DEAR HARRIETTE: I tend to use pretty profane language in my daily life. I never curse in professional or family settings, but when I am with my friends, I let loose. On a night out, a woman overheard me say a certain four-letter word, and she interrupted my private conversation and told me that I am "too beautiful to say that word." Frankly, this rubbed me the wrong way. Would a man have been corrected like this? Was I supposed to take her reprimand as a compliment? I just acknowledged her and said thank you, but her comment got me thinking. I was having a private conversation, but it appears my words offended her. Should I have been censoring myself even though it was a night out at a nice bar? -- Party Potty Mouth, Boston
DEAR PARTY POTTY MOUTH: You have hit on a couple of different issues here. In general, though cursing in public has become commonplace, it can still be offensive to those around you. Now, you were in a bar, where cursing is part of the ongoing dialogue. But I, for one, would be happy for people to curse less regardless of gender.
That said, this woman was out of line and sexist. If you weren't "beautiful" or if you were a man, would she have reprimanded you? What she thought is that you -- of all people, implying someone who should be more refined -- would hear her and be struck by her comment and possibly stop cursing.
The whole thing is messy and wrong. While I do not subscribe to her way of thinking, I do believe less is more when it comes to four- and five-letter words.