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Response to "Immaturity"

Posted by Robin Abrahams  October 5, 2012 05:46 PM

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 Monday's question, if you recall, wasn't. It was more of a litany of complaint by a middle-aged married woman that her single best friend hadn't exactly grown up. I wasn't at all sure what to think of the letter myself, which made it an excellent candidate for your collective wisdom. 

First off, I apologize for posting a question about farts when you apparently the commenting software has banned that word. This was the behavior in question: 

She belches loudly, passes gas indiscriminately, and forages for food and beer in my fridge whenever she comes over. 

Like Impstrump, I had a few questions: 

I'm curious why the LW is only starting to find this annoying, and I'm very curious why the LW thinks the fact that the friend is single might have anything to do with why she finds this annoying. Does she find it less objectionable when her married friends [pass gas]? I'm also wondering why LW thought bodily emissions and fridge rummaging were funny and irreverent 20 years ago. I've always taken those things as a sign of a relaxed and intimate relationship where you can share anything, but I don't find anything particularly funny or irreverent about them. (That might also be why the friend is looking puzzled. If a bodily function happens and your friend says "I'm not finding that funny," wouldn't your response be "Um, what makes you think it's supposed to be?") 

"Maybe it's because she's single" raised a few red flags with me as well. Frankly, if anything, I'd expect heterosexual married women to have a more laissez les bon temps roulez attitude about gas-passing; husbands tend to wear one down on that score. The LW seems very much on the edge of devaluing the friendship. This is no criticism -- people change and not every friendship is lifelong. katemc takes the LW's side eloquently: 

I would bring it up directly with her, since you've already tried gently and the behavior continues to bother you. As it would any other grown adult--those are some basic manners that she's missing out on. I would be quite surprised if a friend came over and helped themselves to our fridge without me asking them to. And of course, passing gas and belching are never okay in front of others. Except for your immediate family, wherein belches are hysterical. But consider how do those behaviors affect you negatively?--the foraging ignores boundaries and respect for your space and things; the belching is distracting and embarrassing if you're out in public; and the gas is just gross. In short, because they all show a lack of respect for you, they could all be making you feel uncomfortable or hurt, which is hard on your relationship, which is very special to you. 

I have to wonder, though, if you have a choice whether or not to be "uncomfortable or hurt" by another person's biological functions, then choose not to be. In short, if the LW is finding her friend so suddenly intolerable, she should ask herself what has changed, and proceed accordingly.
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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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