RELATIVELY RUDE RELATIVES

It has come to my attention, the lack of etiquette, politeness and manners prevalent in our society. As I have written a post on rudeness amongst people under the pretence of honesty, do not worry, I am not being redundant. This post is aimed at a more mature crowd. In fact I am speaking about mothers, grandmothers, aunts and middle-aged women who have reached a stage where they feel the rules of etiquette are no longer applicable. (Please refer to the definitions at the end of the post for further clarity)
Many would have started reading and immediately agreed, stating manners and etiquette are certainly lacking in the youth of today. As the youth are not my target for this post, all I will say is that if the youth lack manners, perhaps we should look at their direct role models and elders in the family before blaming them.

Recently, I have encountered many puzzling questions, statements and incidents, and in each case I shook it off as, “it’s okay, that’s just how inquisitive people are”. Until I realised, that I am allowing the rudeness prevalent in society to be seen as “normal”.
I realised that I would never ask such questions possibly because my mum would reprimand me and my dad would be disappointed with my rude character.

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I would really like to know: when has it become acceptable to be rude or inquisitive? When has it become acceptable to pry into other people’s business? When did tact fall away without any notice from society?
In fact, being offended is more of a social crime, than posing questions of offence.

Below I have listed the common rude questioners we come across in society. Please note these are all true stories.

1. The Cross- Examiner:
This individual basically plays a game of 20 questions with you, that you didn’t even know you had signed up for. Most often experienced in supermarkets, it warrants an occasion where there is a time constraint?. However, recently I visited people and felt interrogated before stepping into the house. The questioning took place immediately after I opened the garden gate before having set foot inside. The questioning is often done so quickly that you barely have time to respond, return the question or to think.
Eg: “Salaam, when you came?
With who you came?
How long you here for?
Where you staying while you here? How you came? You drove or flew? I heard your grandparents are sick, what’s wrong? You aren’t studying anymore, what are you doing? You don’t have a job? What did you study? How long are you here for? when are you leaving?

After I got hit with these questions (which are not rude), I began walking towards the entrance of the house and thought: “Well, now what are we going to spend the evening talking about, I think we covered everything”.

In a supermarket setting the style is the same, especially if the cross-examiner has not seen you in five years, which means more questions to ask. Remember that a conversation comprises of an exchange of information, thoughts and ideas.

2. The “Concerned Fertility Specialist”:
After you get married a common question that is asked is: “so when are you starting a family?”. This is not necessarily a rude question when asked in specific contexts. However, I find this to be a sensitive question because it delves into such a personal entity. Often it is asked as: “So when you having a baby?”
Firstly, the questioner might not know that the woman may have been trying to fall pregnant for years, or has had several miscarriages or cannot have children, or may just not want children. If you are close to the individual then I cannot dictate politeness amongst friends or “BFFs” but like I said, these questions are often posed by women whose business it isn’t. I find it to not just be rude, but insensitive as well. Some go as far as to ask “is the problem with you or your husband?”.
If you have fertility advice to offer then write an article, or perhaps approach the person alone and ask for permission. Sometimes the woman has been offered so much advice from so many “concerned” individuals that she is just frustrated and the whole experience is more exhausting.
It really isn’t okay to ask, but if you do, is your next question going to be on their contraception preference, or advice on more effective positions to enhance conception? NO!
It is not your business unless; however, you are a fertility specialist.

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I recently attended a Thikr (religious prayer session remembering God). As I was serving the savouries, I saw an older woman who I realised out of respect, I must definitely greet. This is the conversation that ensued:
Me: Assalamualaikom
Aunty: Walaikumsalam, you got one isn’t??
Me: (puzzled expression , one what? samoosa? boyfriend? car?) what ??
Aunty: oh no, that’s Ayesha, you not married.

Obviously, she was talking about a child. I walked away in absolute shock. The elders are the gems in society. These are our gems!
What I would have liked to say is that I just got back from five years at University and I am not married, you be glad I don’t “have one”.

This brings me to the next type; which I am sure many of you can relate to.

3. The Matchmaker: “No life, without wife”
“ so when you getting married?”
“ Why aren’t you married?”
“ Nevermind, shame you’ll find someone”
To be honest, I initially felt that I am at a stage in my life where these questions are normal and so getting offended by them is really silly.
I do feel that however normal they may seem, I wonder if they are in fact just rude or if people are over sensitive. I realised that before I enquired about an individual’s marital status, (which is less abnormal at my age), I search for signs during the course of the conversation, for instance a wedding ring. (Remember that word: “conversation”, the fluff we exchange to be friendly).
I also noticed that when given the chance, women mention their spouse or their in-laws or even their children. For some reason people prefer to skip the small talk and pry about the individual’s marital status, like it is a 911 call: “Do you have someone?? Are you alone??”
Recently I met distant relatives , the lady mentioned that her last born daughter Fatima, was not feeling well. My mum commented that her “baby” is also named Fathima, and it is funny how the babies of the family are often a Fatima. (yes, I am 23 and still the baby).
The lady having not spoken to us the entire evening then asked: “you’re the only one not married?”
I was not phased at first, but later realised that it was tactless especially since she knew absolutely nothing about me, yet the question was somehow relevant. Did she even know my last name?

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NOTE: A low IQ is no excuse for bad manners. Politeness has nothing to do with your intellect. I know of many intelligent people who are rude and uncouth.

However, on this story, the next day I met other distant family. The Uncle asked me if I was getting married anytime soon, and said he was hoping he would have a reason for a visit. He then proceeded to say that he would make duaa (pray) for me. He then raised his hands and started reciting a prayer for my health, for a spouse, my future, my education and my happiness. I was really touched. He did not pry, he asked sincerely then made an earnest prayer. Amazing!

4. The Disability Privilege
These are people who are given a social pardon and allowed to be rude and not adhere to general manners and rules that apply to the rest of society. This is for no other reason than: because they are consistently rude. I once complained to a friend saying that an individual was rather unexpectedly offensive and my friend replied by saying: “but you know her the longest, you know how she is, she’s always been this way, we should understand”. In that moment I realised, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. That being said, your social stature, pride, wealth or qualification does not excuse you from social etiquette. Although there is no book of law, there is such a thing as common sense.download (11)

 

These are the four main types, in my opinion. However, after speaking to other people, I would like to add some general questions that should be avoided. I noticed people can be rather straightforward when asking about Indian heritage ie, “Are you Memon?”.
Furthermore, do not ask traumatised people “What happened” after a traumatic event or when you go over to sympathise. Instead offer words of comfort and wisdom. if you don’t have any, pray or Google some words to use.
When asking career related questions, do not ask them how much they paid for their seat into medicine (I found this funny because I could not believe this was asked). Then don’t get offended when they say they didn’t pay anything.
Lastly, don’t assume that an individual’s sole purpose is to find a husband. I mentioned to a friend that I was going overseas for a holiday and her response was: “Shame, maybe you’ll find a husband there”. I responded by saying: “Yes, seeing as I have dated every single eligible bachelor in this entire country, my only option now is to find a suitor overseas” (I am not sure if my sarcasm was well received).

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I would like to end by sharing some important lessons I learnt from a book I am reading (When you hear hoofbeats think of a zebra, by Shems Friedlander).
When the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was asked: “What can I do to improve myself?” he responded by saying: “Hold your tongue”.
Another useful lesson is to remember that the manner in which you carry yourself is reflected on your children and for that you will have to answer to your Lord: “That child is going to imitate not only your actions but the subtlety of your feelings”.
Finally remember that the tongue is the sweetest of objects in this world, it has the ability to give comfort, heal hearts, ease souls, and bring happiness. At the same time it has the ability to create irreparable wounds, break hearts and destroy lives. So be weary of what you choose to say using your most powerful tool

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Please share with your relatives especially those you know it applies to. However, let us begin by setting a better example.

Note: It was suggested that the post is a reflection of my progressive “millennial” modernised thought processes. However, the essential theme is not based on the insipid questions being asked but on the social etiquette and manners lacking within those insipid questions. If anything, my views are based on out-dated, old-fashioned principles.

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Definitions:
Etiquette: conventional requirements as to social behaviour; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion.
Rude: discourteous or impolite, especially in a deliberate way, without culture, learning, or refinement. Rough in manners or behaviour, unmannerly; rough, harsh, or ungentle, harsh to the ear.

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