DEAR MISS MANNERS: The mother of a church friend has taken to lifting me up off the ground every time she talks to me at church. I’m 24.
I let her once, because I thought it was going to be a friendly, one-time greeting. Unfortunately, that sent her the wrong message.
The mom, I’ll admit, is only being friendly, but she also calls me “little girl” and comments on how I need to eat more and how I have a little stomach. We talk about little else. Frankly, if this is how most of our future conversations are going to be, I would prefer we just cordially smile and walk on.
These comments and actions are frustrating to me because people often feel the need to comment on how short/small I am. Just when I think I’m beginning to not care what others think, she starts in. I guess I didn’t expect it from a church acquaintance. She is very outgoing and has a strong personality, and it seems she feels like she knows me well enough to speak this way. But to me, it’s tiring and annoying.
My friend no longer attends my church, so I don’t feel I can ask her to intervene with her mom for me.
I don’t want to offend her or hurt her feelings by explaining that I don’t like it when she lifts me up or makes these comments. I also don’t want to make a scene at church. I don’t know if I should attend another church, hide in the bathroom, fake an injury and refuse to stand up when I see her, or what. I feel that the longer this goes on, the more awkward it will be to confront her. I’m also afraid she will try to convince me that she’s just being friendly, so I shouldn’t mind these things.
In regard to the weight and size comments, should I respond with, “That’s genetics,” or just ignore her? I feel the need to defend myself and list off every unhealthy food item I’ve ever eaten. But should I just smile and nod?
It’s becoming unbearable to talk to her, and I’m at a loss of what to do. Is this a battle worth fighting, and if so, what should my strategies be?
GENTLE READER: That etiquette is named as the enabler in cases such as this -- and a lot worse ones -- is unjust. Politeness does not -- repeat, not -- require you or anyone else to allow another person to handle you against your wishes.
You can meet the personal comments with silence and a stony expression, but you cannot ignore the ridiculous assault.
Miss Manners accepts your belief that your friend’s mother does not intend you harm. Nevertheless, she is causing you harm. So you must tell her to stop. Not with subtle subterfuges, but in plain words.
You can begin mildly, by backing off and saying “Please don’t do that.” If more force is necessary, you can proceed to “No! Don’t do that!” possibly loud enough to attract attention. And you should explain the situation to your minister, requesting assistance as you do so.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)