So, last night, Mr. Improbable and I went to see “Indulgences” at New Rep. It’s a very good play, funny and sharp and well-acted, hip but not too knowing. Highly recommended.
At any rate, during intermission, I was in the lobby when the house manager came in through a staff-only door and almost bumped a couple of older women. “Oh, my goodness, sorry, guys,” she gasped. “We’re not guys, we’re girls,” one of them snippily responded. Neither of them acknowledged her apology.
So after my trip to the ladies’ room, I went to the ticket counter and asked to speak with the house manager. “Hi,” I said. “I’m Robin Abrahams, and I write the ‘Miss Conduct’ etiquette column in the Globe. And I want you to know that it’s colloquially acceptable to call more than one woman ‘guys,’ and that it’s not acceptable to criticize strangers for minor faux pas. Those women were very rude, and I think you’re perfectly fine.”
Well, she had been feeling bad about it, so she was was delighted, and so was I. I felt like some minor little superhero or something! I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed being “Miss Conduct” quite so much. (Actually, I sometimes find being “Miss Conduct” in public to be kind of a pain, but I’ll write about that some other day.)
But of course you don’t have to be an official etiquette columnist to do this. On the other blog we’re talking about rudeness, and how to respond to it. If the rudeness isn’t directed at you, but at someone else, don’t scold the offender — comfort the offended. Say, “That was unfair. What you did wasn’t wrong” or “You handled that very gracefully,” or even simply, “I’m sorry that person did that to you.” It can make a world of difference; really, it’s like you are taking a shamed person and leading them back into the light by the hand.
I mean, it’s a heck of a lot funnier if you’re Miss Conduct, but it’s just as kind no matter who you are.