Right Or Rude?

I was able to go to the grocery store this morning, the first time in about 18 months, and I was THRILLED. Having been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, this was the first day that I thought I could not only handle going but enjoy it. I felt good, not too achy and with just enough energy. YEAH for me, road trip!   I know I have simple pleasures; it doesn’t take a lot to make me happy. The sun was shining, it was over forty degrees and, list in hand, I drove to the store singing loudly along with the radio.

Once there, I was thrilled to walk albeit slowly down the aisles, looking at everything. I don’t just follow a grocery store list, I go through each aisle and look at every product. I know this sounds like pure drudgery for most people but I have always liked supermarkets( and if I am in another country I have to go visit their supermarkets) and I always want to buy the new products.

While on-line for the deli section I saw an old friend or actually someone I was friendly with, I will call her S. I was tickled to see S. and gave her a hug; I’ve learned in my 53 years (finally) that there are many different types of friendships. I asked her how she was and she started telling me “how difficult things have been in her life and how much pressure she has been under.”  I nodded my head sympathetically. She then elaborates and tells me that the PROBLEM is that she is remodeling her house (mini-mansion) and her brand new, ( sparkling -my word, not hers) stove did not get delivered on time!! She continues to talk about the remodeling and then switched topics to college and how she and her husband tried to get financial aid for one of their daughters but they have way too much money to qualify for aid. She and her husband are both professional people (okay, doctors) in the medical field and they do NOT have to worry about money. Apparently.

I stood there for a while and she continued to tell me her “troubles.” Finally, in a very nice, even tone of voice, I said the following: “You know, I’m sorry but I just can’t feel that sorry for you. My husband has been out of work for six months and I have been sick for the last two years with an auto-immune disease.” She then asked what auto immune disease I had and how long my husband had been out of work.” I answered her questions and she proceeded to tell me some local gossip.

I then saw another person that we both knew (let’s call her A) and we wished each other a Happy New Year. I said good-bye to them both and moved on to stand in line and pay. Before that, though, I heard  A. ask how S. was doing. At that point, everything changed.   S. said  “I don’t want to complain anymore after what Laurie just told me, I’m fine.”  I smiled at her and she smiled back. “It’s all a matter of perspective” I said gently and then I left the store.

I kept thinking about our conversation as I unloaded the groceries into the car. I was thinking of this family’s reality and mine. I was thinking of people in Haiti and the true problems they have.  I didn’t mention Haiti to my friend but I sure did think about it.

Was I right to have said what I said or was I rude? Or both?

5 thoughts on “Right Or Rude?

  1. At least a lesson was learned by S.; she may hesitate in the future when she assumes that someone wants to hear her “troubles.” A reality check is necessary when some people begin to believe that everyone is healthy, has money, and is in their socio-economic bracket and understanding of the world! I’m the realilty checker for my husband’s family.

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  2. I forgot to write something I had wanted to include. The good news is that you said *something.* That’s a step up from staying silent and then brooding about it. I think people can be awfully unconscious. I remember a rich man complaining to me about the price of a hubcap for his Rolls Royce. Really? That’s the biggest problem you have?

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  3. I don’t see it as a contest, i see it as a matter of perspective. this woman bragged about their 2 (dr.) incomes and because they made so muich moneiy and put 3 girls through college with cash, they couldn’t think about financiail aid. You are right, I could have said it another way but I wanted to be direct and not passive-aggressive. I think the way I said it, nicely, did not offend her at all. If it makes her think, not such a bad thing. thanks for your honestiy and candor though. I DO appreciate it.

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  4. I never really liked the “my pain is greater than your pain” approach. Like it’s a contest as to whose life is worse. Maybe somebody standing next to you at the deli counter, overhearing the conversation, would love to trade your problems for hers. It’s all relative.

    Rather than shaming her with your own problems, you might have said that your wish for her that her problems are never any greater than those she has now. It makes the same point in a less angry way.

    I also have come to see how this woman’s life may not be as wonderful as you think. They could be in debt up to their ears and not have the money for college. You never know what goes on behind closed doors. People who appear to have ideal lives rarely do.

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  5. Right. 100% RIGHT! At least S got a reality check and responded appropriately afterwards. I’m sure it is easy to lose perspective in the thick of a renovation but it’s certainly not like a health problem or worse, living through the earthquake in Haiti.

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