Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Foot in mouth disease

2000 Archive

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I was at a party one night and was socializing around meeting other women. As I was chatting with one I casually mentioned that I had four kids. She then asked me what were the names of my dogs. I gave her a skewed look and said "I have four HUMAN children." All she did was sniff out a haughty "OH" and walked away from me never to talk to me again. I wasn't even trying to pick her up, just trying to be friendly.


Many years ago when I was in college my mother became ill, and it was several months before the diagnosis was made and we were told that it was terminal. During that interim I went with a (former) friend (whose parents owned the company I worked for) to another friend's house and we talked about things including how my mother was. To my incredible surprise my then-friend (and I had no idea that he had become religious) said out of the blue: "Well, you know your mother's going to die because she's not religious, don't you?" I almost got out of a moving car. I was so furious, appalled and upset that I never confronted him on this, and tried to keep out of his way until I graduated from college and could leave the job. Spineless on my part not to leave, I know.   Ooops0303-03

In my early 20’s, I was working for a manufacturing company. I worked in production administration, which means I had a cubical upstairs in administration but spent a lot of time in the plant, on the manufacturing floor. As we were an infant formula manufacturer, we were required to wear lab coats over our street clothes when we ventured into the plant. As I was in the plant more than at my desk, I normally put my lab coat on first thing in the morning and left it on all day, over my street clothes.

One day the secretary to our safety manager came to me and said, "I saw you leaving yesterday, and you weren’t wearing your lab coat. Have you gained weight or have you always been that fat?" I was dumbfounded and said not one word in response. It’s been 15 years now since that conversation, and I still don’t know what an appropriate response would have been.     Ooops0414-03

My Grandmother was Anti-Semitic. She grew up in Liberty NY in the Catskills (home of Grossingers) and the fact that trainloads of vacationers rumbled not a hundred feet from the family house might have had something to do with it. In later years if someone asked where Liberty was, she'd say "If you see a town and it's full of Jews, you're there."

Anyhow, here's the story. She was at a party with her husband (a businessman) and was talking to a man I'll call "Harry Parker". Somehow she started on the subject of how many Jews there were around, and the troubles she had with them. Grandfather came over, caught the conversation, and took her home. In the car he informed her that No One should say such things, and WASN'T SHE AWARE THAT HARRY PARKER WAS A JEW!!!

Grandmothers flabbergasted reply was to the effect that if he WAS Jewish, he should at least have the courtesy to have a Jewish name!    Ooops0420-03

My am the mother of three children, my middle child (now seven) is a bright and lovable girl who also happens to have Down syndrome. We have been very fortunate in that she has not required heart surgery or had some of the other serious complications that can arise with this syndrome. She has, however, had a series of minor surgeries and will always require a bit of watching in regards to her health. 

When she was about a year and a half old, my daughter was being followed for cyclic neutropenia (low white cell count) and required blood tests twice a week. Eventually we were referred to a pediatric hematologist who recommended a bone marrow biopsy to rule out leukemia and lymphoma. The chances of her having either of these cancers were very small, but it was nonetheless terrifying, especially since I was dealing with my own depression and my husband potentially being sent overseas for a year (we were a military family at the time.) I was working at a steakhouse at the time as a waitress, and one of the regular customers saw me bring my daughter in and asked me about her the next time I was working. First question: "Is there something wrong with her eyes?"

Long breath. "No, my little girl has Down syndrome, and her eye shape is typical for people with DS." Second question: "Ohhhh… I am sorry to hear that. Did something you did while you were pregnant cause that?"

All I can say… is that she should be thankful I am a non-violent person, and also was at work. I managed to keep my cool and reply that no, it is a random genetic condition, though people often don’t think of it as an issue for women my age (I was 23 when I had her). I will always hold this as the most thoughtless comment I have ever received, though over seven years I have heard some pretty ignorant statements!


Yes, it was a clueless and tactless comment but I think I'd rather have people ask ignorant questions than to continue to stew in their stereotypes and misinformation.  Each ignorant question can be viewed as an opportunity to enrich the world with one more informed individual.  

When I was expecting my first child I was working for a women running her errands and taking care of her critters and all that type of personal assistant type of thing. One of the errands that I ran for her at least 2 times a week since about 1 year before I ever got pregnant was taking and picking up dry cleaning. In that time I got kind of friendly with the people at the cleaners, knew the names and the owners (admittedly the owners only waited on me every other week or so not as often as the rest of the girls--but still often enough) and could carry on conversations about them me or my bosses daily lives. Basically they knew my boss was single (she was fairly famous locally in the news often enough people would recognize her if they saw her out and about) and her physical attributes -- she was quite thin while I was on the chunky but not obese side of things. 

So at any rate I see these people frequently talk about my pregnancy but admittedly mostly they just want to know anything I could tell them about my boss as she was in the news and on a certain national channel everyday (that I won't identify as it would totally give away her privacy as the future comments of the drycleaners should not reflect on my boss at all). 

Then late summer of '95 after a ten month pregnancy I walk in with my new baby there to pick up the dry-cleaning...and the drycleaner says to me "Oh is that your boss's baby? (I'm thinking huh? you see my boss on TV everyday asking me if I know anything about what she is working on at least twice a month and you think my boss (a very skinny size 5) might have been able to have that baby without anyone noticing?) So I reply no this is my which she replies "Oh I just thought you were fat....(oops..trying to catch herself after a short pause) like me".

Well to add to this several years later still being chunky but not anymore than I was before my pregnancy I was relating this story to the wife of a friend of my husband's. Let me say that her kids' single two hour visit to my house could make for nice rug rats stories on this site but I digress. This is my first meeting with her as this is a friend of my husbands through work we thought it would be nice to get better aquainted as their boys were just about our child’s age. So in talking about our pregnancies (she is slim) she proceeds to explain that she disliked everyone telling her how fat she was while pregnant and I mentioned that not too many people noticed I was pregnant (I had developed diabetes while pregnant so worked out everyday trying to control the sugar and after delivery weighed less than I had when I got pregnant which helps to explain a lot) and then I told her the story of the dry cleaner which she replied "Don't you hate that...people who are fat expect you to notice they are pregnant? All upset you think they are just fat?"...double this day we can only assume she didn't get which part in the story I played, at any rate we never saw her again and we have found other more tactful people to associate with. ooops0710-03

Page Last Updated May 15, 2007