Miss Conduct

Blond frustration

Fair-haired and fed up with the jokes, plus stumbling across important news on Facebook

By Robin Abrahams
February 27, 2011

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I am the only person in my family who is a natural blond. I married a blond and have blond children. And yet people still seem to think that it is acceptable to tell me dumb blond jokes. How do I respond to these jokes that make me squirm?

L.M. / Boston

This opinion will surely get me many outraged letters: Respond to blond jokes with insults of your own or aggressive statements of your intellectual superiority. But, you may ask, doesn’t that mean you’re sinking to their level? Of course it does. Sinking to the other person’s level is often the most effective and, oddly, kindest way to get through to them. The sorts of people who will tell a blond joke to a blond who has not previously expressed a fondness for such jokes tend to respond better to direct verbal assault than to earnest discourse. (The latter will either make them all defensive and snorty or else horribly self-conscious and apologetic, more than you’d like to deal with.) In short, they’re trash talking you, so trash talk them back.

If someone tells a blond joke to your face, respond flatly and vapidly, “I don’t get it.” Keep repeating this until the joker realizes he’s been played. Then either tell a really good joke of your own or change the conversational topic – ideally to an area of your own expertise. Respond to an e-mail with “This blond is too busy [describe what you do in as impressive a way as possible, or just say ‘studying molecular physics’] for stupid jokes on work time.” Delete any follow-up e-mails unread. Don’t let on that you find blond jokes hurtful – what you find them is boring and stupid.

If anyone gives your kids a hard time, though, put on your most serious Mom Voice and tell the person that calling kids dumb, even in jest, is not a thing that cool adults do. I guarantee this will work, because whatever protests the joker makes, you can then nod knowingly to your kids and say, “See? Not a cool adult.” (Depending on the age of your children, seeing an adult so blatantly betray a fellow grown-up might induce dangerous levels of glee. So you should be prepared to remind them that even uncool adults still deserve our kindness and respect.)
I am on Facebook and check it semi-regularly. I don’t post anything meaningful – I am a private person and don’t want to tell everyone my thoughts. Recently, I found out on Facebook that a friend’s young brother died suddenly and another friend had a baby. I plan to send a condolence card and a baby gift, but is there any reason for me to state how I learned the news?

J.F. / Cambridge

Did you know, before Facebook, people might have read such news about their friends and neighbors in the daily paper? It’s true!

Forgive my snark. I recognize that technologically advanced societies are ceding privacy at an alarming rate. But really – people who accuse Facebook and Twitter users of narcissism or lack of discretion are every bit as tedious as those cyberfriends who post what they ate for breakfast. So please, stop judging those of us who like to use a convenient technology to share thoughts on politics, child raising, pop culture, or the weird sounds our upstairs neighbor is making. Regarding the life events of your friends, do as a mannerly person reading of a neighbor’s fortunes in the paper would have done 40 years ago: Send an appropriate message and/or gift. Mention how you learned of the news only if it is relevant, such as if your correspondence was belated or the online sentiments were particularly well expressed.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a Cambridge-based writer with a PhD in psychology.

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