Etiquette School is in session! > "So kind of you to take an interest."

was I being intrusive?

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I *might* have been the guilty party in this situation but I'll leave it to the e-hellions to tell me.  :-*

this happened sevetral years ago, I was about 17, I think. I had spent a my adolescent years in another country/culture and moved back to the West. This information is relevant later.

So I had just walked into a shopping mall where, in the foyer, a young lady was bending over 0 a pushchair  (buggy) tidying the basket or something. she was bent so far and her skirt was so short that all her underwear was on display. I guess lucky for her that she had dark boyshorts. (this is how much detail I saw) all the other shoppers were going about their business, this lady's friend was even standing watching her from behind.

So given my recent upbringing - where you always tell someone if something in their appearance in not right, people would thanked you for it, or even be upset if something wasn't pointed out - I went to the lady's friend (LAdy looked too engrossed in her stuff) and said soemthing like " please tell your friend that her skirt's riding up" or something to that effect. not huffily, more in a helful way. Friend just said in a blase voice "yeah, I'll tell her" and carried on watching.

I was pretty shocked at this, that her friend was letting her show everthing while the friend just looked on and didn't do anything to stop her. I was even wondering if this was somehow socially acceptable... I was also feeling a bit silly for going up in the first place.

So I'm just wondering: in similar situations do you give the person a "heads up" or do you just leave them to it?  is it rude to point something like that out?

If it's matters of public exposure or a safety issue, I would tell the person, regardless if it's a stranger.

Just yesterday, I noticed a fellow passenger waiting on the El train platform near me had one of the pockets on his backpack unzipped.  I went up to him and said "Excuse me, but you've got a pocket unzipped and thought you might want to know."  He was very grateful.  An open backpack or purse is quite an invitation to pick-pockets.  Just last week a woman getting on my train got something out of her (open) purse nabbed. 

In the ladies' room at my office building (shared by several offices on my floor), I always let someone know if her skirt is accidentally tucked into her undies/hose or if something's mis-buttoned, etc.  I've never encountered anyone who was mad at me for noticing.  They're usually grateful that I'm trying to help them avoid further embarrasment. 

I think this is one of those situations where speaking up is both helpful and intrusive.

Hopefully, the other person will see your good intentions, but it is also possible for them to be embarrassed and annoyed-for example, if they do know that their fly is open but for whatever reason can't stop and zip it (arms full, for example, and no place to put their things down).  I think tactfulness is important too.  If you take someone aside and mention it discreetly, that's generally fine, but calling out "Lady, your fly is open!" would be rude.

I believe I've posted this in another thread, about the opposite situation, but what I was taught is, if you're fairly certain the person doesn't already know, and it's something they can fix right away, you should tell them.  Otherwise, don't, because it will just make them feel self-conscious for no good reason.  The key thing here isn't whether or not they will be self-conscious, since they definitely will, it's whether or not it will do them any good.  From what you're saying, this sounds like a situation where you definitely should tell them, and I'm appalled that the friend didn't.

Sara Crewe:
I once did this with a colleague whose thong underwear (yes, you could tell) rose above the waist band of her trousers whenever she bent over, particularly as she tended to wear short suit jackets as well. 

It turned out from another colleague that this was apparently fashionable - silly me for not realising appropriate office wear for someone who deals with the public every day involves flashing one's underwear.  ;D


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