No offence, but…


This week, my girl is experiencing work for the first (and possibly the last!) time. She has fallen on her feet thanks to a good friend of mine who works in a fancy dress shop near to where we live – lucky thing! Personally, I would adore to spend every day wafting about in a Jane Austen-stylie dress and parasol, but people do tend to frown upon that kind of thing in the middle of Mayfair. But Daughter Dearest feels an affinity with all things theatrical, textile and artistic so it really is the perfect placement for her.

Asking her about how her first day had gone, she told me how she had had a difficult virginal customer service moment with a mother and her son who was, let’s just say, in absolutely no danger of malnutrition at the present time. You get my drift. They were wanting a costume for the young boy and my girl tried, politely (so she tells me) to suggest that they would have more choice of pirate outfits if they looked in the “Young Adult” section as opposed to the kids section. She worked hard not to mention his actual bulk – sorry, size. Unfortunately, it appears that mother and son were of the great “Denial” ilk.

I indulge in denial from time to time myself – guilty of enjoying one cupcake too many then bemoaning the fact that, through no fault of my own (!), I  have to spend the next three days on the cross trainer; going to work semi-naked – only one leg actually in my jeans; the other jean leg hanging slackly like an unfulfilled windsock. I could try to force the issue (and both legs in), but progressing to the office in a stiff “Herman Munster”-like waddle isn’t going to get me a seat on the board, now is it? But I digress. My point is that there are those whose lives are dedicated to such denial and there’s no dealing with them or it in a rational manner. They actually, I swear, enjoy being offended.

From a simply logistical point of view, there was no way this half-man-half-kid was going to fit into a children’s costume designed for non-Yetis, so my girl tried to persuade them again to look at a more suitable range. The Mother of All Denials immediately took the obligatory offence taken as her due in these situations. Despite having done her best to be tactful and help them out, my daughter overheard the grumpy moo telling the shop superior that she had been rude and unhelpful. My girl thought this very unfair and, if everything she says is true (she is to dramatic embellishment what the News of the World is/was to phone-hacking i.e. constantly at it!), quite rightly so. She felt she had genuinely tried to help and couldn’t understand how that had been rude. She does not have that “thickened skin” that anyone who has had to grit their teeth and deal with the general public develops. Her innocent honesty is part of her appeal.

However, this whole hyper-sensitivity episode got me thinking about society in general and what DOES constitute politeness, courtesy and good manners in today’s world. Have things skewed to such a crazy policital correctness now that such simple honest dialogue between people is no longer acceptable? Is honesty the new rude?

Some examples of “new rude” certainly exist. Quite common in their use actually. These include saying “No offence, but….” before saying something incredibly offensive in actual fact, which the listener then has to sit and take because that rider was put in front of it. Or stating something unkind about someone or something and then adding, “Just saying…” like the words tumbled out of the mouth without consent or conscious thought. We’ve probably all done it. On that basis, you would think that honesty would be de-sensitising people, as opposed to the opposite. Honesty should be becoming more socially acceptable, not less, shouldn’t it?

But rather than labelling it “new rude”, perhaps what we should be advocating is new honesty. A policy for the world at large. Saying what you mean, and meaning what you say. Not taking offence to facts presented to you. Where being direct is not seen as being unkind. Where truth is not taken as being impolite. I’d definitely go for that, wouldn’t you? I’m over nuances and trying to gauge reactions and situations – it’s exhausting and I really don’t have the time!

But in adopting new honesty, how do we then deal with these bods living in denial of their own realities and making everyone else feel awkward? Well, they could start by accepting facts, owning up and stop expecting everyone else to make allowances for their impossibly fuzzy view of the world. I, for one, have my issues but I try really hard not to impose them on other people and situations. They are MY issues, not theirs.

In this particular case, would the mother have preferred her rotund offspring to be encased in a too-tight costume that would have rendered him more keg of rum than ribald pirate? More laughing stock than theatrical badass? I think not. If, in the end, they cannot be helped because they don’t want to cloud that vision of themselves or a situation that no-one else sees – is that the rest of us being rude, or simply them being in hypersensitive denial?

The latest official current world population estimate, for mid-year 2010, is estimated at 6,852,472,823. Are the Deny-ers going to take them all on? Or accept that honesty is not rudeness; directness is just being straight with them – not offensive. That they are one amongst many; and try to cut the many a little slack? If I were being pedantic, I could say that such intolerance is, of itself, rude to those who are trying to be straight with them.

I’m just saying….

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About pigletinapoke

I am a forty-something married mum of two, working in London and commuting a crazy amount of hours so I can enjoy living at the coast at weekends! I'm into netball, jointly coaching and running a successful ladies club. I also sail whenever I get the chance and took part in the Trans-Atlantic leg of the Clipper Round The World yacht race in 2009. I like movies, particularly stuff by Nancy Meyers in whose set designs I want to spend my life. I devour novels, biographies and anything to do with self-improvement. I like to drive fast and live slightly dangerously, attempting to experience everything and everywhere before my time is up. That's me in a nutshell - I hope you enjoy my blog. If you would like to use any of my articles or the pics, I would appreciate very much if you could ask me first. Never known to refuse to date. Thanks!

Posted on July 13, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I think having an accent helps. Am sure it’s easier for Northerners, Australians etc to say what they like and not get looked at askance. Even Italians. My sister in law is from Rome and somewhat brutal in her assertion but just Gets Away With It. These things need to be said, most deffo, but for the sensitive it’s hard just to do. Am sure your daughter was tact itself. It’s the woman’s fault for putting herself and her fatsoboy in such a position. As you say, what did she expect your daughter to do? Not daughter’s fault for confronting a nay-sayer

    • Ah thanks. It’s hard enough instilling good manners into our kids without Deny-ers confusing the issue. I always teach them Honesty is Best – poor girl was truly flummoxed when this did not get the reaction she expected!

  2. Brilliant. I’m not so sure an accent really helps as Milla suggested – as a Northern adopter of New Honesty, I can say that I have had my fair share of retaliation to my truth-speaking. However, sometimes just a look works. For instance, I work in a hospital and when patients of a certain size comment on the NHS-issue gowns lacking in (yards and yards of) material, a simple glance head to foot and back again very often gets the point across. ‘New Honesty’ is definitely the way forward I reckon

  3. I one I love is when someone prefix’s, what you then know is going to be a rude comment with “I’m not being funny but…”!

    Having worked in retail before, for more years than was good for me, I know exactly what your daughter had to deal with! I used to find sticking my fingers up at people behind the counter helped no end!

    • I’m pretty sure the man in the coffee shop did that to me this morning when I asked him for a clean spoon as opposed to one covered in the snot of many toddlers. Hey ho. New honesty is never going to be an easy ride.

  4. Or the virtual equivalent of saying something like: You’re doing a really crap job. Insert smiley face here. You can be as mean/honest as you like as long as you end it with a smiley face. Then all is well with the world. Perhaps everyone should just carry around smily face badges with them. Then when they’re honest, they simply flash their badge to soften the blow.

    • Love that! I like the face on my phone that looks like a kid throwing up! Maybe I should flash that one when I say “I love your salad dressing” at the footy bbq on Saturday. Reverse psychology, leave them wondering etc..

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