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by Abigail Van Buren

Waiter's Effort at Small Talk Explodes Into Savage Tirade

DEAR ABBY: Last week I was out with my family of 13 for dinner. My sister-in-law was sitting relaxed in her chair, stretching her back and extending her stomach. The waiter came over and, trying to make small talk, asked her, "What's the occasion? Are you pregnant?" My sister-in-law isn't pregnant, but her posture may have suggested it.

Well, my brother, her husband, went off on the man, calling him names, swearing, and causing a loud, uncomfortable scene. We all agreed the waiter was stupid to ask the question, but wasn't my brother wrong here? He embarrassed all of us, and I don't think there was any malicious intent on the part of the waiter. My brother stands behind his outburst and insists he wasn't wrong.

This has happened before, and I'm sure it will happen in the future. What's your suggestion for a better way to handle a situation like this, so maybe I can get through to my brother? -- LOST MY APPETITE IN GEORGIA

DEAR LOST: The waiter should have quit winners after he asked if your party of 13 was celebrating a special occasion. To have asked whether your SIL was pregnant was a blunder, which I am betting was reflected in his tip. While I appreciate your brother's desire to "protect" his wife, he accomplished nothing positive by creating a scene and embarrassing the family.

Because you mentioned that this has happened before and may happen in the future, it's time for "the family" to suggest he get professional help for his anger issues. If this is how he behaves in public, I shudder to imagine what he's like in private.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Etiquette & Ethics