Sunday, May 30, 2004

The Conversation Police

Perhaps I should have written this while the indignation was still running hot in my veins. I’m not sure I can do the story justice now, several hours after the fact.

A friend of mine visited today—enduring the 2 ½-hour drive to come up to visit for the afternoon. We decided to go to a local "watering hole" for lunch. It’s a cute little brew-pub in a picturesque setting on one of the scenic winding roads through the hills that separate Scappoose from a more populous part of the Portland metro area. The Rock Creek Tavern. Notice and remember the word "tavern." It is important.

Jackie and I don’t get to see each other more than three or four times a year. We are both intelligent, relatively well-educated women (she more so than I). When we get together, the three of us (including my husband in this triumvirate) hold relatively lively historical and political discussions. We share the same political outlook, for the most part, so these mostly consist of analyzing what’s going on in the country today, looking at events from the historical perspective, and wondering why people in the country and/or current administration are so clueless.

We are seated at a table at this little brew-pub. We order our meals, and sit back to enjoy our conversation. About ten minutes into our meal, a young couple, probably late twenties, comes in with their two little boys—one about three years old, and the other more or less a babe in arms…maybe eighteen months.  With a choice of just about every other table in the two-story restaurant, they choose the one right next to us. Serendipitously, my seat at our table provides a full view the Perfect Family settling in for their afternoon meal. Shortly after sitting down and ordering, the 3-year-old proceeds to dump his entire glass of milk on the floor. Little mom musically intones "Uh-oh!", chases the glass across the floor, and motions for the waitress, who has to come and mop up the mess. Five minutes later, we hear *clink * "Uh-oh" again, and Mom and waitress are mopping up another mess. I am casually observing these episodes, while engaging in the lively conversation going on at our table…and thinking how glad I am I don’t have little kids, and how I would not be taking them out to lunch at a sit-down restaurant if I did.

The spill-a-thon seemed to come to an end, and I became completely absorbed in the talk at our table. Pretty much forgot about Perfect Family. All of a sudden, Little Perfectly-Coifed Female is standing at our table, and in her best "Concerned Mama" voice, says: "Excuse me, we’re sitting over here at the next table, and we have our two little boys with us. We noticed you are using quite a few naughty words that we really don’t want our boys to hear. I wonder if you could please be a little more careful about what you say… Thank you!" And she takes her little pink-twin-setted self back to her table and sits down.

My husband, after muttering an apologetic, "Oh, okay…" to this unbelievably nervy woman, just keeps talking…he would have been happy to alter his conversational style for her. That’s the way he is. My girlfriend doesn’t really swear, so I’m sure the request was not actually aimed at her (not to mention that she’s just nicer than I am…) But I…I am absolutely incensed. Jackie and Matt keep talking, and I just sit there with my mouth open. "I cannot BELIEVE that woman just came over here and said that to us!"

The more I thought about it, the madder I got. I tried to refocus my attention on whatever topic we were discussing, but I was completely derailed! I kept saying to my dining companions, "Can you believe her? I can’t believe her! Who does she think she is????" Finally—I just can't stop myself. I get up and go over to her table (my husband does not try to physically restrain me, but he is looking to crawl under the table to shelter from the approaching cyclone). And in my sweetest, "Concerned Mama" voice, I say, "Excuse me, but I really can’t believe that you just came over to our table and said that. If you want to hear only G-rated conversation, you need to either stay home or go to McDonald’s or something… You just really irritated me." I guess this was not the most articulate thing to say, but I was still suffering from extreme shock at this babe’s demonstration of sweet, smiling brass cajones. And I turned around and plunked my ass back down at my own table.

Now, many of you out there in J-Land are "Concerned Mamas." But I can’t believe any of you would take your children tolunch at a tavern, and then proceed to lecture the other patrons on the choice of language used in their private conversations. Did I overreact? Did I underreact? Can YOU believe the nerve of this babe? Has anyone else ever been accosted by "Super-mom" at a restaurant? Let me hear from the Journal Community.


  1. OMG!!  You just described ANY tavern luncheon date with my best friends and/or my husband!  The nerve of that smarmy little nothing!  My hubby would've gladly retweaked his language, as would most of my friends--or, as you suggest, not even used THAT language in the first place-- but that is NOT the point!  What were the young domestics thinking?  We'll acclimate our children to the smell of beer and pub fries early on... but let's be sickening little parents who look upon language as more hurtful than, say, manners?  If my parents took me to a pub when I was 3 (and I would not be surprised if they had)-- you can be darned sure I would NOT purposely spill my milk.  I'd have heard some LANGUAGE then, boy!

    I'm with you.
    They call me~~

  2. hestiahomeschoolMay 30, 2004 at 10:45 PM

    Well, my nine year daughter was at a Beer Garden last night with my husband and had the time of her life..but she hears some pretty colorful language around here at times. She has been known to utter a few lively terms herself. When I separated my shoulder at the dojo a few years ago, she heard words she did not know I knew! Since we are trying not to teach the baby to say them, we are all trying to clean up our 'potty mouths' around here.
       The woman gives real Super Moms like me a bad name. ROFL  What she SHOULD have done was move to another table, or just quietly explain that other families have different rules about what is acceptable.
        I don't have problems with people taking their kids out to eat--I do it all the time--but I do expect that they behave. Dumping glasses of milk intentionally just would not happen. I also clean up after my kids.
       The only time I ever say anything to anyone about language tends to be to young men who are walking around my neighborhood shouting F@#$ at everything (just in case you ever have aspirations of being an AOL pick I'll keep it clean) or referring to women as parts of their anatomy.  I give them the gimlet mom eye and they invariably are embarrassed.  I ALWAYS say things to someone uttering a racial slur, which doesn't happen here much, even though we are the official Gateway to the South.
      Just today I corrected the little boy I am hoping to adopt who was calling the girls "peckers."  I asked him what it meant, he didn't know, and I explained that it is not a polite term for penis, and that the girls don't have one anyway. :-)

  3. Sorry, I am just chuckling.  Friends and I were talking yesterday about whether we have done too much for our kids -- the perennial conversation of parents of teens and early 20s.  I can assure you that interrupting another group at a restaurant to ask them to curb their language reaches a level of overprotectiveness that I don't think even any of us ever imagined.

  4. LOL  This "perfect" mom is in for a huge surprise when her precious little angels start school!  Alas, "naughty" words can be heard all over the playground, even in the very young grades.  What's she going to do then?  It's up to her to practice what she preaches and hope her kids follow her example.  It's up to her to teach them that people express themselves in different ways.

    And I agree with you; a family with small children has no business being in a Tavern.  They want to have lunch in a Tavern?  Hire a babysitter!  They should've switched tables if they were so uncomfortable.

    I wish I had some of your courage to assert myself like this at times.  Kudos to you.

  5. Nope, would never have taken young children to that type establishment- why would kids be allowed in anyway?  Sounds like young mom needed to stick to her own table anyway and teach her kid how to behave.  From what you describe the 3 year old didn't have an accident, he/she intentionally poured the milk out.  That's a no-no, not an ah-oh.  Kristi

  6. I'm glad you stood for yourself.  You don't take children to sit-down adult restaurants until they're old enough to behave themselves in that environment.  You also don't tell adults how to behave themselves. You tell children what your expectations of their behavior are, and then you enforce them.  That milk spilling sounded more like attention getting than an accident. I've got problems with the "propriety police" of this world. The language an adult uses is their choice, and you tell kids that you hope it's not their choice.  I'm a fairly proper person, but my language is savory.  My daughter learned context is everything! As for taking children to a tavern, I'd have to see the place.  One of our favorite restaurants has pub as part of its name, but it's really a family friendly place.  I don't think real taverns, pubs and bars are any place for kids

  7. I'm not really one to use a lot of "naughty language." But, eaves drop on my conversation and your ears might burn red. It's not necessarily the words used but the topic of my conversation that would have made that woman turn three shades of purple. However, whether it's a tavern, or McD's I'll talk about what I damn well please. If she doesn't like it, she can move. I'm a paying patron just like she is. When she pays my tab and pays my rent and everything else to maintain my lifestyle, she can tell me what to say in a public place.  Good for you for speaking up! :-) ---Robbie

  8. Lisa--You're my new HERO!!!!

    What's hysterical about this...other than the nerve of the lady coming to your table to tell you to PG your conversation, and YOU hightailing it over there to give her a peice of YOUR mind, is the fact that most parents feel just as you do.  When we go out to eat, we want to GET AWAY from the kiddos and the spills, and the noise, etc., too.  You are absolutely correct in saying that they should not be at a tavern with children.  And if they were SO offended, then THEY should have asked to be moved to a different table.  Some adults, upon becoming parents, seem to feel the need to act like a parent to just about EVERYONE.  

    I applaud you for not tossing a drink in her face...Way to show restraint!!!!

  9. First let me say this You Were At Rock Creek Tavern and didn't call me?????LOL
    My husband and I too like to go to Taverns for burgers they just seem to have the best! ANd when we want to only deal with grown ups that should be the venue of choice. And it is amazing how often people bring their children to Taverns and then expect everyone to accomondate them.  Just doesn't make sense to me. When my children were small we went to family restaurants...not grown ups places!

  10. I can't believe that she approached you....they should have switched tables.  Those children are not growing up on a private island...strong language in a place like a bar is part of living in our society.  If it's that offensive to them, I hope they take that into consideration the next time they're thinking of walking into a tavern.  The kids are going to hear ALL those words and more eventually.  I doubt the kid even picked up on it...but if he did...then mom would have had an opportunity to share her values with him.  You are not required to live your life set to her expectations.

  11. Well, if the place isn't appropriate for children, I wouldn't take mine in there.  Of course, I don't have any problem with taking my child to eat at a "sit-down" restaurant, and never have.

    However, if this woman had a problem with your conversation, then she should have moved her family to another table where she couldn't hear it.  It was extremely rude for her to think she had a right to dictate how your conversation should be.