Monday, 15 April 2013

Dear Auntie Seraphic and Dear Auntie Seraphic

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I'm at a dinner party in the UK with five or so men, all of whom I've known for at least three years. They're at the after-dinner, the-port-has-gone-around-sixteen-times joking stage, and the guy beside me, generally a friendly, good-humoured bloke, has just made a Joke Too Far. The table is convulsed. I am currently the only woman in the room. What do I do?

Sincerely,
Auntie Seraphic, age 39++

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Would your oldest brother have said, "Hey you, that's my sister you're talking about?"

Grace and peace,
Seraphic

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

At very least.

Sincerely,
Auntie Seraphic

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Does your handbag have sharp corners?

Grace and peace,
Seraphic

Dear Auntie Seraphic.

No. Although stuffed with dictionaries, etc., it is made of lined velvet.

Sincerely,
A.S.

Dear A.S.,

Then I suggest you whack him with it.

Grace and peace,
Seraphic

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Oh dear. That seems extreme. Obviously I don't want the other men at the table to make jokes like that for the next fifteen years, but hitting people seems wrong and anyway you said hitting men is dangerous. 

Sincerely,
A.S.

Dear A.S.,

We are in the murky territory of honour-shame. If it was the sort of comment that makes your brother huff and puff and do that thing with his eyebrows and say "Hey you, that's my sister you're talking about," then the honour-shame balance has been disturbed.

Most women fear men telling a Joke Too Far concerning them in front of other men, and most men fear being hit in front of other men by an angry woman with a handbag (especially if they grew up reading Andy Capp cartoons). So in this particular, unique, possibly-never-to-be-repeated, concrete circumstance, the fastest and least dramatic and, strangely enough, least offensive way to correct the imbalance is to hit the generally friendly and good-humoured malefactor with your handbag. This way his shame will equal your shame, and all will be forgiven, and a message will have been sent.

Grace and peace,
Seraphic

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Is twice good enough?

A.S.

Dear A.S.

I'd go with three.

Grace and peace,
Seraphic

***
In real life, this conversation was instantaneous until the last bit.

***
For more controversial and violent tales, pre-order Ceremony of Innocence today! (And then mention you have done so in a comments' box, so I can heap smiles upon you.)

9 comments:

c'est la vie said...

Since everyone else seems frozen in shock at this violence, I will boldly stand forth virtually to congratulate you on your presence of mind and tact. (No, really; it isn't easy to get it right when they are all your friends...)

Anonymous said...

That joke must have been in very poor taste to merit such a reprimand! At that point, I doubt anything less than physical violence would have had an effect. Sometimes people are just too far gone in hilarity to register mere verbal objections to their conduct. I'm glad you were there to object, otherwise he might do it again in more mixed company, and be terribly embarrassed afterwards.

ladywisdom

american (not) in deutschland said...

Question: Is A.S.'s expression to be laughing/jocular or shocked/jocular or angry/offended? Obviously hitting-with-handbags can be said in many ways, each of which can send a very different message.

Anne said...

Ordered :) Looking forward to reading it!

healthily sanguine said...

You need to make sure there are more women in the room!

Seraphic said...

Anne, I heap smiles upon you!

I think hitting with a handbag, no matter how comical, works as a deterrent. And it isn't very girly or attractive. No, it is Woman as Scary Elementary School Teacher, which sometimes we must be, like Baroness Thatcher.

I emphasize that such a deed must signal the end of any hostilities. I wrote about it only because I had writer's block.

Seraphic said...

That said, how to cope with otherwise NCBs saying stuff that hurts our sense of modesty (which they do not always get--they do not get that saying certain things hurt NCGs and that even having to explain it to them is hurtful to our privacy) is a perennial NCG problem.

Bernadette said...

I would like to state that if no handbag is convenient, and that sort of reprimand is required, a sharp smack with an open hand to the back of the offender's head is the equivalent, particularly since in some cultures this is how women reprimand small boys who have misbehaved.

Sheila said...

Though I would warn not to get too much in the habit, or you risk getting known as "the girl who smacks people." Happened to me. Oops. There were quite a lot of indecent jokes flying at the time.

In lieu of smacking, I recommend the following rejoinders:

"Do you need me to leave so that you fellows can tell your man jokes without offending anyone?"

"Would you say that if your mother were here?"

In a British deadpan: "Mr. Lastname, I'm shocked."

(To the other men) "Someone say something, I'd hate to be the only one at the table willing to defend a lady."

Being a high school teacher is good practice in witty rejoinders. If you, like me, actually WERE or ARE a teacher, it's easy -- just point to the gentleman in question and say "Five demerits for that one, young man."