7) Rudeness of a very specific variety, which has something in common with everything else I claimed about: thoughtlessness. People just don’t think – or don’t care. I just had to walk out to the mailbox, which is partway across the parking lot from the office. We’re in an industrial park with a number of other businesses. There were two men standing having a conversation outside one of them about as far from the mailbox in the opposite direction as this office – that is to say, one was talking, animatedly, while the other nodded. The one talking sounded kind of annoyed – not angry, not outraged, just maybe annoyed; I couldn’t hear exactly what he was talking about, nor did I care to – except that I couldn’t avoid hearing “fucking” used at least eight times adverbially.
If I get cut off or nearly run off the road, I readily admit that I make good use of the word, generally as an adjective. But that’s alone in my car, and in a temper. It’s not a word to be used in public. And yet I was exposed to that conversation for what, two minutes? Eight times. I’ve been a little shocked before at how little people think about what they’re saying in public -outside where anyone can hear like these guys (there’s a kids’ gymnastics school right across the way – if I could hear him, so could anyone coming in or out), or in a restaurant, or the grocery store, or in an office, and in “outside voices”; I’ve mentioned how Evil Ex-boss’ favorite exclamation was “Horseshit!” He also was known to drop the f-bomb pretty frequently – well, consider the source). But I’ve had people sitting ten feet from me in an office either let it slip in conversation in front of me (on the phone, usually) – or in conversation with me, and I’m always foolishly surprised. Are there no barriers at all anymore about what is and isn’t appropriate?
It’s one of the reasons that historical fiction is both so quaint and so refreshing – at any time fifty years ago or greater, any man considering himself any level of gentleman would have chewed off his hand before being caught using a four-letter Anglo-Saxonism where a woman could hear. Now very, very few men seem to consider themselves gentlemen – I think most would laugh if the concept was mentioned to them.
It’s not so much that I want special consideration because I’m female – that’s stupid. I want special consideration because, in some of the instances I’ve mentioned, I’m a stranger and don’t want to hear it, and in other cases I’m a coworker or casual acquaintance, and a little more formality – simple politeness – is called for. Or used to be.
If I wasn’t at work with a pile of things to do waiting I could relate this to manner of dress. I touched on it incidentally on Walk in the Dust in my post about Leave Her to Heaven: Cornel Wilde spends a slightly ridiculous amount of time in a suit and tie. But the ridiculousness of it is as seen from 2010. In 1945, it was probably just about right. If the movie were remade today, he’d probably be wearing ripped jeans and a graphic t-shirt. Hat? Baseball, maybe. There is, really, sometimes something to be said for ridiculous conventionality…