Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


Main Page/Home

The Faux Pas Archives
Wedding Etiquette

Bridesmaids and Beastmen
Bridal Showers
Bridezillas and Groomonsters
Faux Pas of the Year
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme
Guests From Hell
Tacky Invitations
Wedding Rugrats
Just Plain Tacky
Tacky Toasts
Thank You Notes From Hell
Tacky Vendors
Wedding From Hell
Wicked Witches of the Wedding
Perfect Bride
Bridesmaid Dress Incinerator



Everyday Etiquette

Baby Showers
The Dating Game
Ooops! Foot in Mouth Disease
Funeral Etiquette
Gimme Hell
Holiday Hell
Just Plain Tacky
It's all Relatives
Every Day RugRats
Road Rage

Business Etiquette

Bad Business Etiquette
Merchants of Etiquette Hell
Bad Bosses

Faux Pas of the Year




Press Room/Contact



Foot in mouth disease

2000 Archive

2001 Archive

Jan - Jun 2003 Archive

Jul - Dec 2003 Archive

Jan-Jun 2004 Archive

Jul-Dec 2004 Archive


Dear Miss Jeanne,

First, damn you for updating when I need to be finishing my thesis! *sigh* But reading all the new stories did remind me of a new one to submit... I'm guessing this would go under Everyday Etiquette, the Oops! Foot in Mouth Disease section, but if you think it's better for another section, feel free to put it where you want.

I was diagnosed in January 2004 with a rare (but, luckily, very treatable) form of cancer, at the age of 24. Needless to say, this was a shock to me and to all my family and friends. It's been interesting to see how my various friends have dealt with it - I've gotten the most support from the least expected places.

Soon after I was diagnosed, I was talking online to a close friend from high school, B. I had just gotten my hair - my beautiful, thick, to-the-middle-of-my-back hair - cut off to about 3 inches in preparation for it falling out from chemo. To understand what he said, you need to know that one of our friends, A, had shaved her head a few years previous during college, and general consensus was that it looked a bit odd while growing out.

I was IMing B and showed him some photos I'd put online of my new haircut. I hated it and was miserable about it, but I was trying to stay positive and I certainly didn't want two-foot-long hairs falling out all over the place (definitely the right choice!). After looking at the photos, B said "Well, that doesn't look too bad, but I like your long hair better. Just don't go shaving it all off like A did, that doesn't look good on any girl!" I just sat there for a minute with my mouth hanging open. Had he forgotten that I had CANCER, had cut it because I was about to start CHEMO, and might be left with no hair with absolutely no choice in the matter?? I nearly started crying, but ignored the comment and went on with the conversation.

I've since chalked it up to a peculiar form of denial some of my friends seemed to experience... It was as though they'd completely forget I had cancer and was going through these horrible treatments unless I mentioned it specifically. I suppose that's just how some people cope, especially when they're not around the patient very often.

(Btw, luckily I did not lose all my hair - only about 1/2-2/3 of it, and since it was so thick to begin with I didn't need to shave the rest off. But now I have hair regrowing at several different lengths, which is odd enough in and of itself.)



I'm 21 years old and have been with my 45 year old boyfriend for 2 years. We love each other to pieces and always make jokes about him owning cars older than me. He's never really looked his age, and is mostly mistaken for being in his late twenties or early thirties. It wasn't until recently after the death of a loved one that he began to get wrinkles and gray hair.

For Valentine's Day, I had bought him a set of skin care products from a particular department store, since he was always harping on how bad his skin was. I'm part Filipino and part Spanish, but I mostly look Asian. I look as if I was raised in Hawaii. He is Irish and has red, dry skin, so he tries to fix it with cheap lotions. The products have worked really well and he's beginning to look like his regular old (or younger) self.

He works in the entertainment and real estate worlds, and he constantly drives between home and the next state over. He had wanted to buy another set of skin care products for his other house in the other state, so we went to the particular department store at the mall. We found the product line, but couldn't find the exact same set. As we were browsing, his phone rang with an important call, so he handed me his credit card and answered it. While I was searching for the set, a friendly Asian sales associate approached me. She was extremely personable, although not quite knowledgeable or helpful. When I asked her for prices on some products, her face would cloud over, she'd take the product, excuse herself for a five minutes, then come back with the price and a cheerful smile. I tried to ask her what a particular serum was used for, and she struggled to find the words to describe it. She looked Filipino, so I figured if she spoke in her native language, it would be easier for her, so I asked, "Are you Filipino?" She shook her head, and said, "A lot of people think so." She took a closer look at me and asked, "Are you?" I nodded and said, "Well, part-" She glanced at my boyfriend, who was approaching us, pointed at him and interrupted me by saying, "Oh, and part white!" I was about to respond, when I realized she thought he was my father. I was too shocked to correct her, but when my boyfriend reached us and put his arm around my waist, she immediately rung us up and shoved a couple handfuls of cologne samples into the bag.


A similar story happened at the grocery store. I was in line to pay for my items, and a cute family was ahead of me. A cute 30-ish Latina mother and an older Asian man were paying for their items. He was holding their obviously mixed baby girl and they had a little boy jumping around. The woman said to her husband, "Baby, can you hold this?" and chased down their son. The cashier, a teenager, asked, "Your daughter looks too young to have a son!" The man said, "That's my wife." You would have thought the girl would be embarrassed but she just made it even more awkward by saying, "Oh, I thought she called you 'Daddy.' You don't look like you'd be her husband."



I work with a person that could provide scads of material in many categories for Etiquette Hell. For the purpose of this story, I will call this person Walter. For the most part I ignore Walter's cheesy comments and goofy remarks--this sometimes becomes difficult because Walter stops by my office on a daily basis. Walter always has a dorky comment or useless opinion. I had actually been feeling sorry for Walter these past few months because of his chronic case of foot-in-mouth-disease.

Last week Walter came by and asked me if I knew where he could purchase a good used computer for a cousin. He also wanted to know if I knew of anyone that could fix his little brother's computer. Feeling some pity for Walter, I suggested that my brother, a computer whiz, might be able to fix the computer and maybe knew where Walter could get a used laptop. Walter seemed really excited by this news and demanded that I talk to my brother and get an answer for him by 3PM. Still trying to be positive, I said, "Sure, I'll try."

Walter turned to leave my office. I got up to follow him out. At the door Walter turned around and said, "I remember your brother. I went to high school with him. When he was in high school, your brother was our Steve Urkel."

Geez. What do you say to that? Needless to say, I never mentioned the computer to my brother. ...AND I no longer feel sorry for cheap Walter. I have no doubts that his case of foot-in-mouth-disease will prove to be fatal.



When I was 8 months pregnant with my second child, I had the opportunity to switch from the midnight shift to the day shift. Because my fingers had been swollen since the fourth month of the pregnancy, I had taken to wearing my wedding and engagement ring on a chain around my neck. Since necklaces weren’t part of the dress code, I had to have the chain tucked into my uniform.

During my first shift on days, I had a conversation with co-worker about my pregnancy. Since this was my second time down this road, I thought that I had heard it all. I was used to questions on the pregnancy, and realize that people are just curious about pregnancy, it’s like they feel a connection with a pregnancy woman. He asked all of the typical questions- when I was due, if I knew what we were having, if this was my first, and so on. Then he dropped a bombshell.

‘Is the father going to stick around?’ Ok, not really any of his business, but I answered him anyway. I told him that I was pretty sure that he’d stick around- after all, he stuck around after I was pregnant with our first child.

‘Oh, so they’ll have the same father?’ Again- not any of his business. I must have had a shocked look on my face- because he then apologized and said that I didn’t have to answer, he was just making conversation. I did answer him- by telling him that yes, my two children have the same father… my husband.



A submission from another reader regarding a conversation of some length with a wrong number before realizing it was a wrong number reminded me of my own mistaken identity conversation.  Although I don’t believe the situation could really be considered an etiquette faux pas, it was rather bizarre.

To get on with the story, I was in a rather new relationship, and placed a call to my beau.  A man answered the phone, and if I committed any etiquette blunders, it was in my greeting, which was a simple, “John?” [not the man’s real name].  A nice polite, “This is Jane, Is John there please?” or “This is Jane.  Is this John speaking?”, would have avoided what was to follow, but alas, my phone manners were not what they could have been.  In any event, the person on the other end of the line said yes, I identified myself, and we began chatting.  At first, our conversation proceeded normally, we were even discussing matters of some personal conviction, not simple small talk.  Eventually, though, little things that he was saying were not making entire sense to me, and  likewise he was becoming a bit confused by some of my statements.  Finally, one of us said something that the other just could not make out, leading to a mishmash of “What?”  “Wait, who is this?”  “This is Jane, who is this?”  “This is “Tom” [John’s son]”.  Then, in unison, “OH, I want to speak to John!” and “OH, you were calling for John!”

It was quite bizarre, and should be noted that my boyfriend (we have now been together for nearly 4 years), his son, and I all have quite unusual names.  My boyfriend’s name sounds nothing like his son’s name, so I don’t know how the son misheard who I was asking for.  My name is apparently quite similar to that of a girl that the son had been communicating with though, which is apparently how that came to pass.  And the father and son sound JUST alike.  Right up until the son moved away 2 or 3 years later, I often had to confirm I was talking with who I thought I was.



Dear Ms. Jeanne,   My sister-in-law is a dear woman, and I like her a lot, but she tends to be rather outspoken and can come off as rude or uncouth at times because English is not her first language- her choice of vocabulary is often interesting.  She was born and raised in Germany, and attended different schools in London, Switzerland, and Egypt (among others).  She moved to the US and was attending college, and, while working on a presentation (due that day), found herself in need of a large gum eraser.  She frantically drove to the closest store, which happened to be a drugstore with the kind of "convenience" store setup.  She ran to the clerk at the front and frantically exclaimed, "I need a rubber!  Where are the rubbers!"  The bewildered clerk stared at her silently, while my sister-in-law wondered what the hiring standards for this particular store were.  "A rubber?" she repeated, more patiently.  The clerk silently pointed her down an aisle.  My SIL dashed down the aisle, only to return a few seconds later, crying, "I need a rubber!  There's nothing down there but condoms!"   Thanks for all the laughs- I think with my husband's family alone I could keep you supplied for years.  I recently found out I am expecting my first child and have been diligently reading all of the baby shower stories you have.  I'll be reading!   



My sister and I were adopted as babies from South Korea--and our adoptive parents are Caucasian. Once, my mom and sister (around 1-2 at the time) were at the airport, and some guy came up to them and asked where my sister was from. My mom said Korea. The guy for some reason must have thought that being from a country makes you permanently unable to understand other languages, because he then replied, "How will you be able to understand her?"



I work with the public on a daily basis, and see many of the same families at my checkout station regularly.  I once made an unfortunate comment to a mother about her young son's facepaint.  I should have taken a closer look first.  The little guy has a rare condition that causes hair growth over a part of his face.  I apologized, and his mother said it was all right.  Then yesterday an older guy was behind this family in the line and made a similar, if louder, comment.  The mother just gave him a nasty look and left.  I guess she was having a bad day.  I ended up explaining to the surprised fellow, quietly, what the issue was.  



I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1999, and ADD in 2004. I should mention that these mental illnesses didn't just "pop up" out of the blue - looking back, I can see where I showed the symptoms all my life. But since bipolar has only been focused on for the past few years and ADD is still being toted as some "fake" disease, I wasn't diagnosed until adulthood.

I should mention that I have no health insurance - 45 days after I turned 22, my parents' insurance cut me off, even though I was a full-time college student! So no more medication, which (obviously) threw my body and my mind into a serious spiral. M yparents lost their jobs six weeks apart that same year, so just shelling out money for very expensive meds was out of the question. And being a single woman with no children, I am NOT qualified for Medicare.   Because I was still in school (and doing rather well), my parents agreed to pay for my rent as long as I swung my electric, food and car insurance. (Thank heaven for eBay!) One day, my friend's boyfriend asked me how I was able to swing rent while not holding a job. (How he knew I didn't have a job, I still don't know. I blame my chatty friend.) Being a very vocal advocate of counseling and mental illness support at my university, it's no secret that I'm bipolar, so I explained how it was very hard for me to find work because being bipolar/ADD, I could not just buy health insurance (they treat it like a pre-existing condition), which makes it virtually impossible for me to find and hold a job. (Aside from the fact that it takes me so long to catch onto things, no boss wants to hear this his/her employee suffered a breakdown and is in the hospital getting her wrists stitched up.) On the flip side, I'd have to hold a job for a full year before I could get health insurance to pay for medication - which I can't do because of the's the circle of life!

So what does this guy say to me? "Wow - you are so LUCKY!"   Try spending 24 hours in my mind, son, and tell me who's the lucky one, you jerk! 



I love your site. I have a pretty incredible story to submit. One year ago, I was diagnosed with second stage breast cancer. My doctor informed me that due to the type of genetic cancer that I had, a double mastectomy was my best bet for long term survival. (I'm only in my early 40's.) A few friends knew about the surgery, and apparently word got out.

A few weeks after the double mastectomy, I decided to go out and buy myself a pretty pair of earrings. (My therapy to myself.) I was very self-conscience about going out in public, and it was my first time out alone. I was standing at the jewelry counter in the mall trying on earrings and laughing with the sales woman and really feeling good for the first time in a while, when a distant friend yelled out across the store in a very "jovial" manner, "Hey, I hear you lost a couple of things!" I was so shocked I just politely nodded, and fled the store. The whole way home I felt sick to my stomach.

Then, a few weeks later, the wife of one of my husband's friends, not someone I know well at all, called me at home to "offer her condolences". She rambled on for a while and then broke into tears as she sobbed through a long story about her sister dying a horrible death from metastatic breast cancer of the bone two years after she thought she had recovered from breast cancer.

The only thing that made these things bearable were the wonderful family and friends who cooked meals for me and delivered them to my house through my recovery, stayed with me after surgery, helped me wash my hair, hugged me and told me they were sorry and that yes, this was unfair. The many cards and flowers were also nice. Oh yes, and the night before my mastectomy, my two dearest friends came to my house with a beautifully decorated cake that said, "Good bye" and had a good bye party with me for my breasts. One good thing about being diagnosed with a terrible illness, you quickly learn which friends care, and who has good etiquette!



Back in high school a good friend of mine worked at a grocery store in a near by city. He was an outgoing guy who made a lot of friends, but apparently didn't know much about these friends. One day at work one such friend told him she was going to be gone for a while visiting Utah. He responded "Well, don't go Mormon on me!". She looked at him and said... "I am."


I'm sure you've heard countless versions of this story, but this one happened to me, and I found it very funny (luckily for the foot-in-mouthee).   I used to be the "social register" photographer (i.e.: the chick who takes pictures of well-to-do people enjoying cocktails at charity events) for a local newspaper. I was doing my last gig, because a few months before, I had been hired to be the publicist for a non-profit organization and had decided to quit the snapshot biz.   I walk into a swanky theater event, and photograph anyone who's standing still. Eventually, I see "Cool News Anchor Chick". Let's call her Brianna".   I'd liked Brianna ever since I started the PR gig. She was always very kind. For example, she was a lot taller than me, so when I had to sit next to her on the news set during interviews, she always lowered her chair so I wouldn't look like such a shrimp next to her Amazonian-ness. That's nice, isn't it?   

At any rate, she sees me from across the room and says, "Oh my God, it's you! Come here!"   I walk over, and she's surrounded by admirers (remember, she's nice AND she's on TV...people love this). I walk over, she gives me a big hug and, screams, "Congratulations!"   Now...   ...maybe I should back up. I was in a hurry that evening, so I threw on a not-very-flattering floor-length dress. I was also carrying a heavy camera bag that forced me into major swayback mode. Add five holiday pounds onto the situation, and it leads her to scream...   "You're pregnant! Um...right?"   Everybody surrounding her backs up, because it's obvious if you haven't had four glasses of Merlot that I'm not pregnant. Luckily, I'm in PR, so I blew it off as cleanly as I could, not wanting to embarrass her.   I gave her another big hug, and said, as kindly as I could, "No, hon, I'm just fat!"   She then, of course, dropped her drink, which then splashed my dress like a "Pulp Fiction" blood splatter. I just kept laughing and helped her clean up. I actually really felt bad for her!   

The kicker comes the next day, when she was polite enough to call me at work and apologize. I was really gracious, saying that the incident was actually the funniest thing that had happened to me all month (really, I mean, who came off looking silly? Me?), and that all was well.   Then, my public relations instincts kicked in, and I said:   "Oh, by the way, my interview segments just got more frequent, and 20% longer, right?"   We had a good laugh, and then she agreed. 


Page Last Updated May 15, 2007