What Not To Say

To someone whose spouse has just been deployed:

The ME, ME, ME Person:
“Oh, well, you still have me.” Wow! I didn’t realize my husband leaving made this all about you. How lucky I am to still have you! The thing is, there truly are few people I like more than my husband, and simply put, you are not one of them.

The Pragmatist:
“Well, you knew he was in the Military and that this could happen.” Yep, sure did and you also know that your husband has a penis, so should he ever decide to put it inside another woman, please allow me to remind you of this fact. Same thing, don’t you think? After all, you knew he had said penis when you married him? (okay so that is mean, but I REALLY hate this statement.)

Misery Loves Company Person:
These are the other people who say nothing, barely registering what I have just said when they’ve asked how I’m doing. These people truly suck it because they seem to think that the best way to get my mind off of my husband leaving is to tell me about all the HORRIBLE problems they are having in their lives. Either that or they just don’t give a rip. Yes, I can see how tragic it was that your crock pot burnt out during its cook cycle. No, I really have no idea if the chicken was still good enough to eat. Oh, you ate it anyway? Little Timmy got the shits? And the dog too, huh? And it almost ruined the vacation plans you had with your husband? Hey listen, I have to go before I rip off your fucking head and use it to plug up Timmy’s ass…

The Zealots:
If I had a dollar for every time I have been invited to bible study to help me cope, I would have $27.00 after tithe. I am a spiritual person, but reading the bible is not going to help me understand why my DH is being sent away to invest in a seemingly senseless war. Instead of inviting me to a bible study, invite me to the white house. But then again, I won’t get any answers there either…


14 thoughts on “What Not To Say

  1. Athenae,
    I can’t tell from the two posts whether this is you or someone else. If it’s you, it sucks, and if it’s another woman/couple, it sucks, too.
    I’m so sorry, whoever the people are.

  2. > help me understand why my DH is being sent away to
    > invest in a seemingly senseless war.
    I can help you with that.
    “They can do anything to us
    that we can’t stop them from doing.”
    Catch 22 in its most pure expression

  3. I always just let the man or woman know that if they need any help with babysitting, yard work, snow plowing, etc., they can call me.
    I leave it up to them. That way they don’t feel obligated to call or alone if they do need help.

  4. Has it ever occurred to this person that she might make other people uncomfortable demanding everyone talk about her problems night and day? that; it’s rude for her to demand that she be the center of attention, and then to lash out at people when they say something she doesn’t want to hear?
    Sorry, but this person doesn’t sound any better than the rest of them. Those people all had their own lives and their own problems, and she shouldn’t be shocked that they didn’t treat her life and her problems as more important than her own.

  5. “Sorry, but”–shorthand for, “okay, I’m going to be a tactless asshole right now!”
    Yeah, having your husband deployed to Iraq issuuuch a whiny, distaff trifle.
    I think this rant was intended for you, Soulless. Sometimes you have to let people rant on & keep your stiff-upper-lip platitudes (however well-intentioned) to yourself.

  6. soullite,
    Where does it say in the posting that she demands folks “talk about her problems night and day”???
    The woman is venting about the crap she gets from folks that obviously have never been (and may never be) in her shoes. It’s almost like at a close loved one’s funeral when folks come up and say “How are you feeling?” or “It’s time for you to be strong now” etc… Platitudes that sound rather like the speaker is saying “I am so glad it’s you and not me in this situation – yay me!”.
    Saying something for the sake of saying something is stupid. Saying something you feel and when you actually care for the person who has just had the breath taken from them means a lot. It doesn’t have to be much, “I’m here for you” or just a good solid hug. Keeping it positive even though the risks are all too present helps – let your friend know you care, and suggest putting together a CARE package party. After having a friend that was in Kuwait for 14 months and Baghdad for about 10 months – it helped me to know I was helping him and his buds (I always put extra stuff) w/CARE pkgs to look forward to.
    I didn’t pick up that the woman posting was wringing her hands and gnashing her teeth to get attention. She just wants the cold, unfeeling platitudes to stop.
    If she reads this, I send her hugs and support and I don’t even know her. I feel for her and her family!

  7. “It’s time for you to be strong now”
    I very nearly punched somebody who said this to me once at a funeral. I mean, Jesus, really, ya think? Anything else you want to tell me about what I should be doing, friend of the family I’ve met exactly twice who knows fuck-all about me? Course, I was stuck in the “anger” stage of grief at the time.
    I think most people are just conversationally impaired. They want to help, they do mean well, but they just open their mouths and … gah, you know? I’ve put my foot in it enough times to realize there are times you just shut up and hug the person. Bring them muffins or something.

  8. Yeah, A, “…be strong now…” was said to me at my Grandfather’s memorial service. Followed w/”…for your grandmother!” Um well-meaning attendee…what do you think I had been doing for the past couple of years since the diagnosis of cancer? What do you think I had been doing overtime on since 7 months before when it was found to have metastasized to his brain and when I went w/him to his last radiation treatment that was doing nothing for him? What do you think I was doing when I had to chase down his morphine because the shitty-ass hospice service sent it to the wrong place and WOULDN’T go get it??? Yeah, I was being a total wimp for my Grandmother and myself and the rest of my family by volunteering to go buy baby food so that we could put his mashed up pain meds in there so he could actually swallow them…
    By the time the end of the memorial service came, I was zapped, I had no more strength to give or to even share w/myself. It was time to mourn. I had held out the most hopeless high level of hope until the end, and I had nothing left, most of all, my beloved grandfather was GONE. I was (and it still comes to me as if it was yesterday and not 12 years back) innocently befogged that my helping to care for him didn’t and wasn’t going to save him. I wanted to just disappear. My Grandmother was in a haze herself, I was unable to reach her, her mental illness had progresed too far. But her cousin and I commisserated on the comments we received at the church. She remarked in the car on the way back to the house “If one more person asks me “How are you doing???” I swear I am going to deck them and say “How do you THINK I am doing??? I just lost a family member I loved, I am having a high ol’ time!?!?!?!” She got a smile from me that day.
    If you don’t know what to say, just say “I am sorry” and hug the other person MEANINGFULLY and move on. Or just move on.

  9. Hasn’t anyone ever heard of the concept of empathy?
    Everyone deserves it. It’s getting to be a commodity in these Bush days of divisive politics.
    Even frazzled military wives deserve an empathetic word, deed or thought. Good God…that one about “You knew he was in the military” just made my teeth hurt to read. I might THINK that one, but I’d never SAY it to anyone except the worst Republican asshat.
    And it’s rare enough to find a real Republican asshat in that situation.

  10. Fighting wars, like paying taxes, is for the Little People, not real Republican hypocritical asshats.

  11. Despite the dreadful situation of the woman and the stupidity of the “helpful” comments she’s getting I’d like to remind everyone here to show a little generosity and compassion to *everyone* in these stories. I’ve been the mourner who got tactless comments. And god I’m sure I’ve been the person who mysteriously *failed to find exactly the right phrase* to comfort someone else. I lost my niece, dreadfully, many years ago. Sitting in the hospital with her parents and fielding the beyond tactless comments of the organ donation team I discovered that you can’t ever tell what is going to make the suffering person feel better–sympathy? sometimes, humor? sometimes. Prayer, sometimes. Refusing to pray, other times. Every year I write a letter to her mother to express my feelings and to try to comfort her. And I’m sure every one of those letters contained some infelicitous phrase, or rubbed her the wrong way, or came on the wrong day, and I’m sure that this year when I failed to write my letter she is pissed at me for that. Because its way easier to be pissed at the people around you than at g-d, or the president, or your husband for signing on with the military, or your child for dying. Let us be honest with ourselves and admit that some situations are so horrible that they can’t be ameliorated with a word or a gesture and we need to forgivethe people around us who are mysteriously not up to the task. It will take only a little turn of the wheel and each of us will be offering the sympathy we are rejecting now, and each of us who is rejected will be in need of sympathy.

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