Emotional Hardbody Answers
Dealing with curmudgeons who play by their own rules at the movies
Dear Emotional Hardbody,
My boyfriend Perry and I went to a movie the other night. Before the movie started, we were occasionally whispering comments to each other during the trailers when this curmudgeon sitting next to Perry leaned in and said, “Excuse me.” We both looked at him, thinking that he was going to ask us a question like “Is this the right theater for Gravity?” His glare made us realize he wasn’t asking a question at all. He was reprimanding us for not being silent during the trailers.
Both Perry and I thought this was ridiculously rude of him. We would have understood getting barked at had we been talking during the feature presentation, but a whispered comment here and there during the trailers doesn’t violate the generally accepted code of movie etiquette as far as we’re aware. Since the movie was about to begin, we let the whole thing go. Besides, we didn’t want to risk making the guy go all Gran Torino on us.
About halfway through the film, the curmudgeon whips out his cell phone and starts obsessively checking the score of the University of Texas football game that had just kicked off. Even if I agreed that whispering an occasional remark during the previews was some sort of crime (which I don’t), it’s way more distracting and rude to stream ESPN on your cell phone during the feature.
In addition to being rude and having supersonic hearing, the guy apparently had a bionic eye, too. He spotted Perry’s Longhorns tee shirt in the dark and that prompted him to offer to keep his phone propped up so he and Perry both could keep an eye on the game. This was an offer Perry couldn’t refuse. For the rest of the movie, the two made quite the odd couple, quietly celebrating and bemoaning the ups and downs of the game together. By the time the credits rolled, the old guy was all smiles, shook Perry’s hand and apologized for snapping at us during the trailers.
On the way home from the theater, Perry and I had an argument about the whole episode. My take: the old guy was one of those people who believes he gets to decide what the rules are and to whom they apply. He, of course, is always exempt. When the old guy whipped out his cell phone and asked Perry if he wanted to join him in keeping an eye on the game, I think Perry should have called him out on his hypocrisy, or at the very least given him the cold shoulder.
Perry’s take: the old guy had a conversion of sorts precisely because Perry was a nice guy about it. I don’t buy this for a second. Sure, Perry's a nice guy, but I guarantee you the next time the old man deems someone else is breaking the rules, he’s going to be just as rude to them as he was to us.
Can you settle this argument for Perry and me? What’s the Emotional Hardbody take on the curmudgeon's behavior?
No Patience for Grumpy Old Men
Can you handle the truth? I agree completely with your take on the man and the rudeness of his behavior, but I disagree with your blaming Perry for anything. Why is it Perry’s job to read your mind and fight your battles? Just as you have a right to decide how to interpret a situation and then decide how to handle it, so does Perry. Perry apparently thought that the old man came around on his own, so nothing needed to be said. You thought he still needed to be told. You were sitting right there. Why didn’t you tell him?
An Emotional Hardbody doesn’t play the “damsel in distress” role. She speaks her mind and stands up for herself. You did neither. If you had something to say about the hypocrisy of this man's actions, it would have been completely reasonable for you to let him know your thoughts. But it’s not fair for you to decline to do so and then be mad at Perry because he didn’t either.
The moral of the story? Rather than waiting around for Superman to save the day, make like Wonder Woman and be your own superhero.