To ask or not to ask back?
November 25, 2011 10:39 AM   Subscribe

To ask back, or not?

Maybe this is small of me.

I have a winter solstice party/open house every year: a little food, a little drink, some belly dance, some poetry. One of the dancers, the one who furnished the venue this time, asked if it was OK to make comments between poems. I must have said "yes."

I was reading when she interrupted and piped up, "THAT'S NOT RIGHT."

I stopped and looked at her quizzically. My background/constitution is such that it's really hard for me to be made OH SO VERY WRONG in front of a crowd.

She went on to explain that that particular implement I referenced hadn't yet been invented in that particular year, and therefore that wasn't right.

Even if poetry weren't art (not fact, necessarily), I can't imagine why she felt moved to speak out, I mean it wasn't like life or death. Other people then jumped into the discussion and this derailed the reading for about 10 minutes. Getting up in front of people is hard for me as it is, and there were other readers waiting.

I am here to tell you that (even if I had a dance background) I would never stop a dancer in mid-move and tell them, "That's not right. You need to move your arm like this." I would never feel right doing that.

Well, I stewed over it a bit ('cause that's how I am), and e-mailed her the next day or so as to how I thought it was rude.

Her reply?

"You'd better have it somewhere else next year--I wouldn't feel comfortable."

Fast forward to November. I found another place.

Do I invite her? She has a fine troupe of dancers, but there are other dancers in the city, too. I'm not not inviting her, I mean it's on facebook and so on (it's a small artistic community), but do I actively invite her?

She's always cordial when I see her. Maybe I'm the only one who has a problem? What if she does it again? How do I reply this time?
posted by Prairie to Human Relations (37 answers total)
Invite her. I'm sure your email made it clear that she was rude and disruptive. But that was last year. FHAMO forgive her and move on.
posted by dchrssyr at 10:45 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think there's no need to actively invite her. She has explicitly told you she wouldn't be comfortable. You wouldn't be comfortable. Why ask for trouble?
posted by heyheylanagirl at 10:45 AM on November 25, 2011 [21 favorites]

No, I would not invite her back. She gave you the perfect out if she calls you on it, too - she told you "I wouldn't feel comfortable" and it's a perfectly reasonable reading to say "I assumed you meant you wouldn't feel comfortable at a reading in general."

Also, man oh man, that is about the most absurdly out-of-line behavior I've heard on AskMe all year. That is what bouncers are for.

(On that note, if she does come, I'd recommend getting someone with a forceful personality and a loud voice to MC who can snap "Please hold comments until the end of the piece" as necessary.)
posted by restless_nomad at 10:45 AM on November 25, 2011 [21 favorites]

Don't actively invite her. Life's too long to deal with this sort of bullshit, particularly around the holidays. You don't need to overthink it, either, or come up with some sort of very logical rationale. It's simple: Her presence last year made your party less fun for you. And that's all that really matters.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:45 AM on November 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

I wouldn't actively invite someone who did something that any reasonable person not raised by wolves would know is breathtakingly rude.
posted by winna at 10:49 AM on November 25, 2011 [30 favorites]

Well, you don't get to tell other adults that they were rude unless they ask you. That was a big giant error of yours.

However, I doubt it makes any difference to the outcome, so I wouldn't sweat it.

Here's the thing: she asked if she could make comments BETWEEN readings, not during. You did not give her permission for that. Why would you? All adults are expected to know that heckling performers is rude, whereas asking her not to do it again wouldn't be rude, and in fact would be one of your duties as an organizer.

She doesn't even have the excuse that you owe her an invitation this year because she didn't know that what she was doing was wrong (on the offchance that she is some kind of outlier who actually didn't understand that). Instead, her response on having this pointed out was to withdraw her support for the following year.

Therefore, why would she expect you to explicitly invite her, especially when you're not barring her?

Maybe before the next performance, find some way of publishing guidelines: Portaloos are on the right. Please show your hand stamp if you leave the venue and return. We welcome comments at the end of each reading, please wait until the end of each reading before taking your turn to speak. Coats may be left in the yak barn. And so on.

If she kicks up this time, in any way, definitely bar her from the rest of the event and from next year's event.
posted by tel3path at 10:53 AM on November 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

It's a shame to lose the other dancers (if that's how it works out) but I can't imagine inviting someone who did this. If she does end up coming, you'll probably want to get a plan together about how to address it (like mentioning at the start that comments should be held until the end of all the readings).
posted by Nabubrush at 10:53 AM on November 25, 2011

People who are mean to me don't get invited to my parties.
posted by Occula at 10:59 AM on November 25, 2011 [36 favorites]

I can't quite fathom what flavor of attention-seeking dramazophilia would lead someone to heckle another performer's poem. She makes it easy to say "Avoid the nuttiness and skip inviting her." That's probably the smart thing to do.

That said, it sounds like this really pushed your particular buttons and you're still struggling to let it go. There is a part of me that tends to move toward things that trouble me, and I'd be tempted to invite her, making sure to clarify when it is appropriate to comment on other people's performances. Then the ball's in her court, and you have the satisfaction of standing up to someone who, in her own way, bullied you during your reading. Either way, you tend to come out the bigger person. That's probably not the smart approach, but it might make you feel better about the event in the long run.
posted by itstheclamsname at 11:00 AM on November 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

She's cordial to you in public? Then invite her. Her reaction to your calling her out seems like it was just childish sulking behaviour (no one likes being disciplined), but she must have more-or-less gotten over it. I think it's best practice to forgive and forget if people are willing to play ball and do the same, especially if it's in a small community. She'll be around for the long-term, you're just making things unpleasant for yourself to perpetuate hostility between you.
posted by lizbunny at 11:03 AM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

If there's a general invite, allow it to include her. If she asks, say you'd be happy for her to attend, and would she please keep in mind that some performers and readers are shy, and to be gentle.

Dramazophilia is a terrific word.
posted by theora55 at 11:05 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, you don't get to tell other adults that they were rude unless they ask you.

Nonsense. It's never wrong to stand up for yourself and let someone know when they've gone too far. It's called having boundaries and being assertive. Contacting her privately after the event was as tactful as you needed to be. You're under no obligation to invite her to your party.
posted by trunk muffins at 11:06 AM on November 25, 2011 [26 favorites]

Best answer: No, it's never wrong to stand up for yourself. It is wrong to tell an adult "that was rude" because that's the sort of correction you give to a child. It's a form of unsolicited advice.

Here are ways of managing this kind of thing without being rude:

YOU: In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/A stately pleasure-dome dec-
SHE: That's wrong! It was actually in Great Neck, not Xanadu!
YOU: ... -ree, where Alph, the sacred river ran/Through caverns measureless to man [etc.]

if this happens:
SHE: More heckling! I heckle you!
BOUNCER: Please keep your comments for the end of the reading.
YOU: ...Down to a sunless sea.
SHE: Heckle! Heckle heckle heckle! You promised to let me heckle you and now you can't take it!
SHE: [sound of involuntary bouncing down the stairs and out of the building]
YOU: So twice five miles of fertile ground...
posted by tel3path at 11:16 AM on November 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

Do not invite this person. She was comically rude to both you and everyone else at the event. Instead of apologizing to you, she told you that she wouldn't be comfortable at your event next year. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Harumph harumph harumph.

If she comes anyway, be cordial, and if she's on her best behavior, then that's fine. If she behaves bizarrely again, then show her the door.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:20 AM on November 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Lots of good things to think about, thank you to all of you! Just one clarification: After I rudely told her she was rude (correct you are, tel3path, unsolicited advice) she e-mailed back that she wouldn't be comfortable having the event at her place, and I'd better find another venue.
posted by Prairie at 11:27 AM on November 25, 2011

I can't even imagine why you would invite her.
posted by hazyjane at 11:29 AM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

After I rudely told her she was rude (correct you are, tel3path, unsolicited advice) she e-mailed back that she wouldn't be comfortable having the event at her place, and I'd better find another venue.

I don't really understand her logic. If she is not comfortable having it at her place, why would she be comfortable elsewhere? Is it because you told her how to behave in her own home (that may be how she interpreted your email)?

Anyway, if it is an open invite, then let her in if she shows up but don't actively invite her. And if she is rude again, she gets the boot from the event and possibly for your social life in general.
posted by asnider at 11:31 AM on November 25, 2011

Don't invite.

Life is too short to cultivate contact with people who have demonstrated that they are not fun to be around.

She has done nothing to deserve an explicit invitation; quite the contrary, I'd say.
posted by BrashTech at 11:38 AM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Did you pay her for this venue? Is this an event that people pay to attend? Or is it a private party for which she provided the venue as a favour?

Because if it was a paid event and she supplied something for it, you're totally reasonable not to use her as a supplier again. Telling her the reasons why would be appropriate too, though optional.

If she provided the venue as a favour, there is a sense in which it was her party as well as yours. This being the case, you were very unfortunate, but quite appropriate, to handle it as you did in the moment. Telling her afterwards that she was deficient in adult social skills, in her own place... not so much. Now, I'm not disputing that she DID do wrong, outrageously so, but that would be no excuse for saying so since in this scenario, you were yourself essentially a guest in her - home? space? The closer the venue was to home, for her, the less you get to say about it afterwards, no matter how right you are. Instead, you'd just send her a thank-you letter for providing the venue and make other arrangements the following year.

Basically if it was a favour, then sucking it up despite your being 300% right and her being 300% wrong, followed by making other arrangements the next year, is the penalty for accepting favours. If you were fairly close to this person, then having a discussion with her later on like "you know, it really upset me when you commented in the middle of my reading. I thought we agreed on comments between readings, not during. Next time I would like you to wait until the end of each reading to say your piece." But it doesn't sound like you're that close to her. So maybe conveying that info globally rather than addressed to her, as part of the info you circulate before the next event, would be the way to go.

The flip side of this is that she's even more guilty since she placed you in a double-bind by opening her venue/home? to you and then insulting you, knowing that the setting made it nearly impossible for you to answer back. That really sounds like deliberate sabotage, to me. if it was a private party you are more than within your rights to never invite her again, at all, because people who insult you at your parties, don't get to come to your parties.
posted by tel3path at 11:45 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Life is too short to actively seek out the company of people who suck. Like hazyjane, I can't imagine why you would invite her. That would be rewarding her bad behavior, thus encouraging her to continue that kind of crap.

She seems like someone who tries to make herself seem important by belittling other people. Where I come from, we call those people "bullies".

Also, I think that by telling her she was rude, you were performing a public service. Maybe she'll think twice before doing it to someone else. Although judging from her reaction, probably not. But at least you tried.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:50 AM on November 25, 2011 [7 favorites]

I don't really understand her logic. If she is not comfortable having it at her place, why would she be comfortable elsewhere?

That comment about not being comfortable about having it at her venue is punishment for not having her barbaric behavior tolerated without remark. That is the only reason to refuse to host the event - she was being pettish because she was expected to confine her behavior to that expected of civilized people.
posted by winna at 12:30 PM on November 25, 2011 [7 favorites]

I would not invite her, because she's said she would be uncomfortable. As gracious people we don't coerce people to attend parties where they will be unhappy.

There are several uncharitable ways to evaluate her refusal. She wanted you to apologize for calling her out on her behavior. She wanted to demonstrate her power to say whatever she wants. Instead of trying to figure out her motives, simply take her at her word. She said she'd be uncomfortable. I'm betting that you aren't going to feel comfy reading in front of a group where she is waiting to interrupt with her critique of your work.

Have your party without inviting her. If she shows up, then be a gracious host and just let it be forgotten.
posted by 26.2 at 12:52 PM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm thinking that if she's "not comfortable" having it at her venue, she'll hopefully not be comfortable attending at all. Put out a general invite but don't specifically invite her.

I like the ideas for a backup plan in case she does show.

It's hard to know how to handle something like that. I don't think you should beat yourself up much, if at all, for telling her you thought she was rude. Maybe not the most diplomatic thing ever, but certainly frank and straightforward.
posted by bunderful at 12:53 PM on November 25, 2011

Best answer: Oh! If you want a humorous comeback in your back pocket, so to speak, make or have made a special laminated "creative license" with your name, picture, and other details. If anyone heckles your reading, present them with your creative license and proceed with your poem.
posted by bunderful at 12:56 PM on November 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

you don't get to tell other adults that they were rude unless they ask you

What on earth? If someone's rude to me, in public, in a way that ruins my party .. I absolutely tell them. It's not unsolicited advice. Unsolicited advice is like "hey your tie is ugly" or "this soup could use more salt", picking on things that don't matter or aren't your business to fix.

Telling someone what they just did to you is rude is giving them direct emotional feedback on their actions towards you. It's standing up for yourself, engaging in self-defense rather than being a doormat.

I wouldn't invite this person to anything, they sound horribly unpleasant.
posted by ead at 1:13 PM on November 25, 2011 [11 favorites]

I agree with ead While it would have been self-defeating to call her out in front of everyone at the moment, you had every right to defend yourself. It is certainly not "unsolicited advice." And I agree, don't invite her to anything.
posted by uans at 2:12 PM on November 25, 2011

I agree with others and you that her outburst was bafflingly rude.

Is it possible that she has some kind of psychological issue that makes her blind or indifferent to social cues? I've known a person who would do what you describe, and I just thought she was a world-class jerk until someone told me she has autism or Asperger's... it made me realize that in a man, I would see that behavior and immediately think of a mental issue, but with a woman it doesn't occur to me - it just seems like inexplicable rudeness. It's a weird feature of the stereotype of male Aspies; female Aspies are harder to recognize. I have no idea if that's what is going on here, and I'm not saying you need to consider her mental status when deciding whether to invite/disinvite. Just mentioning it because it might help you settle your own feelings about having been so rudely treated in the middle of your public performance. It sounds like she was way, WAY out of line.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:20 PM on November 25, 2011

Pulling back the reigns here a little.

Is this a performance party, or a reading party? Could it be that she assumed this was more of a collaborative affair for artists, and you intend it to be a showcase?

If I am together with my artist friends, and we are showing work artist-to-artist, it has always been understood that criticism is expected and *always* graciously-received, no matter how cutting the remark. I can see that maybe she is more in that camp of individual. It does not make her "rude" - she may have genuinely misunderstood the circumstance.

Perhaps she has one idea of how artists hang together socially, and you another?
posted by roboton666 at 2:47 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had considered that too, roboton, but no critique group I'd ever been part of let you break into the middle of the piece with criticisms. After the piece the criticism would have been more understandable (though possibly still rude in context), but in the middle?
posted by winna at 2:54 PM on November 25, 2011

It is wrong to tell an adult "that was rude" because that's the sort of correction you give to a child.

And yet here you are, correcting the OP's action.

Adults sometimes don't know things and need to be told. Insisting that we all pretend otherwise is self-indulgent.

OP, you did right to tell her. If she comes to the next event and does it again, tell her again that she's being rude, and do it immediately and publicly. And yes, have bouncers who are ready to expel her if she won't shut up.
posted by stebulus at 2:58 PM on November 25, 2011 [8 favorites]

As a female Aspie myself, I had considered that this might be a thinking error on her part. It doesn't change the approach I don't think. The OP's performance was the first priority, and she's not obligated to add to the distraction by instructing a possibly-impaired person how to have the right social skills. Instead, the same approach as you would use for a nonimpaired person should also work for an Aspie making a mistake: first ignore, then "please wait until after the reading to comment," then ask to leave.

If the heckler subsequently had emailed the OP asking why she'd been ejected, that would be a good opportunity to explain that it's rude to heckle. Or if the heckler had turned up here on the green asking why this poetry reader had reacted so negatively in this confusing situation when all she did was give helpful feedback, we could then explain that what she did amounted to heckling and it's rude to heckle.

If the heckler didn't ask, there's nothing wrong with saying "hey that really upset me and ruined the party from my point of view," a confrontation which doesn't include actually telling the person they were rude, even though they were. If the person was being intentionally rude, child-shaming them in this way is not likely to reform them even though it relieves one's feelings. And as an Aspie who's made her fair share of mistakes and had a massive amount of moral condemnation and shaming as a result - I would've in most cases responded to a simple "please don't do x" and I would have been highly distressed to learn that x had upset someone. And my experience of people who would do something like this out of aggression is that they are always looking for an excuse to go to war. The only way to deal with them is to slam down boundaries quickly and without reciprocating their aggression - if you want to de-escalate.

As for the central question: do I have to invite her? No, especially not if it's a private party, because paries are not enlivened by the presence of people who insult you; and further disruption merits an explicit ban. That doesn't change in the face of putative special needs either, unless you get confirmation that she really has a diagnosis that would warrant making accommodations for her somehow. The OP's duty is to all the guests, not just to a single disruptive one. It's the OP's job to get across a successful performance and manage the party for the enjoyment of all, which means keeping out people with a record of being disruptive.
posted by tel3path at 4:13 PM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hm. My take is slightly different. I think the OP took what the guest did very personally when it wasn't meant to be so, and while I don't think there was anything really wrong with letting the woman know that her behavior caused some offense, nothing was gained by it. She didn't apologise, from what I gather, and in fact she basically said she would not be comfortable hosting an event where she was not free to speak as she wished. Either she didn't understand that you simply don't interrupt pieces in progress for critique, or she is a rude person. But the reason that she's cordial to the OP is probably because the event, while looming large for the OP, was a non-event to her.

Must you invite her? No. Invite her if you want to see her and her dancers, but you aren't obligated to do so. She might not even show up if you did. Were it me, I would probably invite her and make sure that there is some announcement that interruptions will not be tolerated during the readings and hope she obliges. But you don't have to invite anyone that you don't feel comfortable with to your party.

It's just starting to seem a bit "tempest in a teapot" ish to me, from the responses.
posted by sm1tten at 7:31 PM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

tel3path, I would respectfully suggest that your association of the word "rude" with a paternalistic, condescending attitude is a personal thing and not something shared by the general population.

The reason why people do outrageous things is because nobody calls them out on their shit. The OP can decide whether or not "reforming" the offender is something that's important to her. My take is that her responsibility is to herself, and whatever WELL, ACTUALLY lady wants to take away from the experience is a separate (and individual) matter, and not even remotely the OP's obligation or concern.
posted by trunk muffins at 10:09 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's a matter of etiquette that correcting another adult's manners is rude; it isn't my personal opinion. " is incorrect to correct grown people, even if you have grown them yourself." (Miss Manners)

As I said, though, I doubt that it makes any difference to the outcome as the heckler is someone who's going to do her own thing anyway. I don't think it made the situation dramatically worse, and conversely I don't think that critiquing the heckler's manners is an absolutely essential weapon in the Standing Up To Her arsenal without which the OP is left defenceless.

Instead, I think it's a distraction. OP says "hey that was rude," heckler says "freedom of speech/my own venue." It opens a debate about whether and where the heckler may properly heckle, when the desired outcome is for her to stop heckling and to suffer some consequences for having done so. It would just work better to say, "don't do that, if you keep doing that you have to leave." And then just not to allow her back, or allow her back under conditions of "these are the rules."

I might change my view if the OP were asking how to have a Pro Heckling Smackdown, but I'm not sensing that she wants that. It might be popular if she did, though, and in that case she should totally invite the heckler, and heckle her right back by any means possible, certainly not stopping at "hey that was rude." There's a nearby thread full of good insult suggestions; I like the one about "manners of a Yale man" myself and would relish an opportunity to use it.
posted by tel3path at 1:46 AM on November 26, 2011

It's certainly worth noting (although starting to veer from the topic) that there's a good reason the standard advice for conflict management is to use "'I' statements" and that "That was rude" is very much not one. I think it's clear that it was the OP's intent to communicate "What you did made me very uncomfortable" but that may not have come across.

So yeah, I think it's a good idea that you attempted to set some boundaries, although sure, you could also work on your technique a bit. And I still think that the situation is such that you are totally justified in not inviting this woman and if she shows up anyway managing the situation a little more proactively.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:17 AM on November 26, 2011

Response by poster: One more thing. There's an actual "drum-dance" listserv, which of course goes out to everyone. It'd be a disservice, of course, not to post there, but there's no way to post to it without her seeing it. An invite is an invite, eh?
posted by Prairie at 10:58 AM on November 27, 2011

If you're going to post a more or less public invite, then yeah, it's on to plan b: managing the reading to head off heckling and drama.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:45 AM on November 27, 2011

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