Three Stupid Things You May Be Saying (without even realizing it!)

Well, ok. Maybe stupid is a bit strong. Let’s say “insensitive,” or “thoughtless” or even “rude.”

Yes, rude is better.

I often try to give people the benefit of the doubt-sometimes to my detriment-and excuse inconsiderate remarks or inappropriate questions. But sometimes it is just too much.

Want to know where all of this is coming from? Read on …

I climbed up on my “People Say the Rudest Things” soap box a few weeks when a fellow American, who has been living in Calabria for about 40 years, stopped by with her husband. Before she even walked through the door we had this conversation (in Italian, no less!)

American Woman: ” Ciao, Cherrye. We called last month but you were in America. Your dad was sick?”

Me: “Yes.” (Sad face) “He died.”

AW: “He what?”

Me: (Deep breath.) “He died.”

AW: “How is he?”

Me: Thinking seriously have to say this again, “He died.” (Very sad face.)

AW: “And now?”

Me: He’s Dead!

AW: Finally realizing my poor Dad’s fate. “Ahh, I’m sorry. Was he young?”

Me: “Well, no. He was 80.”

AW: “Eh. Oh well.”

-or if you understand Calabrian dialect, she actually said … “eh, vabbò!”

I guess I don’t need to tell you how the rest of our conversation went. But it got me to thinking. I don’t believe this woman-however insensitive she must be-is actually a mean person. She said a stupid thing-like most of us have at some point or another. She probably thought we had a wonderful, friendly conversation and wondered why I put salt instead of sugar in her coffee (ok, I didn’t really do this-but it makes me feel better to pretend I did).

If you feel yourself getting the cold shoulder and you don’t know why, maybe you made a proverbial slip of the tongue. Here are two more things people say-or ask!-that are downright rude.

** If you married your high school sweetheart you might not get this, but trust me, it is rude to ask a single woman if she is dating someone. And I’m not the only person who thinks so.

My worst did-she-really-just-say-that moment was just before I moved to Italy three years ago. I saw an old high school acquaintance and we briefly exchanged hellos. She immediately followed up with, “Are you married yet?”

I smiled and shook my head, “Nope. Still single.”

Her response?

A shattered look followed by a grim smile, “Well, Don’t. You. Worry. It will happen for you, too.”


Then, she got out as soon as she could … scared my singleness would rub off on her, I’m sure.

You don’t have to ask her if she is dating someone or is married. If she wants to tell you, she’ll bring it up.

** This “downright rude” comment is so natural, so easy to ask and is oftentimes as harmless as a chickpea out in the grass. (Yea, ya’ll. I’m from Texas.) But it is also a sensitive topic for many would-be mommies.

Sadly, I have a few friends who didn’t-or can’t-get pregnant as easily as they’d hoped and have watched them get flustered and embarrassed and awkwardly answer the, “When are you going to have children?” question.

I know it is hard not to ask, because you want to show your friends that you are interested in their lives, but those two little words-no kids?-can ruin a good woman’s day.

What about you? Are you guilty of uttering any of these conversation killers? What other things do you think people should never say or ask people they don’t know well?

16 Responses
  1. Cherrye, thanks for the link love. I don’t know why people who don’t know you well think it’s okay to ask such personal questions.

    I’m not a fan of “What do you do” being the first question asked when you meet someone for the first time. Many people outside of the States think this is beyond rude. It’s like asking what salary someone makes.

    Here most people start with, “where are you from”, “why did you move to Italy” etc.

    I get that some people are just looking for a conversation starter but “what do you do?” can be interpreted the wrong way. Let it come up naturally during the conversation.
    I always get the “why are you here” question first, too. Although I have had people here in Calabria ask me straight out how much money I made/make. Ouch!
    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..A quick day trip to Naples: Art and some of the best pizza in the world.

  2. joanne at frutto della passione

    “Have you gained weight?”
    People seriously say that in my husband’s home town. Or better yet, after not seeing someone for a while (Me, ok it was me)
    “You’ve gained weight”.
    I. Hate. That.
    I agree. Ridiculous!
    joanne at frutto della passione’s last blog post..Amatriciana

  3. Stellina

    I’ll bet Peppe didn’t appreciate those comments from AW either. Here in Italy, a rude remark against the wife is the same as one against the husband and vice versa. When she said “vabbo” that was like saying “that’s nice” or “whatever” it’s the same thing. I think this lady is beyond insensitive or rude she must be mean.
    Yea, seriously … “vabbo?” I was beyond shocked! I actually didn’t tell P for a few days … she’s already not one of his favorite people.

  4. How insulting. The woman apparently didn’t think it was important enough to pay attention to your conversation, otherwise you wouldn’t have had to tell her your dad died 4 times.
    I know, right??
    andrea’s last blog post..Shoes, Check!

  5. Cherrye – I am so sorry that horrible rude woman put you through that. A big hug.

    It never ceases to amaze me people’s lack of sensitivity and tact – not to mention absolute inability to listen in conversations. I am so there with you and NYC/Carribbean Ragazza on the single thing too – I have so many stories from my times I was single. The best part is when I did get married, which was relatively fast (ie we got engaged within 9 months of starting to date) I got rude comments then too – ie “why would you get married so fast” – people just suck sometimes.

    Anyways – fortunately there are many lovely people out there, including you.
    That is funny. Can’t please ’em all, can you?
    City Girl’s last blog post..Bookmarked Recipes – Cucumber Watermelon Cooler

  6. What a dreadful woman! I feel angry on your behalf.

    Joanne – when I go home (UK about 2x a year) I frequently get “you’ve lost weight”, which I haven’t. So do they think I needed to, or is it in their minds I’m larger than I am?
    I always think the same thing when they say you’ve lost weight! ha ha

  7. Alisa

    Thank you for the post! I get sooo tired of the “Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll find someone.” Geez!

    I also get tired of the more subtle versions… I mention a male name (any male, in any context), and the first question — mostly from women at church — is “Is he married?” Come on. They don’t really care whether my colleague/friend/etc is married. They’re just probing to see if they can find anyone who *might* be a potential date. Or trying to set you up with any member of the opposite sex who is within 20 years of your age and breathing. (Not the same as a good friend who genuinely thinks you may have something in common with someone else.) Why do people always equate single with desperate?
    Your subtle version makes me lol. When you find the answer … please share! Geez!

  8. What an insensitive person! The “vabbò” puts the icing on the cake though. You would have been totally justified putting salt in her coffee. When I first came here, no one asked what I did, they all asked if I could cook!
    Ha. That is funny. They all asked me if I was Catholic!
    Mary’s last blog post..Cheese Cannelloni in meat sauce

  9. Yes, definitely with Joanne on the weight comments, although I have to say I’ve also gotten “you’ve lost weight!” too from Italians, so I don’t think they actually think it’s rude to comment on a weight gain…they just don’t get that the subject is (say this with an Italian accent please) OFF LIMITS for us American girls 😉

    Also agreeing with NYC/C gal…I *hate* the what do you do questions and also the “how much did you pay for that” questions as well. MYOB peeps!
    Tell us how you really feel, Mich!
    Michelle | Bleeding Espresso’s last blog post..Guest Blogger Dianne Hales: My Italian Brain and How It Grew

  10. Laura

    Cherrye, I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. I hadn’t heard of your loss. I remember that you were very close to both your parents. I’m so sorry for the lady’s rude comment and especially making you repeat it. I can’t even imagine.

    I once had a “friend” tell me that I needed to “quit being so selfish and have a baby” after seven years of marriage. Little did he know, I had undergone five years of infertility and have one perfect angel waiting for me in heaven. People say the dumbest things!

    Hugs to you. I enjoyed reading about your exciting life. A vacation to Italy sounds amazing!
    Hey, Laura. It is great to hear from you. Thank you for your condolences-isn’t it crazy what people will say?

  11. so sorry to hear about your dad! whether he was 45 or 80, he was still your dad…i can’t imagine it being any easier.

    italians are really bad about commenting on weight, i agree with michelle. i’ve had the “ma ti sei messa qualche chilo?” comment a few times when i had actually lost TEN POUNDS–ten pounds when i was already at a healthy weight. whatever!
    Absolutely… whatever. I think sometimes they just don’t know what to say! Mah!
    tracie b’s last blog post..My Guest Blogger: DoBianchi’s Take on Fresh Pasta

  12. vanessa

    I agree with Tracie, your Dad is your Dad no matter what age he was. Sounds to me that lady wasn’t even listening and just going through a perfunctory greeting. Rude.

    Since I am married with kids thank god i don’t get those stupid questions about boyfriends, engagements, marriage, kids etc etc but don’t you worry, there are many more silly questions out there.

    I hate it when they ask your age. I frequently get asked that, and it’s not even seen as rude here. So when i say in my 30’s, they then go on to ask if I am a student…??

    Other questions I don’t like are ones about your food choices or likes/ dislikes. If i dislike seafood, i DON’T want to eat it, be asked a thousand times in different ways have i tried x, y or z from place a, b, c in month m, n, o , p etc etc. ANd also when people ask what you ALREADY ate for lunch (after the fact). Who the hell cares!!!
    Ha. Funny. I get asked if I am a student, too. I mean, do you SEE how old I am?

  13. Cherrye I’m so sorry to hear about your father, I didn’t realize.

    I also feel the same way about the “did you lose weight” comments, or similarly, “you look great!” comments. Makes me wonder whether people think I usually don’t look so great ;o)

    Personally I never ask a woman when she is expecting or whether she is pregnant, unless she literally looks like she is about to give birth. I’ve had too many friends who have been asked whether they are pregnant, and in fact they were 6 months or so post-partum and were just starting to think they’re getting their body back. It’s just crushing… so I tread nowhere near that one! I’m always glad when a pregnant woman brings it up though so that I can exclaim “congratulations!!”
    Thanks, Madeline. I agree with the pregnancy question. I never ask it, either-EVER!
    MadelineJ’s last blog post..Italy’s Best Bridges, Part II

  14. I am thinking that you are forever relieved from the duty to be nice to that woman. She is a total dimwit no matter who and from where.
    People still ask me if I am seeing someone. Wierd. Like dating (argh) and marriage are the only proper goals for females. I hate dating so much I would advertise in a foreign newspaper if I wanted to marry.
    That made me laugh out loud! Ha
    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Americaland

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