I would love everyone’s thoughts on a situation that happened to me this weekend, if I handled it well, and what I could say next time should it happen again. Let me begin by saying that I do not believe the woman in my story had any sort of neurological or social disorder, but instead, a lack of boundaries.
Some background – I live on a military base that is small and extremely isolated by distance from the nearest town. Most families with kids live on the base, where the kids attend the one elementary school. There is one commissary, one department store, etc. Also, it is not uncommon for the service members here to work long days, or be gone for training for weeks at a time. The spouses here really stick together and form fast friendships, and generally help each other out.
This past Saturday evening, since my husband had been working all day, I took the kids to the only food court on the base for dinner. At the food court, there is Fast Food Burger Place, and Fried Chicken Place, along with, in the middle of the room, an indoor playground and televisions. I generally sit in the middle, facing the playground and tv’s, so I can watch my kids. This particular evening, there were two other families there. At the table in front of me was a mom with her two kids. The mom in front of me initially was seated straight in her chair, watching her kids and the tv.
It started when we sat down. My toddler girl was being loud about something, so the mom turned around and I caught her giving me a sympathetic look, and then she said, “Aww, I remember that age!” I think my response was a polite half smile and a “Yeah”, before going back to my daughter. The lady stayed turned around facing me, giving me a sympathetic look (for what, I don’t know…), and smiling in an almost condescending way. I kept praying she would turn back around, as I don’t care to be watched, but she never did. She stayed turned around, unnecessarily facing my direction, for the entire rest of the meal.
It wasn’t that she was content with just watching us. It was also that she was very obviously looking for me to have a conversation with her, while I was trying to eat my dinner! I tried not to even look at her, which was hard since she was straight in front of me. I didn’t want to answer her questions, but I didn’t know if I could say, “Please stop talking to me” without being rude. At one point, she asked if my son went to school on the base. I said yes, (I didn’t want to lie and have that come back to haunt me), and she acted like that was the MOST AMAZING THING ever, because so did HER kids! (Shocking, since there’s one school.) She clearly wanted me to be amazed too, and I tried to be polite and not rude, but I was extremely uncomfortable with the way she had intruded into my personal space. She then made a big deal about how familiar I looked, and how OMG, she must’ve seen me at the school’s open house!!! (Our kids aren’t in the same class, so yeah, she could’ve seen me in the hallway, I guess?) To this my response was a polite nod, half smile, and “Yeah, maybe…I was there.” I continued with my half smiles, trying not to look at her, praying she would take the hint, and wondering if it would be rude to pull out the book I had in my purse and hold it in front of my face.
(And just to be very clear: She asked all questions. I gave very short but polite replies, no details. Lots of small nods, and half smiles. I’ve never had anyone else misunderstand that as a clue that I did not want to have a conversation with them.)
At one point, my husband called and said he was coming to have dinner with us. It was only when he got there and sat with us that she stopped talking. She was clearly still looking for an “in” into our conversation but finally resigned to turning back around and watching the tv, until her own husband came in and her family left.
I told my husband the story. We laughed. I was annoyed at her, but that was the end of it. Or so I thought.
A few days later, I was dropping off my son at school. You can either walk your child to the playground gate and let them go, or stay in your car in the carpool lane, and a teacher will get them out. I do the latter, since I have my younger one with me. While I was in line waiting, I noticed a woman in a loud green shirt at the playground fence. It was the mom with no boundaries! Being in my car, I didn’t think she could see me, and in a few seconds, my son would be dropped off and I’d be heading home.
As my son was being helped out of the car, and the teacher was about the shut the door, I noticed the mom’s green shirt passing by on the sidewalk. She must’ve recognized my son, because I then saw her stop, and start to peer down to see into my car! As soon as the teacher shut the door, I drove away.
So, now I feel like I am faced with a dilemma of having to acknowledge and have conversations with a woman who, at best, seriously annoyed me, and at worst, really creeped me out. Since our kids go to the same school and are in the same grade, it is very likely I will one day run into her again, and I don’t want to be rude, but I also don’t want her to think I’m her new best friend. Any thoughts? 0916-15
Other than continuing to give the woman the cold shoulder, I don’t think you have more options. You could give her the cut direct but that appears to be more draconian than the situation deserves and you would appear to be a rude, hateful curmudgeon. She may simply be lonely and is taking the initiative to reach out to try and make friends which I find far more preferable than the women who sit at home expecting the world to come to them and whine incessantly about how lonely they are.