Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Foot in mouth disease

2000 Archive

I tell this story every time the conversation turns to insensitivity. My father was ill with a heart condition for over a decade, beginning when I was in college. Some years after my graduation, I ran into an old friend whom I had also known in high school. We agreed to go out for pizza, so that I could meet her husband. In the meantime, my father had another heart attack. I spent the day with my mother, sitting in the hospital, but my mother suggested I keep the date, as she was going home, and my father was resting comfortably. I arrived at the pizzeria a little late, and explained to my friend the reason why. She in turn explained to her husband about my father's ongoing problems. "Oh," he said turning to me. "Won't it be a relief when he dies?" I was taken aback, but explained that my father was still having a good time in life, enjoying his grandchildren, his hobbies, cable TV, etc. It was not yet a question of ending my father's suffering. "No, no," he replied. " I mean, won't it be a relief for you, so you don't have to deal with this anymore!." "I simply looked him in the eye and said, "We're talking about my Daddy, here!"


My husband and I took a cruise to the Bahamas, and were seated for dinner each night with three couples whom we didn't know. One couple was Japanese. They spoke little English, but were pleasant. But one woman decided that she had to "make them feel at home". She spent the entire appetizer course talking about how much she and her husband (who never said a word after introductions were made) just LOVED Chinese food. As I said, the couple (and their last name) were Japanese. When my husband said "Isn't (their name) Japanese, she actually said "Oh, whatever." The capper came with the breadbasket. Selecting two breadsticks, Chatty Cathy said "Now, remember, these aren't chopsticks." Japanese husband translated for his wife, and she gasped, then, gathering that the woman had been trying to make a joke, faked a laugh. The rest of us spent the dinner in mortified silence, except for one-word answers to Chatty Cathy's extremely personal questions.


My cousin's wife has her birthday the day before mine. Since I'm a student, I don't have much money to spend, so I found a really cool computer game that was based on a game show she was addicted to...she would literally stop everything she was doing to watch this show. Considering this level of love for the show, the CD-ROM seemed like a good idea. When I received the thank you note in the mail, I was shocked...not by receiving the note, mind you (she loves all things etiquette and has several Peggy Post books on her bookshelf), but by what she wrote in the note: "Because I am such a varied person with fickle tastes, I returned your gift and bought xxx for the yard instead..."


I got pregnant at a time in my life when having a child would be less than ideal, and decided to give the child up for adoption. My boyfriend and I had decided to keep the pregnancy as much of a secret as possible, since neither one of us wanted to deal with the backlash of his family for "abandoning" the child, regardless of the fact that we were barely able to make ends meet for just the two of us, and neither one of us is really ready to be a parent.

I told a few very close friends what we were going through, since I was very emotionally fragile and wanted a few shoulders to lean on. I explain to one friend, "Bob", about how we were having an Open Adoption, and my boyfriend and I had picked a couple that had been trying to have a child for years, and had been on the waiting list for adoption for almost three years. They were of the same faith as my boyfriend, something he felt was very important.

Bob's response: "Oh, some people just don't deserve to have children. That's why God doesn't let them have kids, you know. If you give your kid to them, you'll go to hell, and the kid will grow up abused."

I don't talk to Bob anymore.


I almost always wear a hat to church on Sundays ­ the exception being that I don’t wear one when singing in the choir. A few weeks ago I walked into church ­ wearing my hat and immediately noticed that there were several of other ladies wearing hats - which is rather unusual - but it was a sunny day so I assumed they were just wearing them for fun or sun protection. I even spoke to several of them before church ­ including the ladies heading up the drive for volunteers for the church. I went in, sat down and service started. I noticed that the ladies who had been wearing their hats had removed them, which seemed to be rather unusual. Service was uneventful ­ and then it was time for announcements. One of the ladies who had been wearing a hat came up to the podium carrying hers, and placed it on her head and started talking about the need for volunteers. She announced that there would be people from the various volunteer committees in the lobby after church who could answer questions and sign people up for committees. They would be easily identified by their HATS. "Except for " she said and identified me by first and last name ­ and pointed to me "who is not part of the drive, but is wearing a lovely hat today". If she had just told me what was going to happen before service, I would have been more than happy to remove my hat! I’m almost afraid to wear hats any more!

This is a story about some supposed "friends" of my husband and me who made our lives a living hell while we were dating and engaged. My husband and I met at a home Bible-study group from our EX-church, which is also where we knew these "friends," who I'll refer to as Couple A, Couple B, and Single man C.

As my husband and I had each been attending this church and this Bible-study group for at least 2 or 3 years each, we assumed that we knew these people well and could trust them. This is what made their treatment of us all the more shocking and hurtful...the shock was as if I had been walking across a beautiful meadow when landmines started blowing up in my face... The first incident happened at the end of Bible study one evening. The meeting had run very late and it was probably about 10:30 PM by the time we were heading out the door (i.e., me, my sister, and my then-boyfriend). We were accosted by the hosts of the group (Couple A) asking if they could talk to my boyfriend and I before we left. So even though my boyfriend still had an hour drive to get home and the next day was a work day, we tried to be gracious and agreed to talk with them for a little while before leaving. They led us into a back room of their house (along with Single man C).

What we had assumed would be a quick talk turned into a 45 minute interrogation about our relationship by Couple A and Single man C. They seemed particularly worried that we would fall into some sort of sexual sin. We were very open and honest with them about our temptations and how we were dealing with them, but nothing we said seemed to reassure them. They were also offended by our holding hands while in the presence of other church members (?!?!) and then brought up the accusation that "SOMEONE" had seen us "intimately kissing" at church. (Huh??? We had given each other a brief good-bye kiss outside of church only once or twice.) Finally, they let us go after we had agreed to talk with them again in the future if they wanted to.

Although my boyfriend and I were hurt by their accusations, we decided to give them the "benefit of the doubt" and assume that they had at least meant no harm. Also, we showed respect for their wishes and refrained from kissing or holding hands at church. When we didn't hear anything from them about the matter, we figured everything was satisfactorily settled... ...until we got engaged and started planning our wedding several months later. (Oh, how I wish I had confronted these people right away about their abusive behavior. But I was young and naive and trying to be gracious.) Shortly after we became engaged, the pastor who had agreed to marry my fiancé and I contacted us to tell us to stop planning our wedding, he wasn't sure whether he would be willing to marry us. Baffled and confused, we made an appointment to meet with him to find out why.

Well, as it turns out, right after we got engaged, couple A had gone to the pastor to make accusations about us. They had told him that we were "rebellious" and that we were "hiding something"--in short, although they didn't come right out and say it they were accusing us of sleeping together. (This accusation had absolutely no basis in reality--my fiancé and I would not have violated our moral standards.) We assured the pastor that these accusations were not true, but by this time we were already on trial, assumed guilty until proven innocent. At around this same time, I learned from my fiancé that Couple A weren't the only ones spreading nasty rumors; Couple B were telling even worse stories. There had been a time a few months prior when the husband of Couple B had said to my fiancé that he thought my father had abused my sister and I. (He did not even bother to say this in any sort of a confidential setting, but with other church members nearby.) Couple B had no basis to make any accusations about my father--they had met my parents exactly ONCE. Anyway, once I found out that they had made such a hideous rumor about my dad, I was angry, hurt, and physically sick for two or three days. I also wondered if somehow this other rumor had somehow gotten back to the pastor and if perhaps that was partially behind his reluctance to marry us.

So my fiancé, my sister and I made an appointment with this couple to confront them about their accusation. They claimed not to have spread this rumor, telling us that they had only speculated about this amongst the two of them and the one time with my fiancé. Actually, this was a direct LIE, as I had overheard him whispering earlier that day to his brother that he was meeting with us to talk about "the abuse." [As it turns out, the reason they had made this accusation was because they didn't think my sister and I were open about our feelings. As best I can figure, the reason they thought this was because we weren't "spilling out guts" about some emotional trauma every other week or so--and the reason for this was that we were not going through constant emotional drama.] But we did find out later that at least the pastor had not heard this rumor; we asked him later if they had told him this. Even so, we still had the problem of dealing with the accusations by Couple A against my fiancé and me.

Fortunately, the counselor from the church who was doing our premarital counseling defended us to the pastor. We did our appointments with her several months earlier than originally planned so that she could give the pastor "evidence" that we could get married. Luckily for us, she was still enough a part of the "inner circle" that the pastor listened to her and agreed to marry us. (Another couple we knew who married the next year were not so lucky; this counselor tried to defend them as well, but this time they didn't trust her opinion.) Finally, we got married, and by our patience and tact my husband and I were able to get back on friendly terms with Couples A and B and Single man C. We forgave them all, but I had the distinct impression that Couple A never completely "forgave" us--despite the fact that we hadn't actually done anything WRONG.

My husband and I ended up leaving this particular church about a year later when we had problems of a similar nature involving different issues and different people. Except this time, despite all our efforts, we were not able to get things resolved, and we finally decided we did not wish to stay around and be abused anymore. Now here's the really ironic conclusion to this whole mess. Just before my husband and I left this church, a young, unmarried couple in the church turned out to be pregnant, and no one acted as if they were the least bit shocked or surprised by it. And this is from the same group of people who had been scandalized by us merely kissing or holding hands.


I get very uncomfortable talking about money. I do not like queries on how much we have or don't have. This I have had since I was very young (like when I got paid 25 cents an hour for babysitting).

When I was in college I was working a work-study intern job with another student. One evening she offered me a ride home (instead of my usual bus ride since I didn't own a car).

While I was in the passenger seat she asked how I was paying for college. I replied that when I was 11 my mother had died in a plane crash, so I was receiving settlement funds from a wrongful death lawsuit. I referred to it as an "Involuntary PanAm Scholarship". But it wasn't perfect, some funds were being held up by the law firm's office and the work-study job had come along in just the nick of time.

Her reply: "So your parents are paying for college. I have to work my way through college."

I was stunned. I never replied. I just stared ahead.

I have always wondered if she ever truly understood what it was like for a child to lose a parent.


Page Last Updated May 15, 2007