As human beings, we make it a habit to stick our noses in other people’s business. We’re naturally curious, which has led us to a point where we often feel entitled not just to know every detail of someone else’s life, but to comment on it, as well. Here are a few things you should really just keep to yourself:
- Telling total strangers to “Smile!” This drives me up a wall. You know what? Maybe I have a naturally unhappy looking face that looks like I’m frowning when I’m really just neutral. Maybe my grandmother just died. Maybe I just slammed my finger in the car door. Whatever the reason, people are fully entitled to make whatever facial expressions they want without total goddamned strangers commanding them to smile. This is especially infuriating coming from a man directed at a woman, because the man will invariably think it’s a friendly conversation starter. It’s not. It’s rude, it’s invasive, and telling me to smile makes me want to do it even less.
- “What are you/where are you from/what’s your background?” Nine times out of ten, this is a fishing expedition to find out someone’s race or ancestry. Before you ask this question, ask yourself a few things. Why is it necessary for me to know this information? Is it likely to offend the person I’m asking? Am I really so fascinated by people who look different from me that I need to essentially demand a family tree and DNA report?
- “When are you going to have kids?” I guarantee that every married woman, and probably 90% of all women of childbearing age, regardless of marital status, have been asked this question more than once. Frankly, it’s never appropriate. If the person being asked doesn’t ever plan on having children, the question puts her immediately on the defensive. Not to mention, even if kids are part of the plan, you don’t know if someone is struggling with infertility, or waiting until they’re more financially stable, or really what the situation is at all. Plus there’s the added bonus that, at its core, this is a question about one’s sex life. And it’s really none of your business. If you matter to the person at all, they’ll tell you if and when the kid is on its way.
- “You’d be so pretty if you’d …” However you were planning to finish that sentence, just don’t. People generally feel two ways about how they look: they’re either unhappy with (or insecure about) their appearance, or they’re perfectly happy the way they are. Either way, telling them your brilliant idea about how they could be even more attractive (to you) is just insulting and unnecessary.
- “Have I told you about [my religion]?” Look, you seem nice enough. We had a good conversation about that movie that just came out. So far, you seem like a perfectly normal person. And then you start in about your religious beliefs. Usually with no prompting, and always to tell me all the ways in which your beliefs are right, and everyone else’s are wrong. If I wanted to know about this stuff, I’d ask. And I never ask. So let me tell you about the Flying Spaghetti Monster…
- “Do you know how many calories are in that?” Nope. And I don’t care. If I cared, I probably wouldn’t be eating it. The need some people have to act as the Food Police is obnoxious, presumptuous, and an inclination best kept to one’s self. It’s incredibly annoying, and just stinks of “I wish I were eating that, but I’m so obsessed with the nutritional value of every little thing that I have to make everyone around me as miserable about food as I am.”
How about you, Persephoneers? What kinds of things have other people said to you that really should have stayed in their heads?
(A version of this post originally appeared on Nice Girls Don’t Swear.)