LETTER OF THE WEEK
My husband and I run the local branch of a nationwide organisation
– a lunch club for retirees, basically. My friend and neighbour – I shall call her Maisie – is also active in the club. She has been generous with her time and other resources. But over the years she has made many hurtful comments to individuals and couples in our club, including us. Her longsuffering husband is also berated and humiliated in public. I don’t really know what lies at the heart of this, though I fear drink is an aggravating factor.
The newest members tend to be the first to be picked on, so I have been taking them aside and warning them to be wary of Maisie. But I feel more needs to be done to curb her behaviour. My husband and I feel responsible for maintaining a happy, sociable and inclusive atmosphere at events, and to that end I recently spoke to Maisie, who refused to countenance the notion that she has ever spoken out of turn, instead accusing others of being over-sensitive.
I now feel she is such a loose cannon that she should not be welcome at future events. (I hear she has recently been banned from a local restaurant, for being rude to their customers.) I have taken advice from club headquarters and they agree. But this is a harsh decision, and a big step with irreversible consequences. Can you advise?
JUDY AND NICK, SUFFOLK
Dear Judy and Nick
you’ve told me about her, I guarantee she won’t go quietly. It’ll be carnage. So why are you considering triggering Armageddon? If I’m frank, I think your motives are mixed.
Let’s go through the case against her. Maisie belittles her husband in public. So? Lots of wives do that (and so do husbands) and they’re not escorted off the premises. Granted it’s not a pleasant thing to witness, but fundamentally it’s a matter for them, not you.
You say you “hear” she’s been banned from a local restaurant for rudeness – not to staff, but customers. That’s an odd story. You’ve obviously heard it secondhand. Are you sure it’s true, and not just gossip? Either way, it has no bearing on your lunch club, does it?
Now the real stone in your shoe. Maisie’s a difficult customer and she’s been personally rude to you both. Understandably, that rankles. But you go on to say you “fear drink” may play a part. Hmm. Again, you don’t know that, do you? It’s pure surmise on your part and you don’t offer any evidence for it. Sorry, Judy (it was you who wrote this letter, wasn’t it?) but I’m beginning to detect a grudge here.
If this were a court case and I were the judge, I’d throw it out. Especially considering Maisie’s likely plea of mitigation: she’s been a long-serving, active supporter of the club, generous with her time and other resources. If you want to give her the chop, you’re going to have to come up with some pretty high-calibre reasons, and I don’t think you have the ammunition.
Look: I accept Maisie is tricky, but the world’s full of tricky people and we have to rub along with them. My advice next time she’s rude to you is to challenge her. Don’t be confrontational, be firm. Calmly tell her she’s being offensive and that you won’t accept it. If she insults a club member, intervene; take her aside and clearly explain why it’s not appropriate.
Stand your ground and be prepared for a bit of a row. Believe me, it’ll be a light skirmish compared with the pitched battle I hope I’ve averted.