Back Talk

20 Nov

Letterbalm Back of Man's HeadDear LetterBalm: This is such a stupid thing, I don’t even know why I’m telling LetterBalm. Two days ago, a group of us were out to dinner, when we briefly mentioned another friend who wasn’t there. The details don’t matter and we weren’t trashing her. But when I asked an innocent question about her (“Where is her family from?”), my friend sitting next to me snapped, “That’s none of your business.” He abruptly turned his back on me and started talking to the person on the other side. I gently tapped him on the shoulder and said, “I’m sorry if I asked something sensitive.” He continued with his back to me and said, “I’m not forgiving you. This will teach you not to ask rude questions.” The whole table was stunned into silence. My friends later told me they were appalled at his behavior. I was embarrassed. What should I have said?

–Stumped over My Roast Chicken

Evidently, your question either triggered something in your friend or he knew a damning detail about the woman. Or, maybe he has hidden feelings for her. In any case, it certainly didn’t justify his rude behavior. Ms. L.B.’s teeth hurt when someone makes himself a member of the Rude Police to teach a lesson – and becomes doubly bad-mannered himself. You did absolutely nothing wrong, and you were the bigger person in trying to defuse the state of affairs. Too bad no one spoke up to defend you. (Maybe not. Given the guy’s mood, it might have escalated the situation.) If you felt you couldn’t continue at dinner, you might have calmly gathered your things, placed some money on the table for your meal, and said quietly:

Clearly, Earl, you are upset and offended. I’ll leave now, and [turning to the table] we’ll make plans for dinner at another time. Have a good evening, folks.


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