Saturday, November 25, 2006

Foot in Mouth Disease

Guests are wonderful, entertaining, enriching, and rewarding when they join you for a meal at your table. HOWEVER . . . some guests are hapless souls who truly are their own worst enemies.

There were many, many things said by a recent guest of ours (whom we'd never met before) that were . . . off. That pointed to a high level of social ineptitude. Most related to dating foibles that did not need to be shared, certainly not with virtual strangers.

When I don't know someone very well yet, there is a delicate balance between disclosing my own thoughts and opinions while learning about this other person. In this interplay, I try to come to an estimation of how to talk to this person, what to ask and what to share. It is not merely unwise to state everything you think in a proclamatory, absolute way. It can also be hurtful.

Had "Foot in Mouth" known that both my husband and another of my guests lost a parent at a young age, he may not have quipped that it is better to marry an orphan (!!?!) because they don't come with a set of in-laws (?!). Or gone on to say that even with an orphan, there's the chance of an uncle who is particularly close to her, or a cousin, or something.

While it can be useful to share your dating preferences with people who may be able to set you up, "Foot in Mouth" informed us that he is only interested in women who are ready to return to work soon after having a child. "There are no free rides with me. No sitting on the couch eating bon-bons!" (This is verbatim). Well. Clearly FIM did not realize that, in fact, his hostess is a stay-at-home-mother, I mean, bon-bon inhaler. Likely because FIM did not ask too much about us. Did he not know how offensive this would sound to all moms, regardless of one's taxable employment status? Or how socio-culturally loaded the bon-bons comment was?

I have not included in this post some very strange, embarassing, and awkward details that FIM related - only the ones that irked me on a personal level. I was torn between wishing RaggedyDad would have put him in his place, deciding whether I wanted to tell him off myself, and just wanting to end things as quickly as possible without a debate so I could put my kids to bed and forget the whole episode. Which clearly I haven't :)

I enjoy hosting guests at my table. It usually adds to the discussion and to our chinuch (education) of the kids on a social level. I try to accept guests for who they are and not for who I wish they'd be. I only hope to be similarly accepted and respected by my guests.


Shoshana said...

Wow, he sounds like quite a catch. Will you set me up with him? (In case you can't tell - that is SARCASM!)

Shira Salamone said...

And he wonders why he's still single!

Jack's Shack said...

The joy of people, you just never know what you are going to get.

HilaHoney said...


grr...arrrgh...pffft..mmeeehhh...Can't. form. coherent. sentence. You are far more gracious a hostess (and woman, for that matter) than I could ever be. There are certain family members that I will not even interact with unless forced to because they say things that irk me and I can't keep my yap shut. Which sometimes leads to me having FIM disease, and I rather dislike that. But I digress. Props to you for handling the situation so well! Hope you had a good Shabbos (and Thanksgiving if you celebrated)

Ezzie said...

Wow. That's... mind-boggling.

While we've had our share of guests who have made some FIM comments, and likely have probably made a few ourselves, none of them were of the level you mentioned, and usually were taken care of immediately. It seems that the more proclamatory (made-up word) the statement, the more likely it is to offend.

And then there are the stupid comments. I still recall when a friend came over once and made 2 comments within 5 minutes that were absolutely offensive. After the second, I simply told him - as calmly as I could - that that was Strike 2. (I believe it was some 'joke' about me 'finally' "knocking up" my wife after being married for a little over a year.) He understood, apologized, and while he still makes a few dumb comments on occasion, he's been a lot better.

RR said...

Ahem...please pass the bon-bons :-)

Yikes, I would have had trouble biting my tongue with this "winner" (I'm guessing he doesn't get too many second dates). The problem is when it's a guest in your home, it's much harder to say something because it's, you know, your home.

RaggedyMom said...

Shoshana - LOL, he's quite the special guy. As in, pet reptile who has free reign over his apartment. Yep. You got the picture.

Shira - You're telling me! I'm sure he's baffled when the girls don't return his calls after the first date.

Jack - Absolutely. Or how to shut them up!

Hila - Thanks - I hope to live up to the gracious part - luckily I can stifle my thoughts most of the time, and vent over here! And I promise never to blog viciously about any other bloggers who ever visit us!

Ezzie - Your friend's comment takes the cake! That's so out of line! I like the strike system - you always seem to know what to say.

RR - I may have saved you a few bon-bons! In a way, I feel like it's harder when something like this happens in someone else's home because I'm nervous about hijacking the conversation in an unpleasant way as a guest. In my own home, I feel more validated in trying to control the environment. But in this case, I just let it go - he was too nutty to reason with!

cruisin-mom said...

raggedymom: excuse me, but if you're not watching Oprah with those bonbons, then you're not really successfully fulfilling your duties as a stay-at-home mom :)
You bring up an interesting point...are we obligated to be polite to a guest in our home, even if they are making continuous inappropriate remarks? Personally, I don't think so. And, it sounds like you were hoping your husband might jump in to your defense. I'm sure he was feeling awkward and a bit tongue tied too, but it might be important to make sure he knows how you felt. FIM sounds like he is an inappropriate person on so many levels.

PsychoToddler said...

Bon Bon Inhaler: I like that. I think you should change your blogger name.

You and I must really be related. We should try and trace those trees back a little and find the common ancestor.

I'm also in "observation mode" most of the time. I have a peculiar sense of humor and I'm always worried I'll offend people I don't know, so I let them talk until I figure it out.

Trouble is, I rarely figure it out, so maybe that's why people think I'm quiet and antisocial.

SephardiLady said...

I'm a "stay-at-home-mother" (I prefer homemaker) and don't even know what isle the bon-bons are in. Guess they aren't a fixture on my shopping lists.

Well, it is a good thing to know your audience, although we all put our foot in our nouth occassionally. I'm constantly being, for asked when I'm returning to work. (I don't know). And I even dated a guy once for too long who knew from the beginning that I planned to be home that later and way later told me I shouldn't waste my brains (read: earning power) and I should most definitely work.

RaggedyMom said...

Cruisin-mom: I miss Oprah. For almost a year I haven't been turning the t.v. on when my kids are awake, and only for about 3 hours a week when it's just me and RaggedyDad. I find that the kids' play is vastly more calm and creative this way, and it was tough to limit it for me. So I just cut it out. FIM was loony, but I do feel sorry for him. I can't see how someone who would act that way the first time as a guest in our home would ever establish a normal enough relationship to marry someone. As for how we treat our wackier guests as hosts, I would say that it's always best to be civil, which is possible to do even when you need to put (gently) put someone in his/her place.

PT: I agree, you're definitely my third cousin or something. Unless it was just the Jaworzna water. And, as for observation mode, to quote one of my favorite midwestern bands, The Jayhawks, "If I'm not smiling, I'm just thinking."

SephardiLady: I totally hear you. Do you ever miss your job? I do, sometimes. I guess the NYC public schools will always need ESL teachers, or Reading Specialists, and I'll go back someday. Although being evaluated based on your earning potential is eerily like buying a cow based on milk production. Thankfully you dropped that bull.

SephardiLady said...

There are definitely days where I miss my job, eve though I still do small amounts of (a lot challenging) paying work from the home.

I think what I miss most is the fact that I could actually complete a project and be done with it. When it comes to housework and child-rearing, everything needs repeated. Nothing is ever done for good. No project is ever completed and put on the shelf forever. And, of course I miss my co-workers (no longer even live in the same state). And, I even miss the travel that I did on the job.

But, call me an ego-manic :), I think raising children and making our house into a home is the most important work I will ever do AND I don't think anyone can do it better than I can. Plus, I've only have one chance at it. So, I can't afford to fail. And, I know myself too well. If I were to "do it all" I would fail on all ends. When I worked, I was always tired. There is no way I could run a home, especially a frum home, be a good mother, and work. I just don't have that type of energy.

When it comes to returning to work, I can fail or fall down a few times before settling into the right position. No so with my marriage and children.

I'm sure you will do great when you go back to work. But, you are doing something really important now and you only have one chance. So, enjoy it!

Ayelet said...

Un-be-liev-ab-le! Is this for real? And if so, I want to hear the rest of this wacko's comments. It's just so entertaining!

triLcat said...

I think I dated this guy... or his Israeli twin... more than once :)

Finding a husband after age 25 is very much like panning for gold... there's a whole heck of a lot of mud and very very little gold.

To be fair, I did meet & go out with 4 guys other than my husband who were really mentches and just not interested in me/right for me. The last one even set me up with his best friend...who subsequently gave me a ring and a ketuba and all that :).