Monday, March 15, 2010

Inappropriate Dinner Conversation

FRUSTRATED IN NEW HAMPSHIRE writes: Last night, I attended an elegant dinner party at the home of a friend. She served a delicious meal on a table set with crystal, bone china, silver and a low centerpiece of fresh flowers. Everything was perfection -- with one exception. As soon as we were seated, our hostess's elderly Aunt "Ethel" began talking about her health, with graphic details of every symptom, every allergy and every pain she had ever endured.
Other guests tried changing the subject several times, but Aunt Ethel evidently believed she was being entertaining. Among those at the table were a lawyer, a teacher and a friend who had recently returned from living several years in Africa. Each had more to contribute in the way of conversation. But not one got the opportunity to speak more than a few words before Aunt Ethel was reminded of yet another ailment she "knew" we'd find interesting.
How does one handle an awkward situation like this? In spite of her age, the woman is essentially in good health and ours is a small town. She'll probably be present at many more dinners. -- FRUSTRATED IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

Dear Frustrated,

Though a bit unsettling to the digestion, I don't think it's your place to say something to Aunt Ethel. If you're close friends with the hostess you could try discussing it with her so she could talk to her aunt for future dinner events. As the hostess and relative of the "offender" it should be up to her to mediate the conversation. If this is not an option, you can always opt not to go when you know Aunt Ethel will be attending. If enough people do this, Aunt Ethel may get the hint.


  1. Great advice.

    Sometimes old people forget that people don't want to hear about their bowels.