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Bah Humbug To Tacky Guests

I invited an uncle, an aunt, a cousin, and the cousin’s son plus his girlfriend for a Christmas Eve family dinner. I had never met Sonny or Girlfriend, but, since he was past 21, I figured he’d be an adult.

In the midst of our repast, Uncle mentioned a lady (in her 80’s) to whom he was once engaged and who is still aunt’s best friend.  Sonny growled, “I wish she was dead, with a stake through her heart!”  He has never met or spoken to the lady.  As he was a guest in my home, I said nothing.

Later, we were opening Christmas gifts and I gave my uncle a hat with my university’s logo on it.  As my school is nationally known and my uncle collects baseball caps, I thought this a good gift.  Sonny did not.  He yelled, “Get another one and you’ll have one to s**t on and one to cover it up!” He did not know I had the exact same gift for him, but at least I knew what he thought of my kindness.

Cousin was shocked, amazed, and highly insulted when she invited Sonny to Thanksgiving dinner at my home and I told her I did not intend to invite him back.  I am a Southern lady and our first rule of hospitality is that we do not allow anyone to insult a guest under our roof.  We certainly don’t allow anyone to insult us under our own roof.  I expected she would phone her son, explain that his rudeness was unacceptable, and that, as a man, he would apologize for his behavior.  I would then have invited him.

I have not heard from her or from him again.   0817-08

And some people wonder why they are lonely and left out of family celebrations.

{ 73 comments… add one }
  • Auryn Grigori December 8, 2010, 12:14 pm

    @alli_wan: You are so right. Next time someone is rude to the OP in their own house, the OP should let their feelings known…By tossing them directly out the door.

    If we are talking about a child who does not know better, and is sweet and kind otherwise, then of course the hostess should take cousin and child to the side and explain why that is wrong. However, if the person is past 21, (heck, passed 15) and does not know that there are some things that you just don’t say (like how someone should defecate on a present), it is not my responsibility to do what the mother should have done years ago. There is nowhere where defecation on a present would be appropriate. And no excuse for that behavior. And before anyone makes the point of “well, he could have had Aspergers/ADHD/ Autism,” I have ADHD. I have two friends with Aspergers. None of us would think that was ever an appropriate thing to say to someone, much less a family member who would give us a gift.

  • RP December 8, 2010, 12:42 pm

    I have a good friend with Tourette’s who would never have behaved so rudely

    @Ali – Tourette’s != Aspergers. Someone with Tourette syndrome has physical and vocal tics. The syndrome does not cause limited empathy or anything that cause them to not understand that certain things are inappropriate.

    @MamaToreen – Two people is not a significant sample size.

    I’m not sure how or why this turned into a thread bashing people with these problems and/or pretending the social impact of having them doesn’t exist, especially since no one has suggested that the cousin’s son has something.

    @alli_wan – I actually do agree that the OP would have been within her rights to say something at the time but I disagree that she was obligated to do so. I also disagree that not inviting the cousin’s son to future functions was the wrong thing to do. She doesn’t owe it to him to invite him and no one should feel like they have to let anyone who insults them in their home.

    There’s nothing preventing “Sonny” from asking the OP directly why he wasn’t invited. In my opinion he was the one being passive-aggressive by making his mom ask instead.

  • Jan74 December 8, 2010, 1:55 pm

    I’m with Mama Toreen. When people say that people with Asperger’s are “rude” they mean in the sense that one, when presented with a baseball cap, might say something like “I don’t wear baseball caps”. Some honest statement that might offend the gift giver, because they often don’t understand social niceties and white lies and prefer to tell the truth under any circumstance. It does not mean, however, that they are rude donkey behinds who say “Oh great, now I can defecate in this cap” as Sonny did there in the story. They don’t set out to hurt others on purpose.

  • Elizabeth December 8, 2010, 3:43 pm

    @alli_wan – I fail to see how not inviting Sonny back is passive-aggressive. It is fairly straight forward.

  • Kat December 8, 2010, 3:43 pm

    To those suggesting autism/aspergers/etc as a possible explanation for this behavior – wouldn’t that still imply that the behavior is a pattern? Based on the OP’s story, it doesn’t sound like “Sonny” has been diagnosed with anything, which would suggest that his mother has probably observed several instances like this and not made an effort to do anything about them. Whether he’s got a social disorder or not, she should have taken appropriate steps to curb this behavior, whether that was consulting with experts or simply correcting him when he was out of line. Of course, this should have been done long before the age of 21.

  • Cat December 8, 2010, 10:32 pm

    I am the OP. For those who were curious about the girlfriend, she did not remain with him. The lad has also been fired from his job.

    I never correct an adult guest’s behavior in my home. I do my best to keep a harmonious and pleasant atmosphere. I would only interfer if a guest’s personal safety was being threatened.

    I do insist on having control over who is and who is not welcome in my home. My home; my rules.

  • Jan74 December 9, 2010, 10:32 am

    It would also be common courtesy, if Sonny suffers from any disorder at all, to let anyone hosting him know in advance, such as “He has Tourette’s, so he may scream profanities at any given time”, or “He has autism, so he won’t be making eye contact”.

    So at most, a disorder would excuse his behavior, but it wouldn’t excuse his mom’s behavior for not letting the host know.

  • Auryn Grigori December 9, 2010, 11:48 am

    Hi OP! I was being a little facetious to alli_wan. You did the right thing, and you were far more controlled and classy about it than I might have been, under the circumstances. The fact is, the jerk was rude to you, in your own home, and if you wanted to pull a Jazz/Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and toss him out bodily from your house, that is your prerogative. If you want him out of the house and never want him back, that is also for you to decide. Your job is not to raise a 21+ year old.

  • Lizajane December 9, 2010, 12:56 pm

    This has not turned into a thread bashing people with certain conditions or pretending those conditions don’t exist. What are you talking about?

  • Skoffin December 9, 2010, 1:05 pm

    I am someone who has always had issues with social interactions. There are many things where I will not understand why people would be upset over certain things, or why certain standards are in place. I do not understand them, however I still know about them. I may not understand why someone might be offended over something I would find trivial, however I still know what is accepted by most people and thus can act accordingly. I know most people would not have the same sense of humour as I and thus do not go making such comments to those I barely know.

    Whether he has mental issues or not, which I do not believe he has, he would still know what he is saying will be seen as offensive. He is a jerk and nothing more.

    Personally I would likely make a comment towards him when he first started acting out, telling him to leave if he kept it up. However I see nothing wrong with choosing to never invite him back.

  • Jillybean December 9, 2010, 4:31 pm

    I’m going to go against the grain here and side with ali_wan. The behaivor described in the post is unspeakably rude.

    But the OP says: “I am a Southern lady and our first rule of hospitality is that we do not allow anyone to insult a guest under our roof.”

    I have two issues with that statement – a) as a Northerner, I dislike the qualifier (and I see it oh so often) that somehow only Southerners have manners or show hospitatlity, and b) she claims that she does not allow guests to be insulted under her roof. Yet, by not saying a word, that’s exactly what she did. She sat back and allowed guests (and herself) to be insulted. She absolutely should have spoken up. Even a well placed, “Whatever do you mean by that?” or “What a horrible thing to say,” would have been better than sitting back and saying nothing.

    Not allowing Sonny back is absolutely the right move. Telling his mother why he’s not welcome back when asked is also the right move. But questioning Sonny’s comments in the moment would have also been the right move. We aren’t talking about correctly a 2 year old’s behavior in front of his mother, we are talking about responding to the comments of an adult (whether his mother is present or not), which really just qualifies as conversation.

  • Adica December 10, 2010, 1:55 pm

    @AS: “In every culture, the only accepted response to a gift is appreciation…”

    Actually, no. There are many cultures where recipients are expected to criticize gifts they receive (e.g., “That’s it?”, “It’s so small,” “The color isn’t very good,” “It seems cheap,” etc.) because it shows that you care about the gift enough to look at everything about it, and it’s to keep the giver from getting too big an ego about how awesome their gift was (these tend to be cultures where gift-giving is emphasized as a very important part of relationship building, and it’s good to keep each other grounded). Gift giving is actually a very interesting thing to study. You can learn a lot about a culture from it.

    Disclaimer: I’m not trying to explain Sonny’s behavior, however. These tend to be tribal cultures, and in every European-based culture I know of, this is most definitely not what is expected. These tend to be basic rules that even small children can grasp, so I don’t see how an adult could be excused from knowing it.

    In response to those who blame the OP for not correcting his behavior, I have a simple rule for most people I know: “I’m not your mother; It’s not my job to ‘teach you a lesson’ or chastise you to improve your behavior. I’m also not going to hang out with you if I don’t get along with your behavior.” The only exceptions to this are children I’m related to (whose parents I’m also close to) and children I’m babysitting. Note that in both of these instances, I’m talking about children I’m close to in one way or another.

  • Twik December 10, 2010, 6:39 pm

    I have to say, if one has to “communicate” the basic standard that people do not behave as Sonny did, then I suggest society has ground to a complete halt. What’s next – “Sonny, I really would prefer that you don’t set fire to the house. It’s just a little foible of mine, but I beg you to accept it.”?

    And I’m not sure why a previous poster felt that it was unacceptable to simply not invite someone whose company you don’t like. That’s pretty clear communication to me.

  • AS December 10, 2010, 9:45 pm

    @Adica, I didn’t know that such a culture existed. If the recipient has to comment, can’t it be something positive, like “I love the color”, etc.? Thanks for the info’ though. That is interesting.
    But anyways, I don’t think the attitude this boy has is allowed even in cultures where criticizing is expected. Like, it is one thing to say that “I don’t like caps” or something in those lines. But suggesting defecating in it is probably plain insult, and he is surely not seeing every aspect of the gift.

  • Enna December 11, 2010, 11:25 am

    I can see why the OP didn’t want to invite Sonny back, but I think as the host she had every right to comment why he wanted to kill the lady. “Is she REALLY that bad?” “What on earth has she done to deserve that?” and so putting Sonny on the spot. As for the swearing and defecting on a gift a simple “Please do not use language like that in my house espcially in regards to a gift I’ve been kind enough to buy someone: its a good way to cause offence.” If it’s brought up that Sonny had Aspgergers or ADHD (and both conditions can lead to use of bad language depending on the extremity and the individual) then the host says “well now I’m aware of the sitation I know it’s not meant in the normal context.”

  • Chrysanthemumgeorge December 11, 2010, 4:30 pm

    As the parent of an autistic child I am somewhat sad that people would use that as an excuse for the bad behavior of Sonny. My son is 6 and we have people constantly tell us how polite he is (they also say that about our other two children, aged 3 and 7, it’s our philosophy that children who are treated with dignity and respect will treat others the same way and it has worked).

    I have never met an autistic individual of any age who would behave in the manner that Sonny did. It might take more work, and sometimes they can be brutally honest, but there is no reason they can’t be taught good manners. Autistic individuals are often especially polite since they often insist on following rules and rituals so strictly.

  • Adica December 11, 2010, 4:35 pm

    @AS: Oh, no, definitely not. Only the recipent(s) of the gifts are allowed to criticize, and the ones I’ve read about were never like that. They were mainly criticized with the understanding that of course the recipient *likes* the gift; they just want to make sure the giver doesn’t think the gift is more awesome than it really is. Gifts are expected for a relationship to be built (kind of a give and take of who “owes” the other). IIRC, the more gifts that are given over time, the less criticism is given. This is seen as the relationship building. None of these cultures are very big or well-known, though. It’s more difficult to find information about them outside of cultural anthropology textbooks.

  • Cat December 12, 2010, 9:28 pm

    I am amazed that anyone would think that I, the OP, would be so rude as to suggest that only Southerners have manners. I have lived my entire life in a Southern State and the rules of a Southern lady are all that I know. Not knowing in what rules the Ladies of the Northern, Eastern and Western States are instructed, I can only say why I behave as I do. I trust that they have standards to which they ascribe that are as keeping in good deportment as I.

    I am not psychic, so there is no way to predetermine a guest’s behavior; there is simply no way to stop an inappropriate comment from being made. Being rude myself is not the answer and only underscores the unpleasant situation. One simply changes the subject and maintains ones dignity.

    I still believe a gentleman, once he realized he had offended other guests, would have called and offered an apology. We have all had occasions in which our mouths have gotten ahead of our manners and we have said the wrong thing. We graciously forgive those who regret an indiscretion without suggesting that it was anything more than that.

  • AS December 13, 2010, 2:28 pm

    @Cat: I am not sure which one of the comments gave you the impression that they said you were being rude to suggest that only southerners have manners. Given that my first post was one of the very few discussing southerners, I just wanted to clarify something with you. I said in my first post that “It doesn’t matter whether you are from the south or anywhere else” just to emphasize the fact that Sonny and your cousin have nothing to validate their behaviour because politeness while receiving a gift is an etiquette requirement everywhere that I knew of, and not just in the south. It has nothing to do with you mentioning that you are a Southern lady. In fact, I have supported your stance in my post, as well as subsequent ones (it probably becomes hard to keep track of who is posting). So, if my post gave you any wrong impression, I can assure you that that was not my intention.

  • Alexa December 16, 2010, 4:06 am

    A university logo is practically a political statement. While what Sonny said was rude and he shouldn’t have commented on a gift, let alone one for someone else, the OP should probably have not given gifts that might be taken as controversial. His coarse language, for all we know, might have been out of place “guy talk” because the school represented on the hat is a major rival for some football team he likes (if it isn’t this or a feeling that the university is against his political position… well, I am at a loss for any place the statement could have come from).

    As I said, Sonny should not have said something like that, but I don’t think university-branded gifts were appropriate either. While many people wear clothes for schools they never went to, traditionally it’s assumed if you have a sweater from XYZU, you went to that school, and probably graduated or you would have stopped wearing the sweater. Basically, if you didn’t go there, it’s gauche to wear something that makes people think that you did. It may also be in poor taste if the recipient never went to college, as it might seem that you are rubbing your good fortune or superiority in their face.

    Next time, pick an inexpensive mug with a puppy on it and hope you don’t unwittingly gift it to the victim of a dog attack.

  • Skoffin December 16, 2010, 9:28 am

    Alexa –
    University logos are controversial? That’s weird to me. I doubt his comments had anything to do with that though. The OP said that Sonny commented on the hat she gave her uncle, before Sonny would have even known she had that hat for him too. I don’t find anything inappropriate about such a gift, although I do think it something best for certain types of people.
    As the OP mentioned, her uncle collects caps. Thus a cap with that logo was an appropriate gift. I collect spoons, even if I found something with a look or statement that I didn’t ‘like’ I’d still get it for it would be added to my collection. Part of having a collection is getting as many different items for it as you can.
    Sonny had no way of knowing whether the uncle would have liked such a gift or not, and he had no business commenting on it.

  • Alexa December 20, 2010, 4:10 am

    Skoffin – I get the impression you didn’t read my entire comment.

    I said he had no business commenting on the gift that was not for him (which you may have missed), but I still think giving something with a university logo on it is risky. Even if the recipient likes it, it’s misrepresenting themselves to wear gear from a university they never attended as it gives the impression that they did. I don’t particularly approve.

    As for it being a political statement, absolutely. Various colleges are associated certain political or religious ideals; the idea of college itself is politicized by anti-intellectualism and by how it illustrates differing opportunity by economic class. And then you get into the people who take sports very seriously (like college football). In my state, there are a lot of them and if you gave them the wrong university logo some of them would undoubtedly think you did it on purpose. Hilarious, really.

    The world of gift-giving is a minefield. The gifts you give send messages about you, your beliefs, what you think of the other person, what you think of their beliefs or imagine their beliefs to be… Like I said, a veritable minefield.

  • Kaytie May 10, 2011, 10:54 pm

    My late father had Asperger’s (he was not diagnosed until the very early 90’s, well after my parents divorced; before then people called him “very socially awkward” and my mother was attracted to his “innocence” and the fact that he, as she puts it, “had no game”). As several people have stated, those with Asperger’s do not actively find ways to hurt with the most impact, as “Sonny” did. They simply do not have a “filter” that stops them from saying something that might be perceived as rude but is the unembellished truth (NOT a hyperbole like crapping on a hat, for instance). They are completely honest. For instance, I remember giving my dad a shirt once for his birthday. He said, “thank you, but I don’t like this color and I don’t like shirts with pockets.” In his mind, he was simply explaining why he would not wear the shirt (and it was partially my fault, I had forgotten about the pocket thing; one of the symptoms many Asperger’s patients suffer from is tactile sensitivity.) Another time we were in line at the grocery store behind a very obviously pregnant woman. She noticed my father looking at her belly, smiled, told him it was her first and asked if I was his daughter. He replied, “yes. I guess we’ve both had sex.” I asked him to go get something on an aisle so that I could quickly explain to the shocked woman that he had no control over NOT stating things that most people know are implied. Luckily, it was a fairly small area and dad tended to be a regular at places where they knew about and understood his condition.

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