Perhaps my conservative nature is to blame, but I never cease to get amazed by the number of people I come across who lack social awareness, people who are utterly devoid of social boundaries, they believe it is okay to ask you, for instance, why you still don’t have children yet you’ve been married for a couple of years. Or how much you earn, or even how much you pay your house help.
What is even more perplexing is that most of those who ask such insensitive questions ask them for the sake of asking them. In a nutshell, they are simply nosy ill-mannered people, and in some cases, they just want to embarrass you or compare themselves with you to determine who’s doing better than whom.
These are the ones that start a conservation with, “I heard that…” which basically means they have either been listening to or seeking gossip about you.
If you admire my shoes, outfit, curtains or hair and ask me where I bought them and how much they cost me or where I had my hair done and at what cost, I will readily tell you, after all, such information is not sacred, and we women readily plug items that we’re satisfied with.
We also tend to ask one another such questions all the time, whether we know each other or not. In fact, just a few weeks ago, a woman, a perfect stranger I came across in a supermarket, stopped to admire my nails and even asked whether she could take pictures to show her nail technician. I happily obliged. Next time she went to the salon, she informed me, she would get the exact design – we graciously smiled at each other and resumed our shopping.
When it comes to clothes, shoes, household appliances and even furniture, we take it as a compliment when someone asks where we bought the item. Or how much it cost.
However, there are some questions you should never ask someone, especially if you don’t share a close relationship with this person, simply because it goes against social decorum. And also because it is none of your business.
Think about it, you are sitting with a group of colleagues you don’t know very well at a work function and you’re making small talk. You start discussing the rising cost of living in the country when suddenly, one of them turns to you and asks, “How much is your rent?”
Now imagine eight pairs of eyes staring at you expectantly, waiting to hear how much you pay your landlord. Or how much you cough monthly for your mortgage. Another scenario. You bump into someone you haven’t seen for a couple of years, and, as you catch up, you tell her where you work, only for her to slyly ask, “Do they pay well?” Now, if there was ever a difficult question, it is this one. You therefore give an evasive answer, “Is money ever enough?” If she is the kind that is shameless, or lacks social decorum, she will insist, and say, “Roughly how much?” You will then say, “It depends …” and then abruptly change the topic or pretend to be in a hurry, bid her goodbye and leave. Money is never an easy topic to discuss.
I don’t know about you, but such prying questions offend me because I believe there is some information about you that should be sacred, information that should not be privy to every Tom Dick and Harry.
I should also mention that it’s rude to comment about someone’s weight…
The writer is editor, Society & Magazines, Daily Nation.