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Casual Conversation At The Theater

Myself and two friends went to the theater last night. And something that happened (that I passed off humorously at the time) has now got me irritated upon second thought. When we entered the theater– a solid 20 minutes before the show started– I sat on one side of my friend “Ryan”, and a stranger was on his other side (a woman, whom I would place in her late 50s). Important context here is that both Ryan and I are actors and have previously worked under the director of the show we are seeing this night.

Ryan makes a comment to me about said director in conversation, referring to her by her first name. And that’s when Stranger next to Ryan says to him, “Oh! Do you know the director?” Ryan says yes, and she proudly tells us that she recently did an interview with said director (she works for a newspaper). Being friendly, Ryan inquires about the interview and chats with her for a few moments. When that seems over, he turns back to me, but then she starts talking to him again… and this becomes the trend for the whole of the 20 minutes we are waiting for the show to begin. One time she even interrupted him mid sentence while he was trying to hold a conversation with my other friend and I. This stranger was not about to let him talk to anyone else while she was there. And poor Ryan is the sweetest person you could ever meet; he didn’t have the heart to ignore the stranger or say anything about the situation to her.

When the show was over (thank god no intermission) she tried to pull him into conversation AGAIN, and that’s when I made excuses for our small group to leave, and ushered Ryan out before this woman could steal another uncomfortable 20 minutes from him. As my own mother pointed out, she was probably just lonely; though I don’t think that gives her an excuse to demand attention from a stranger who is clearly trying to engage with his own group. 0506-17

If you have think twice as to whether you are offended or not, you are likely overthinking the situation.  Go with your gut and first reaction and just blow it off.

{ 28 comments… add one }
  • ladyv21454 July 5, 2018, 8:13 am

    I think the OP should be thankful the woman didn’t continue the conversation DURING the show! While I don’t think what happened is a cause for major offense, it WAS rude for Stranger to interrupt Ryan while he was talking to his friends – that particular behavior is wrong even with people that you DO know. Still wouldn’t be keeping me up nights, though.

  • Ripple July 5, 2018, 9:11 am

    I agree with Admin – just blow it off, you’re never going to see her again, not important.
    Two possibilities:
    1. She was hitting on Ryan.
    2. Although she had an interview with the director, she may have wanted more direct, possibly closer contact and thought Ryan could provide that.
    Either way, again you probably won’t ever see her again so don’t even think about her.

  • Me July 5, 2018, 9:37 am

    I see nothing wrong here. A woman goes to a play, begins a conversation with the man next to her, who continues to converse with her, and then spend time talking. It’s really none of your business, you should talk to Ryan if you are offended, but typically around here if we go to a play, the theater, a bar or some other place like that,we talk with everybody around us –not just only who we came with.

  • Julia July 5, 2018, 10:03 am

    Really, OP? You’re all bent out of shape that a woman was having a good time with your friend? Do you “own” him, or something? There were many ways your friend could have cut the woman off. He chose not to, and you make it sound like a character flaw that he was kind to this person. She may have been lonely. She may have also thought your friend was a nice guy and wanted to talk to him. I note you mention her age, and I imagine she’s not “high up” enough in the film industry to impress you. I take it she didn’t qualify for becoming an acquaintance, being so old and unimportant. Only that would explain why you’re so negative about her. You sneer at her “pride” in having talked to the director. Perhaps she was just excited to see his work and (as I would have been) delighted to meet someone who knew him. Why didn’t you join in on the conversation yourself? Did you think she was going to give you old-people cooties? You say, “This stranger was not about to let him talk to anyone else while she was there.” Really? You sound like she stole your lunch. Twenty minutes of conversation before a movie (which I notice she was evidently quiet during, which is quite a blessing these days) is not a social crime. And I love that you “passed off humorously” the fact that she wanted — excuse me, that she dared to talk to your friend. In other words, you laughed at this old woman for…what? Being ridiculous enough to be happy about connecting with a new person and wanting to enjoy their company for a bit? Sorry. You may feel bad for your friend for not being a jerk and telling her he didn’t want to talk to her for a whole (OMG) twenty minutes, but the only rude person in your story is you.

    • JaredBascomb July 5, 2018, 7:02 pm

      Nitpick: this wasn’t a movie, it was a play*. So it’s not like director was Spielberg and that the LW and Ryan were somehow “high up” in the film industry. A bit of projection on your part.
      Other than that, your comment was spot on.

      *Hints that this was a stage production and not a movie:
      “[we] went to the theater ” not “[we] went to the movies (or cinema)”
      “[We] . . . have previously worked under the director of the show we are seeing” not “the movie (or film)”
      “(thank god no intermission)” I can’t recall the last movie I went to that had an intermission; probably a revival of “Lawrence of Arabia”.
      Sorry for being nitpicky and snarky.

      • Julia July 6, 2018, 9:16 am

        Oops, you’re right. Sorry about that. However, theatre people are just as snobby about things, so my point remains.

      • LizaJane July 6, 2018, 10:23 pm

        Saying, “Sorry for being nitpicky and snarky” doesn’t make it ok to be nitpicky and snarky.

        Julia may have misread cues that this was a live performance, but I will point out that many people use the word “theater” for the movies.

        More importantly, as you said, that had nothing to do with the point of her post.

    • Rinme July 6, 2018, 4:39 am

      I’m sorry, but this comment is really uncalled for. You presume to understand the situation better than the person who was actually there.

      LW clearly states that his friend was not interested in talking to this lady, and was subtly signalling that, as not to be rude. Lady was ignoring his cues, and using him as her personal captive audience.

      I belive if LW’s friend actually wanted to talk to this stranger, LW WOULD know the difference!

      • Julia July 6, 2018, 9:26 am

        Nope, I don’t think so. What I see is that he assumes his friend didn’t want to talk to her because he himself had no interest in talking to her. And I get this from my own “subtle cues.” He’s the one who calls her conversation “stealing” and is outraged when she wants to talk AGAIN after the play, probably to ask his friend how he liked it.

        Was this lady forcing a conversation on his friend? I have no idea, but the OP sure doesn’t provide evidence to convince me that she did. She doesn’t, for example, shout at him, hold on to his arm, invade his personal space, or get hostile with anyone. She does interrupt, but that’s a minor failing and does happen sometimes when we get excited. And again, for Pete’s sakes, it was twenty minutes. I got lectured at by a Trump supporter for about that long yesterday who completely mistook my flattering comment about the recent royal wedding in the worst way possible, berating me for not loving my country enough, and I’m not as bent out of shape as this guy is by a woman who wanted to talk about the play.

        Anyway, perhaps next time he could show a bit more kindness to a stranger. Isn’t that what this site is all about?

      • Lacey July 6, 2018, 3:45 pm

        Seriously. People who don’t pick up on social cues and take politeness as encouragement might not technically be rude, but they sure are annoying. Nobody owes a stranger conversation, and the people around you are not automatically there for your entertainment and loneliness cure. And yeah, if her friend was like “What a delightful woman she was!” I’m sure the OP wouldn’t have written in.

  • lakey July 5, 2018, 11:56 am

    I think this falls into the category of “poor social skills”. Most of us learn our social behavior from how other people react to what we do. I learned a long time ago that if a group of people go somewhere together, they expect to interact and chat with each other. It’s okay to make a comment, but trying to become part of the group often won’t be welcomed. I’m single and do most things alone, if I want to interact with others, I look for other people who are on their own. OP’s mother is right, this woman may be lonely, and hasn’t figured out how to deal with her going places alone. It’s possible she’s newly divorced or widowed. I wouldn’t let it bother me.

    • Bea July 8, 2018, 6:43 pm

      On the contrary, I go places alone because I don’t want to be with anyone else and am invested in some “me” time. So I can easily get annoyed when people start trying to talk to me and intruding on that time.

      If I’m with a group, we’re in a social state of mind. Then I’m in a “more the merrier” state of mind.

  • SS July 5, 2018, 12:24 pm

    It is also on your friend to use his words to let her know that the conversation is over…. especially if he’s been interrupted by her while talking to you. “Excuse me, I would like a chance to catch up with my friend while we are together. Thanks.” And after that, ignore her when she talks to you, as if you didn’t hear her because you are engrossed in your conversation with your friend.

    • Lacey July 6, 2018, 3:47 pm

      That is the way to handle the situation, and I would do that, but so many people are bad at it. I think there really is a misconception that it’s rude not to indulge a stranger in conversation just because they want it.

  • JD July 5, 2018, 12:24 pm

    It’s a small thing in the big picture of life, but I agree, it’s annoying. Clearly this woman didn’t read the social cues. I’ve had that happen to me a few times, and it’s irritating, but thank heavens, she didn’t keep it up during the performance. I always just assume someone really needs to talk and let it go.
    Although — my husband and I witnessed this happening to someone else once, in a restaurant, when a table with two couples was joined by a solo patron who stopped just to say hello but stayed to talk on and on to one female of the party, while she and her companions sat, unable to converse with one another. He obviously had a good opinion of himself and his own views — we could hear his boasting. Finally, one of the men in the original group silently rolled up his pants legs to mid-calf as the boasting went on. My husband and I had to struggle to keep from laughing out loud.

  • NostalgicGal July 5, 2018, 1:44 pm

    This is overthought and at this point in time, blow it off, forget it. It’s a once-off. I agree the woman may be ‘recently alone’ or otherwise just vastly in need of social time. She didn’t hang onto Ryan by the arm and prevent him from leaving with the others he was with, so. Just move on.

  • Tricia July 5, 2018, 2:25 pm

    or instead of being “lonely” maybe she’s recently been given the “theatre beat” at the newspaper and is desperately trying to make inroads. Or the interview with the director didn’t give her anything juicy enough to write about and finding out that he knew the director was trying to use that as an in for more background or dirt to beef up her article.

    • JaredBascomb July 5, 2018, 7:04 pm

      Good points!

    • Yuchin Robb July 8, 2018, 8:41 am

      How about just common interests and the stranger might not have plenty of people close to her to share? One clue: she went to the show by herself and looked lonely.

  • Bea July 5, 2018, 3:12 pm

    She was seated and didn’t follow you around, so it seems awkward at best. I’ve met plenty of overly friendly folks, they are usually welcome in my case. If someone is coming on too strong, you can easily express that you are busy with your friends and can’t discuss any longer, etc.

    It’s the price of doing things that attract others. This wasn’t a private event, you have to interact casually when you’re seated among strangers.

  • LizaJane July 5, 2018, 3:44 pm

    I can see where this woman’s actions could be annoying, but in a time where people are becoming more and more “closed down (fear of interraction with dangerous people, attachment to devices, etc.) I find it refreshing that the woman was social enough to strike up a conversation with someone with whom she had something in common. Also that Ryan was willing to engage. Maybe he was enjoying it. Perhaps the OP was welcome in the conversation too, but chose not to join in.

    Sometimes we meet the nicest people because of random conversations.

  • Devin July 5, 2018, 3:50 pm

    This is a mix of someone feeling awkward being along in a social setting and your friend not discouraging the continued conversation. I often go to ticketed, seated events solo and I think the most awkward situation is when you arrive early and your single seat is next to one group in an otherwise empty section. You can’t just re-seat yourself since it’s assigned and the closesness feels uncomfortable since there’s lots of open space.
    Your friend opened the door to further conversation when he asked about her article. I think if you had opened your conversation to her you might have heard some interesting stories from someone who works in print. He could have politely exited the conversation if he had been so bothered. I say let it go because it’s only bothering you at this point.
    *new thought- she may have been trying to gather more information on the director for another news piece on the director or a follow up?

  • Gumby July 5, 2018, 7:56 pm

    The only really rude part that I see was interrupting Ryan mid-sentence. But it’s pretty much on Ryan to deal with that. In particular, finish what he was saying to you and your friend and not stopping mid-sentence just because she has interrupted.

    While it is odd to miss social cues like him literally turning away from her, it’s more uncomfortable than rude. I can see how it’s annoying, but it would fall below my personal offense-taking radar.

  • ALM July 7, 2018, 2:28 pm

    I doubt this woman was lonely. I think she was working. She just interviewed the director. She’s probably attending the show as part of her job. Your friend knows the director and is attending the play. Sounds like he was being interviewed.

  • Yuchin Robb July 8, 2018, 8:12 am

    You can’t change the fact that the stranger could only steal 20 minutes from Ryan only because he’s willing to give her. The source of irritation should be Ryan, instead of the stranger. Ryan could politely turn off the stranger’s attempt to chat or interrupt. Ryan was the one to commit etiquette faux pas to you and your other friend.
    However as you stressed in your letter that Ryan is the sweetest person you could meet, therefore. Perhaps it’s time to re-examine the pros and cons of the sweet personality.

    • LizaJane July 8, 2018, 9:40 pm

      This is a great point.

  • Jeanna July 9, 2018, 6:06 pm

    Please don’t say “Myself and two friends”…it should be “Two friends and I”..
    Sorry to be a busy-body but EVERYONE uses the word myself wrong!!! It is a reflexive pronoun, so should only be used in situations like: “I myself experienced blah blah blah.”… Has to have another pronoun to reflect back to.

    • LizaJane July 10, 2018, 1:41 pm

      Thank you!!!! I wanted to point this out but was unsure how people would react. You were brave and I appreciate it. Some people really seem determined to make grammar harder than it already is.

      Also, it would be, “while he was trying to hold (?) a conversation with another friend and ME” not “and I”. You don’t have a conversation with I. You have a conversation with me.

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