A few months ago, I was back in my hometown, visiting my parents. My mom and I went to her local hairdresser for some girl time one day. While I was getting my hair cut, the stylist’s assistant (who spent the whole time talking about very personal subjects) mentioned seeing her brother. The stylist was surprised they’d seen each other, as the assistant and her brother didn’t get along well. He seemed to be the ne’er-do-well type who only comes around when he wants something. The assistant replied that their mother hadn’t been doing well lately, and she was concerned that she may die soon. And as unpleasant as her brother is, he *is* family, and she couldn’t imagine grieving for a parent without him. When their father died, it was heart-breaking, had brother not been there to comfort her, she’s not sure if she’d have been able to keep it together. She just didn’t know how only children could handle it when a parent dies, it’s cruel to do that to someone, that’s why she has two children. She wouldn’t want to subject a child to suffering through the death of their parents and then being all alone.
At this point I should mention that I am an only child. I was born long after my parents stopped “trying”; they thought there were going to have a childless life when I was born. It was a hard pregnancy for my mother, & she was in her forties. After I was born, there was no question of there being another child – I was it.
As the assistant is going off on her monologue about how hard life is for only children, my mom is sitting there, looking down, upset, clearly unhappy (side note, my mom is the middle child of three sisters).
When the assistant stops to take a breath, I calmly say that *I’m* an only child. And that it never occurred to me that I’d be more upset when my parents die, because I’m an only child. And I’m not about to start speculating on something like that now.
After a long, awkward pause, the hairstylist changed the subject. The assistant spent most of the rest of our visit being rather…sullen.
As much as I love my mom, I don’t think I’ll be returning to the salon with her. I know she loves her stylist, but I hope the time she spends with the assistant is at a minimum.
Was my response to the assistant rude? Or just about right? 1204-10
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The assistant was sullen, instead of apologizing profusely? She knows she was being rude.
OP, as long as the tone waseems polite and conversational, I think you handled it well. You could have just bean dipped if you choose to, but I think calmly stating your own opinion about the topic was fine.
The OP is fine; the assistant should have apologized. Failing that, the stylist should have apologized.
I’m sure the assisstant did not know you or anything about you and did not mean to offend. I think I would have changed the subject. This isn’t a case of interrupting being rude. You are the customer and don’t have to listen to that. You could say I’m uncomfortable hearing about Jane’s personal life. Then I would have spoken to the manager at the end about how her employees need to think before possibly upsetting customers.
Your response sounds about right. She did open up the subject, but the silence (and sullenness? Could it be embarrassment?) after your revelation sounds like you made your point and they will perhaps be more thoughtful about what they say in future. She should have apologised, but I doubt there was any malice in the comment, just thoughtlessness. Assistants are encouraged to make small talk and she made her comments in ignorance of your situation. Perhaps not ok but not that much of a biggie as to blacklist the place forever. People do get foot in mouth issues and it’s not worth being offended over things not intended to hurt-especially if like most assistants she was young. Mine is as silly as a flea. 🙂
I Don’t Think It Was Rude. You Made Your Point In A Classy Way, It’s Good To Splash Her With Awareness With How Cruel And Insensitive She Can Come Off Sometimes. Bitter Medicine Is Good For All
I don’t think you were wrong in your response. I like to see blithering idiots caught pulled up in their idiocy.
OP, I don’t think you were rude, sometimes enough is enough. I’m not sure she meant anything by it, I think the assistant likely “forgot” you were there. You are there for 30-60 minutes every other month and she is there every day all day. She likely was talking to coworker just in a stream of consciousness mode. But somethings you don’t need to hear and it’s ok to let them know.
I’ve learned some interesting things while getting my teeth cleaned in particular, since I can’t talk I seem to get forgotten. I can’t remember what it is like at the barber since a haircut nowadays for me consists of “shining” my head.
Was the assistant speaking to you, solely to the hairdresser, or maybe just addressing the room as a whole at the point that she said the offending statements? I am genuinely not sure, but if she was not talking to you then it was definitely not your place to pipe up. I understand why you wanted to, since I have a complicated family back-story myself, having a half-sister and former step-siblings but no direct siblings, and I can be sensitive about certain aspects of that. I also have a pet peeve about people who divulge TMI too soon, and hair salons tend to be a bastion of this type of behavior, so I understand that as well. However, you might have been better off reassuring your mom after the fact, in private, particularly since I feel that your main concern was for her feelings, as it should have been. Why bother upsetting the assistant, since your mom will probably go back to that salon and you do not plan to? If immediate action was necessary I am sure some way of subtly catching her attention and giving her a reassuring smile would have sufficed. It might have been more difficult physically and emotionally, but the right thing usually is.
I have to disagree. Having a conversation between two work stations in a public place, with paying clients present makes the conversation open for discussion. If she wanted a private conversation she could phone her friend after work, or talk in the break room. Personally, I would have been more upset that the two stylists talking didn’t allow for my mother and I to carry on a conversation between us (it being rude to talk over others) as we were having ‘girls time’. Typically in salons (in the US) there is a bit of shop talk/gossip between clients and stylists, sometimes having other patrons chime in since work stations are situated in an open space and in close proximity. I happen to be friends with my stylist outside of her cutting my hair, so we often discuss our personal lives, but only to the extent of information I would not mind having over heard by others.
I don’t know about rude, but I’d consider the response to be disproportionate to the “offense”. You’re in an environment where gossiping and blathering and oversharing are commonplace. And this salon worker’s blathering about her opinions of what it might be like to be an only child weren’t directed *at* you and your mom. She was just mindlessly jabbering to fill conversational space.
I think a profession like hairstylist often lends itself to talking about personal subjects. However, no one has the right to comment on someone’s childbearing–whether there is one child or ten children, death is a very difficult thing for anyone to go through. And honestly, having multiple children is no guarantee that they will all be there for each other. The stylist really had no business shooting her mouth off–but at the same time some people just need to fill the silence with the sound of their own voice.
Your response seems fine to me. The assistant may have been sullen because she felt embarrassed or awkward, but perhaps next time she’ll be a bit more discreet in broadcasting her opinions at work.
I think your response was appropriate. The assistant didn’t know how painful her rant was becoming, and needed to know. She is wrong, of course; it is in no way cruel to have just one child. While siblings can be helpful in supporting one another, friends can be too, and may even be better. And there’s absolutely no guarantee that a sibling *will* be supportive. They can be quite the opposite. As an only child, at least you’ll be spared some of the nastiness that can happen when the inheritance comes in to play. (Not all of it; it’s amazing how many “dear, close relatives” whom you’ve never met will turn up out of the woodwork when someone passes, hoping to snag a bit of the estate. But at least they’re probably easier to say “no” to.)
Everyone will, at some point in their lives, be caught rambling on about a topic that is offensive to someone in the area, unaware that they are causing pain. We have all either done this or *will* do it, and we may well not realize it. I hope the assistant has taken a lesson away from this, to be more conscious of what she says and where she says it. Thank you for supporting your mother by speaking up; it was doubtless the talk about cruelty to the only child that cut the deepest for her, and made her brutally aware of her own mortality. Give your mother a hug (I’m sure you do anyway, as you sound like a wonderful daughter) and reassure her that you have never felt neglected for not having a sibling, and that you have a network of support so that she does not have to worry about you when that day comes.
And focus on the time you have together. I find that mourning goes better when you’ve been able to spend time with the one who is gone. Less regrets to stall the grieving process.
Uhhhh OP, frankly I don’t know. (BG, I’m an only child who lost a parent a couple years ago, I’m in my 40s, my parents are/were in their 70s.) I’d have given the assistant a break on that one. She doesn’t know you or your mom. She doesn’t know that you’re an only child, or why it is so. She wasn’t talking to either of you. And last but not least, she seems to be going through a difficult time of her own with her own mom and brother. I’d have left her be.
Then again, I’m pretty old and so are my parents. My dad was very sick with cancer. By the time he passed, frankly I felt more relieved that he wasn’t suffering any more pain, than devastated about losing him. Embarrassing to admit but true. So what the assistant said wouldn’t have been personal, or painful, for me to hear. If it was for my mom (also unlikely – she never wanted more than one kid), I’d have made sure to say something comforting to her afterwards.
I think you did fine. It wasn’t rude, and the hair dresser should certainly have realized that there might be people who are only children about.
It was a perfect response. It shut the woman up, and hopefully she will think before she speaks next time, although I doubt it.
The stylist’s assistant obviously suffers from diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain! I don’t think your response was rude – and if she was sullen after the tiniest of verbal smack downs, so be it. She’s probably the type who tells horror stories about pregnancy and delivery to pregnant customers too! To say that it’s cruel to only have one child is a new one on me – guess she doesn’t realize that many people struggle for a long time to have one, and having another isn’t always an option. That’s why she should be more careful before going off on a rant when she doesn’t know who her audience is.
I think the poster had the right response. The assistant was rude and ignorant. Plus it’s completely unprofessional to have that type of conversation in a salon. If anything this should be a wake up call for the salon owner to talk to her about appropriate salon etiquette and conversation.
I think you’re response was very good. You weren’t rude or pushy, you just stated fact. The hairdresser needs to take her assistant aside and explain to her that she needs to learn to listen and keep her mouth shut…that’s her job.
I am also an only child and I think I might have been a bit more forceful in my answer to the woman!
Unless both the stylist and her assistant actively involved you in their conversation then general rudeness ensued all around.
1) The stylist and her assistant were rude to conduct a personal conversation in front of a customer when said customer is not involved. It’s not polite and not good customer service to have you sitting there like a lump of meat while they ignore you and chatter amongst themselves.
2) In customer service industries, employees should make judicious use of boundaries and know better than to express negative opinions about anything as you never know who is listening. I suspect Sullen assistant was more embarrassed at having been called out on expressing her opinions so forcefully.
3) As the conversation was being undertaken on ‘your time’ (the time you were paying the stylist to cut your hair), I’m not 100% sure it’s ‘rude’ per se to involve yourself in a conversation you weren’t included in, but in retorting and ‘confronting’ the assistant by positing an opposing viewpoint, you appeared the aggressor in this instance which some may see as rude. Personally I’d have perhaps made a slightly passive-aggressive point of changing the subject or engaging the stylist in some minutiae about your hair cut to divert her attention and reinforce the point that you are her customer and should be her focus.
Either way, as a customer paying for a service, you should have the expectation that your stylists’ attention is focused on your hair cut and not on the family saga of her assistant.
Anyone’s family situation is open to interpretation and criticism no matter what the circumstances. My mother isn’t an only child, in fact she has three siblings. So the criticism with her family is that having multiple siblings means that you have more people to have conflicts with – which is sometimes true with their family! Another criticism is that when there are multiple siblings, then the children don’t get enough attention because they have to constantly share the parent’s affections. The point is, no matter only child or multiple siblings, someone always has some kind of criticism about it.
your response was fine. perhaps it made everyone awkward but I think that is appropriate. I respect you for sticking up for your mother!
I agree with the majority. The OP and her mother were paying customers, so it’s not like they were “eavesdropping.” Furthermore the assistant (and her boss) might benefit from the remark in learning that some subjects just are not appropriate to discuss in front of clients. And as an only child myself (because my mom miscarried in her other attempts) I would have been offended by the assistant’s thoughtless remarks, especially if my mom had been there to hear them, and I would never go back. Given that over a fifth of all U.S. kids these days are likely to grow up as only children, why would any business owner want to offend such a large portion of their potential customer base?
This one hits home with me, I am not an only child but my sister and I do not talk. I do not have any friends at all. I was married but my husband left me for my now ex best friend and took the children (who I see once a year if I am lucky and have barely any phone calls/photos). My family are not close in any way so the only people in my life are my maternal grandparents and my parents. My grandfather went downhill and keeps having stokes or falls, my father has kidney cancer, my grandmother can barely walk and has falls and my mum has diabetes, chronic fatigue and chronic pain which is genetic and I also suffer from it. I am basically the only one out of everyone who can drive. The rest of the family help look after my grandparents occasionally but they all have their own families and getting married/having kids so its largely left to me. I am caring for these four people, watching them get older (my parents had me VERY late in life) and sicker and knowing that once they are gone I will be all alone in the world. I will not have a single person to turn to. I actually feel like once they are gone my life is over and I am only 29. I also dont make friends or date due to extreme trust issues. The point is, making judgments on certain lifestyles should be kept to a minimum, not everything is under someone’s control or there might be extreme circumstances behind choices. People say its not your responsibility not to offend people, thats true to an extent but is exercising your right worth hurting people?
Sometimes people just put their foot in it without thinking. I, too, am an only child. My mother had toxemia with me and was told that if she got pregnant again, she and the baby most likely wouldn’t make it. Like OP, I’ve had to put up with thoughtless comments, but they really are just that — thoughtless.
When my father passed away, I was an undergrad in college. The day afterward, I went to my history class, desperately needing some stability. Unfortunately, the lecture that day happened to be about the concept of coverture, and the professor kept mentioning fathers dying. I lost it, and quickly left the classroom, catching the eye of the TA, who knew what was up. The next week, when I returned to classes, my professor came up to me before we began and quietly apologized profusely for being so thoughtless about what his students’ paternal situations might be. He couldn’t have known, it was just one of those things. This sounds similar, and the assistant should have apologized and let it go.
I know a lot of people feel that having only one child is a bad thing to do. My mom and dad explicitly had my little brother to be a companion for me, since “no child should be an only child”. It’s apparently a popular thought process, maybe regional? I wonder what part of the country this took place in.
Hairstylists are notoriously gossipy. I once had a stylist decide it was appropriate to hold a conversation with her coworker about how wasted she had gotten the night before – listing different kinds of drinks, claiming that she did this on a weekly basis, et cetera. I was one minute away from telling her to get her sharp scissors away from my head!
I would put this on par with those ever so lovely people who say “I’m so sorry for you” or “your pooer husband” or “oh no, three girls, are you going to try again for a boy?” when they realize we have three girls. And I know people with all boys get the reverse too.
I’m not going to shut up and take it in front of my girls who are old enough to think my silence is agreement. I won’t be rude, but I will make a comment back along the lines of “we are so blessed to have three girls and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way” or “why would we try for a boy when we have three perfect little girls?” or something of that nature. It’s more about making sure my loved ones know I don’t think they are lacking than anything else.