child, starting at the age of maybe six or so.

  • Jo July 30, 2013, 10:01 am

    I was never officially “fat,” but I’m tall and broad shouldered, so I guess you could say I was a larger girl most of my childhood/teen years.

    Fast forward to age 22, when I suddenly became desperately ill with a incurable chronic disease. All of a sudden, the same people who would look at me critically about needing to lose weight would look at me, all, “Why are your arms so skinny? Don’t you know know you need to gain some weight??” WTF indeed!

  • Leslie Holman-Anderson August 1, 2013, 5:22 pm

    There is a simple response that shuts boors up instantly, and is not (technically) rude. Draw yourself up as tall as you can, turn to the person, raise your eyebrows, and say, “I BEG your pardon?” And wait for them to attempt to explain themselves.

  • Rebecca August 5, 2013, 1:47 pm

    I don’t think I would have had it in me to be polite to this guy.

    Though I agree with the PP who said that people behaving in a PA way don’t like to be called on it. A stare-down just might put him in his place. In a similar (but not as extreme, not as intrusive, and not as personal) way, I was having trouble with my debit card at the cashier once – I had forgotten that I’d recently changed the PIN and punched it in wrong a couple of times, then pulled out my credit card instead. This woman in the line behind me was saying loudly and pointedly “to her friend” (but really for me), “This is taking ages. How much longer is this going to be? People need to be more organized.”

    I just turned around and stared at her blankly for a second (while the cashier was finishing up my transaction) and she looked a little embarrassed, as though she wasn’t expecting me to have the guts to face her.

  • Scoop11 September 22, 2013, 1:17 pm

    I think it’s kind of rude in general to even inquire about someone’s dietary choices. I’m a type 2 diabetic that chooses to eat as low carb as possible so I don’t have to rely too heavily on meds alone, and I don’t think it’s anyone’s business when I go to a restaurant and ask for no wheat or starchy stuff in my order.

    Most of the time, they’re pretty good about not asking me about it (I even had a McD’s manager make sure that my Sausage McMuffin was only the sausage when he couldn’t figure out how to put it in the register). Only time I had anyone ask me about it was when I went to an amusement park and asked for a hot dog with no roll. Guy at the counter asked me if I had “an allergy or something.” I didn’t go back to the booth the rest of the day because I thought inquiring about it was kind of rude.

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