General Etiquette > Life...in general

Who Is Rude In This Situation? (LONG)

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donnamos2:
I live fairly close to a resort area, and a family friend who owns a condo there offered us the use of it over the New Year holiday.  So, I packed up Babymoss, my parents, and two very close friends (a couple) and trekked down. 

The first day was lovely.  It's a seaside resort, so while it was too chilly to swim, the weather was so nice that we could sit out by the pool or play on the beach for hours.  We even barbecued on the beach that night.  Like I said, just wonderful.

And then, day 2 and That Family arrived to stay in a condo nearby.

What made that family That Family, you ask?  Well, their group was much like ours: MIL, M, F, kids, and a few other people besides. But there all similarity ends.  All of the adults in this group were obsessed, OBSESSED, with a divorce taking place in their social circle.  We didn't know anyone in That Family, and we certainly didn't know anyone in this divorce that they talked about, but because they discussed this divorce CONSTANTLY and so very LOUDLY, we now know almost everything about the principal figures in this divorce.  The MIL had the most strident of opinions about this divorce, which she made known to everyone in her group (and ours). 

The third day, That Family sat by the pool, again immersed in this discussion of The Divorce. Not only did we not want to hear anymore about it, neither did their kids, who were bored to tears and started acting out to get attention.  After about an hour of this, we all gathered our stuff and went down to the beach for the rest of the day.

That night, we cooked on the grill on our condo porch, and That Family was still at it! Whether they were inside or not, I do not know, but we could snippets of of the conversation from our dining room.  Finally, the husband of our couple went over and slammed the porch sliding door shut, and after a moment of revelling in the silence, we all burst out laughing.

I certainly thought that by the fourth day, the topic would have been exhausted, but I was wrong.  After making sure Babymoss was watched by my M, I left the condo around 7 for a morning jog, an as I passed by That Family's condo, I could hear MIL's voice droning on about, you guessed it, The Divorce.  And when I came back about 45 minutes later, she was still going at it.

Since it was quite a bit cooler that day, we opted to stick to the lawn and pool area right outside our condo. After about an hour that we spent lounging in our pool chairs and playing with Babymoss in the grass, out trooped That Family, yet again yakkity-yakking about The Divorce.  I could instantly tell that everyone in our group tensed up, and Babymoss began to fret (ever notice how sensitive children are?).  The MIL, who dominated all of these discussions, then started talking about the sex lives of the principals of The Divorce, and that's when everything hit the fan.

My SF called out, "That's QUITE enough!"  Everyone in That Family looked over at us, and MIL was instantly indignant: "This is a private conversation!"

The wife of our couple said, "Private?! Private?!  You must be joking!"

The F of That Family shouted, "You've been listening in on our private discussions-" when I cut him off and said, "We've done everything to get away from you, and it's still not far enough."

Babymoss was really starting to get upset (and no wonder) when she looked at the MIL and said, "Is the bad man with you?" It's not surprising that having heard this family yakking and yakking about how horrible the husband in The Divorce was, she might think of him that way, but she hadn't mentioned it before.

The MIL was startled.  Looking at Babymoss, she said, "What?"

"The bad man. Is that him?" Babymoss asked, wrapped around my legs and looking at That Family's F.  Not only were we surprised, but so was That Family. I scooped Babymoss up because she started sobbing, and my family made all sorts of grumbling noises directed at That Family along the lines of see-what-you've-done.  I went inside with her, but according to the rest of the group, That Family finally retreated into their condo with lots of grouchy comments about eavesdroppers.

The fifth day,  both my group and That Family were leaving. We passed each other several times, coming and going from our condos to the parking lot, and the MIL was a big old drama queen, sniffing and sighing in our general direction.  My M finally commented loudly to me that that poor woman must have some severe respiratory problems, but that happens when you get old (MIL and my M are contemporaries). Half of our group told her to hush, half our group laughed, Babymoss asked what was so funny, and MIL went to her car and slammed herself inside.

I guess my question after such a long story is: Who was rude?  Were they rude, talking loudly, incessantly and endlessly about such a thing? I'm not kidding when I say that I could write both principals of this divorce and tell them I might actually know more about their case than even they do, considering what I'd been subjected to over my vacation.  Or we were rude for finally telling them to knock it off?  Or was there a better way to handle it?  Even though Babymoss seemed to momentarily shame them, they were hardly chastened: they grouched and grumped through another day.

So, what's the verdict?

sweetonsno:
I think your party was more guilty of rudeness than the other party. I suspect that they were mostly just oblivious to the fact that they were being quite so loud. Your party, on the other hand, was pretty impolite towards them. I think the problem is that you didn't let them know just how much their voices were carrying early on. Instead, you let your annoyance simmer until it exploded. (It happens to the best of us.)

The other party is allowed to go on and on and on about whatever it is they want to. Their miss was the volume thing, but if you never let on that you could hear them until the "explosion," I'm not sure how they would know that you could. It's annoying to have to listen to something that doesn't interest you, but I don't think you can hold that against another person when a.) they aren't talking to you and b.) they don't actually know that they're bugging you.

The best way to handle this, I think, is to ignore it unless the volume is somehow violating the noise ordinance or putting you in danger. However, I can't blame you for wanting a break.

A better way to handle it would be to quietly and calmly let them know that you can hear every word they are saying. If you suspect that someone wants to have a private conversation (divorce is a touchy enough subject that I would expect it), it's nice to let them know that it is not private. I would probably say something like, "Greetings, neighbor. I just wanted to let you know that the acoustics are such that we can clearly hear everything you say. It sounds like this might be a sensitive/private matter, so you might consider closing the window if you don't want us to know what's going on."

If that didn't do it, then a more direct request- "Please try to keep your voices down. All of your talk about 'the bad man' is really scaring my child"- is warranted.

Either way, the important thing is to address it before you come to the straw that breaks the camel's back. 

Shopaholic:
The family sounds exhausting, and the MIL a drama queen, but I agree with sweetonsno that you really didn't handle it well.

You should have let them know early on that you were able to hear them.
They weren't rude for discussing whatever subject they wanted to, for as long as they wanted to. They probably had no idea you could hear them that well.

Your mom's comment seemed quite PA, too. It would have been best to ignore them after the explosion.

Nebulous:
POD to the previous posteres.

The first time any displeasure was indicated was when your SF called out, "That's QUITE enough!".  I think it could have been handled better as sweetonsno suggested. However, That Family may have been just as incensed that you were "eavesdropping" on a "private conversation" no matter how politely you informed them. The positive side to that is even if they were upset, I think the sniffing and sighing would be more easily ignored than their family gossip.

DottyG:
I started typing a reply and deleted it, because I couldn't figure out how to say it delicately. But sweetonsno said it perfectly.

What they talk about - even to great extent - isnt rude. Perhaps they needed to get the emotions out on something. Who knows. They were loud. But I think sweet's wording on how to address that is great.

Don't wait and stew. That's when things get bad. Address it before you get to that stage. I think Babymoss was picking up on your anger. So another benefit to quietly addressing it early on is that it might have kept her from getting upset and being scared. You are right; children are sensitive and pick up on things. But some of what she was picking up on was your own irritation. That part, you had control over - at least to the extent that you could try to alleviate it before you got to that level.



(All "yous" apply to your entire group, not just you, the OP.)



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