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Return of the Etiquette Bitch


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This must just be my week to encounter the asshats of the world.

The location: Target, Brooklyn

The Aisle: Bath Accessories

The asshattery: I narrowly avoid a half a half-eaten hot dog, some tin foil and several mustard-stained napkins on the floor. Just in front of me, two girls maybe 5 and 7 glancing back at the offending detrius and giggling. Their mother, oblivious, pushes a shopping cart ahead of them.

“Excuse me, did you drop this?” I ask. (Nicely. Nicely! I promise.)

The girls freeze.

“Did you drop this?”

“No,” the older one says not entirely convincingly. She then points toward her sister. “SHE did.”

“Well don’t you think maybe you should pick it up?”

They run to catch up with their mom who glares at me with such venom, you’d have thought I was asking them to pick up my own garbage.

“Just leave it there, girls, ” she hisses without taking her eyes off of me. Her eyes linger on me for a moment longer before she turns and continues down the aisle.

“EXCUSE ME,” I call out, in prime scene-making mode. I scurry to catch up with her. “Your girls DROPPED GARBAGE ALL OVER THE FLOOR. Don’t you think maybe you should encourage them to clean up after themselves?”

She ignores me, making a beeline towards the elevator.

I give up.

I’m shaking now, more angry than frustrated. Not at the bad manners of the planet’s denizens, because yeah, there’s a ton of that. But because here are two little girls who are going to grow up with no conscience, no manners, no respect for themselves or others, and wonder why the world just isn’t bestowing upon them all the riches and joy that are, of course, owed to them.

In my mind, I run up to the woman and tell her all this. In my mind, I snatch up that disgusting half-eaten hot dog, fling it into her cart and shout something exceedingly clever and impactful that I just can’t think of right here.

In my mind, a crowd of nearby shoppers then breaks into spontaneous applause, mothers sing my praises to their children, a manager shakes my hand and offers me a free $500 gift card towards my next Target purchase. Then George Clooney appears and whisks me away to Lake Como.

(Oh, my mind is a very wonderful place. Come visit sometime, won’t you?)

You know, here we are, we parent bloggers, all so painfully introspective. We discuss every nuance of parenting, wondering whether we praise our kids too much or breastfed too little. We debate the media children are exposed to, we bemoan the amount of time we give to our babies when there’s work to be done, we feel guilty for wanting a little of ourselves back. Meanwhile, there’s an entire subset of parents out there who haven’t even bothered to teach their kids page one of Rules We Live By In This World So that We Don’t Suck.

I think I’m getting my period.

89 shards of brilliance… read them below or add one

Thea July 3, 2008 at 2:05 am

OH MY. You were much braver than I would’ve been. I would have just picked it up and made sure that my children saw someone, ANYONE, doing the right thing.


Mom101 July 3, 2008 at 2:09 am

Oh t, I’m embarrassed to say I wasn’t with my children. Just me being crazy all by myself.


VerWaynia July 3, 2008 at 2:11 am

I think you totally should have said all of that! And, I’m still stuck on the part about your target having an elevator!


madgetastic July 3, 2008 at 2:20 am

You are my hero.


MrsWaltz July 3, 2008 at 2:23 am

Okay, ditto the first two (external) comments and…would it be okay if I asked you not to perpetuate that “assertive woman = PMS” myth? I hate that almost as much as people who don’t understand the not sucking rule.


Mom101 July 3, 2008 at 2:28 am

Oh Mrs Waltz, I can assure you that I can be assertive regardless of where I am in my menstrual cycle. I have dozens of coworkers who will attest to that.The fact that I am shaking mad about litter? PMS.


Wendy July 3, 2008 at 2:31 am

I think you’re getting your period, too, and there’s not a thing wrong with that. I would have done exactly the same thing. Here’s to a better week. =)http://www.notesfromthesleepdeprived.blogspot.com


trifitmom July 3, 2008 at 2:48 am

it is understandable that kids will act that way, but it is NOT when the mother acts that way !!!


mothergoosemouse July 3, 2008 at 2:58 am

It’s more than litter. It’s about taking responsibility.My mouth literally hung open when I read the part about how the mother told her daughters to leave it there. FOR SHAME.


Karen Sugarpants July 3, 2008 at 3:01 am

That is horrible! I’m with Julie – my mouth was open…gah!


motherbumper July 3, 2008 at 3:03 am

Wow, I think I shop two aisles over in your head. My visions of handing out the well deserved comeuppances is very similar.Anyhow, I find the lack of manners these days – and the balls on some kids these days – appalling.And with that, I have officially become a mom – specifically my own. Oh gawd, I finally get her. This was like, some kind of therapeutic breakthrough – thank you.


Motherhood Uncensored July 3, 2008 at 3:05 am

Okay, I admit that I’ve left toys in the wrong spot when I’m running after my kids, but hot dogs? Shit, I clean off the tables for the waiters let alone leave my be-ketchuped pig lips and testicles on the ground.


Marinka July 3, 2008 at 3:08 am

It’s incredible to think that a mother, a MOTHER could tell her children to leave the garbage on the floor. What kind of person thinks that this is a good idea? Does she want them to throw garbage on her floor? Excuse me as I channel my mother.


crunchycarpets July 3, 2008 at 3:31 am

Sadly I didn’t even blink when I read that because it happens all the time..


GHD July 3, 2008 at 3:46 am

I applaud you (and that’s not just in your head). You are awesome.


Christina July 3, 2008 at 3:54 am

Like others have said, the real kicker is the mother told them to leave it. There is a huge percentage of children being raised to think they are owed everything and the world is theirs to use as they see fit. It makes me so angry.Childless friends have asked me why we chose to have kids, considering the current lack of respect and decency that seems to be predominating the upcoming generation. They don’t see why we would want to bring children into such a world. I keep reminding them that someone has to off-set the asshats out there, and my hope is that my girls might be two of those people who want to do the right thing.Oh, I hope someone puts a big scratch down that woman’s car. Or that her daughters start throwing their trash on the floor at home for their mom to clean up.


Pamela July 3, 2008 at 4:09 am

Good for you for saying something. I would have done the same thing. People are raising little beasts.You should have been applauded. I am clapping now.


VDog July 3, 2008 at 4:12 am

Littering gets my goat as it is…but this? Disgusting.


Lotus (Sarcastic Mom) July 3, 2008 at 4:18 am

In your mind you flung it into the cart? You were nice.In my mind I was cramming it down her throat.Eh.


SUEB0B July 3, 2008 at 4:28 am

You’re right to be angry. That just stinks.


kittenpie July 3, 2008 at 4:38 am

I would have to say – you may be getting your period, I don’t know from your cycle, but I think anger at asshattery is fully merited. And this? Okay, so two little girls drop a hot dog and their mom doesn’t notice, fine, that could happen and I wouldn’t be totally appalled, because kids are still learning. But the mother? WTF is wrong with her? She is old enough to know that’s not okay, and should be telling them that, not suggesting that they are fine and you are wrong to expect someone to pick up their own damn garbage. And not just garbage like a gum wrapper or something, which would be rude but not completely disgusting, but actual messy, nasty food, too, which somehow makes it way worse because it’s going to require real cleanup. Gah. Now I’m pissed, and I wasn’t even there! And I’m not getting my period. Though I am pregnant, so there is that.


Heather July 3, 2008 at 4:46 am

Ugh… I would have picked it up and said “you dropped this” and put it in her purse or forced it into her kids hand.I am so distraught at the lack of respect and pure orneryness of children, it galls me when kids tell me “get out of my way”. My girlfriend scolded a child at the park the other day after 2 other people told him to stop his behavior, and he tried to glare her down.Could there be a name for us? You know, like the ‘religious right’ only ‘mommyhood right’ or something?What really scares me is that my son starts kindergarten in the fall, and these kids are going to be his peers. He’s going to be invited over to these households, eek!Love your blog!


Lady M July 3, 2008 at 6:36 am

That’s how kids learn it’s ok to litter and be irresponsible. And even more sadly, it’s the same way they learn to be racist and sexist – by seeing how their parents behave.


Lara July 3, 2008 at 6:37 am

hey, if you’re craving an opportunity to lay down a little asshat smackdown, come over to my place and help me with the troll i have who called me “psycho” and said only “desperate guys” would ever want to be with me. asshat much? why yes, yes indeed.and yeah, that mom? i would have shoved the hot dog down her throat. or up her… well, i don’t want to taint your comments too much.


Backpacking Dad July 3, 2008 at 8:17 am

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I didn’t realize I had asked a stumper. Let me try again: ‘Would you like to eat this hot dog?’ Not answering counts as a ‘yes’.”


margalit July 3, 2008 at 10:12 am

I believe I head the Massachusetts chapter of the “What the Fuck are You Teaching Your Children, Asshat” club. I do the same thing all the time. I’m the mom that tells kids to pick up the stuff they knock over at the grocery store. Or to pick up the garbage they tossed on the ground at the park. I can’t stand this kind of behavior and calling out the parent and pointing out that they’re teaching their child bad citizenship is, in my opinion, part of that Global Village Hillary Clinton talks about. IOW, if you’re such a moron you can’t teach your own kids manners, then hey, someone else will. And make you look like a chump at the same time.Just a warning. When your kids turn to teenagers, they will abhor you when you do this. They will BEG you not to. And you will ignore them.


Ruth Dynamite July 3, 2008 at 11:45 am

You spoke up – as well you should have. Not enough people are bold enough to speak out in support of basic civility.Of course, you could have just pitched the half-eaten hot dog at the mom.


Reff July 3, 2008 at 11:53 am

Funny…in my mind the argument turns into a girl on girl cat fight.meeeoooww!


Kelly July 3, 2008 at 12:56 pm

I think it’s suitable to be shaking mad. How about violent? Once, as I was taking my eldest to get a haircut, I saw a teenage girl throw an empty Icee cup on the ground. The kicker was that she was right in front of a DQ, resplendent with multiple trash cans. In the instant that I registered what she had done, I had the briefest desire to exit my car and punch her in the face. Sometimes I think I need to get back on some medication. I read the greatest scene in the Carl Hiassen book Sick Puppy. A man gets revenge on a highway litterer (he tossed fast food trash) in a convertible by getting a dump truck buddy to unload a steaming pile of refuse into the offender’s open roof. It was, for haters of litterers everywhere, a karmic wet dream.


Woman on the Verge July 3, 2008 at 1:06 pm

It makes me so sad that a generation of future leaders and parents are being raised in this way. What ever happened to teaching your child to be a good person. Overall. To be respectful of themselves and others? Of others belongings? This really just pisses me off….hopefully the few of us trying to raise good, well rounded kids will offset the asshats out there who are raising more asshats.


lifeandtimesofawickedstepmom July 3, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Wow.. just wow.. I can’t believe that she told the kids to just leave it… I am starting to worry that the asshats are outbreeding us.


mrs. q. July 3, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Yippee for you. You already did more than most of America. She’s wrong and she knows it. Now her kids know it, too. There’s nothing that makes me more crazy than parents being idiots in front of their kids. It’s like the time I almost got run over in a crosswalk by a guy speeding in his pickup truck; I yelled “HEY!” He flipped my off while his 4 year-old son sat in the front seat. Of course, he was not in a car seat. Feelin’ the love…


Kat E July 3, 2008 at 1:53 pm

You are my hero!And I thought it was bad that kids weren’t being taught to say “excuse me” anymore.


Chicky Chicky Baby July 3, 2008 at 1:55 pm

You should have hit her with your cart. No, not a very nice thing to do but it would have felt good.


BHJ July 3, 2008 at 1:56 pm

I hate Target.


RuthWells July 3, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Am I the only one who thinks the Etiquette Bitch deserves a kick-ass super hero costume?


birdgal July 3, 2008 at 2:23 pm

The gall of that mom absolutely stuns me and in a sad way, I guess it shouldn’t really. I can just picture those two girls as grown-ups, driving with a cell phone plastered to their ear and throwing their Starbucks cup out the window as they drive…..


My Kids' Mom July 3, 2008 at 2:27 pm

I have a fantasy of getting out of my car at a red light, picking up a smoldering cigarette butt dropped by the passengers of the car in front of me, walking up to their window and saying “I think you dropped something” and returning it to them.We have to also teach our children that not everyone has good manners, good respect for others or for the Earth. They’ll need to know how to compensate for those people as they grow up. Sad but true.


SoMo July 3, 2008 at 2:36 pm

I think I would have been more rude by just saying loudly, “OH MY GOODNESS, kids. Look at that disgusting trash on the floor. DON’T GO NEAR IT. It may be diseased.” Then again, my daughter might have just done it for me and scream, “LITTER, LITTER, LITTER” until someone, me, picks it up and throws it away. I can’t take too much credit for that, because from my understand her teachers have been teaching them how to trash the Earth.I simply thank God, everyday, that THOSE are not my children. And know that the lady probably lives in a pigsty.


Alexa July 3, 2008 at 2:41 pm

Amen, sister friend. Enjoy Lake Como.


~Kat~ July 3, 2008 at 3:55 pm

Please. Don’t. Ever. Let. Me. Hear. You. Blaming. Your. Common. SENSE. On. Your. Period. PERIOD!You are too smart for that nonsense. You are brave and you are doing your part to wake people the HELL up Liz! Bravo Bravo Bravo!I’m getting so damn sick of the lack of emotion and empathy that is sweeping our country. I’m ready to take my kids and hide out in a lovely little cave in the woods so that they never know the pain and heartbreak of people just not giving a shit about each other and their communities. You can join me if you want… but you better not call me a Masshole ;)


ChefSara July 3, 2008 at 4:13 pm

The sense of entitlement I see among SO many people really upsets me. This situation is just one manifestation of it. It’s the same sort of entitlement that causes traffic accidents because people feel they don’t need to follow the rules, that have led to our planet turning into a giant dump, and to communities disintegrating. It saddens me, and I HOPE that I can raise my children to understand community and responsibility, and not selfishness and entitlement.


Vermont Mommy July 3, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Now I don’t feel so bad for making a 10 yr old (girl!) pick up ALL of the garbage that went spewing all over the park when she karate chopped it to fall over. Great satisfaction to see a 10 yr old “badass” kid pick up SOMEONE ELSE’S garbage with her own two hands. Thank goodness her mother wasn’t around…See you at Lake Como. I’ll be with Matt Damon drinking chianti.


Fairly Odd Mother July 3, 2008 at 6:08 pm

Justice will be when the girls drop crap all over their house and their mom tells them to pick it up. They’ll turn to her sweetly and say, “but you told us to leave it there”. Or even better, they’ll drop a hot dog in their apartment and a giant rat will come in and eat the entire lot of them while they sleep.Ooops, was I typing out loud again?


yannayoga July 3, 2008 at 6:09 pm

I just bought two books I think you’d enjoy by Munro Leaf. How To Behave and Why and Manners Can be Fun. They were recommended in a recent John Rosemond column. I hope you get a chance to read them. My kids loved them more than I expected.


caramama July 3, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Yeah, Liz! You are my hero again!Ditto what mothergoosemouse and others have said. I just can. not. be. lieve. people!!! What is wrong with that woman? When confronted with what is the right thing to do, she STILL didn’t do it!


Lindsee - The Mom Diaries July 3, 2008 at 9:39 pm

What a great example that mother is setting!I wonder about people like that – who exactly did she think SHOULD pick it up off the floor?That mother is the one who’ll be fighting with her daughters later over having to clean up after them. Or better yet – maybe she has a live in maid who’ll “take care of it”.


Antonette July 3, 2008 at 10:07 pm

I agree with you totally. I would have picked the dog up and followed them to the elevator and tossed it in the cart with, “WELL MANNERED people clean up their own messes.” Seriously, some elderly person could have stepped on it, slipped and broken a hip.The woman probably leaves her dirty unmentionables all over her floor.


jdg July 3, 2008 at 11:45 pm

okay, I’m going to go against the general grain here and admit that if I had been the parent whose kid had stupidly dropped something on the floor and someone came up to me and said what you said to this woman’s children, I would have reacted the exact way she did. probably with a few more fuck yous.nothing personal liz, but I have my issues with weird judgmental suburban moms where I live and I fucking hate it when people get confrontational about parenting stuff, even though I’m sure it’s always completely justified in their minds. if this was just about a hot dog on the floor, I’m sure she wouldn’t care. but underlying the confrontation is judgment about her children or her overall parenting ability (which you even allude to later). I don’t know. I’d like to give this mom the benefit of the doubt and assume she knows it’s wrong and if she’d known about the hot dog drop without third-party interference she would have taken care of it, but because of the confrontation she resorted to the same kind of defensiveness I often fall into when confronted in this manner. she probably felt really stupid and really bad later. and here she is getting trashed in cyberspace. I just know I’ve been that person in enough situations that I want to give her the benefit of the doubt.


Aprylsantics July 4, 2008 at 1:10 am

Gee. I was all ready to jump on this bandwagon until I read the last comment by dutch and have had a run in or two with some judgmental types myself. You just never know what kind of day she might have been having…Kinda no excuse, though. Anyway, it might have been fun to do a prat fall and slip on the hot dog (provided stunt training is part of your resume) and point accusingly in the direction of the girls and the mom. That might even have scored you that $500 gift card and a good dose of humiliation for the offending kids. Maybe you can use that one next time.


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