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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My library branch has been closed for about a month, so I understand that it's natural for people to want to catch up with those they haven't seen in a while. Today, though, the catching up took an unwelcome turn for me.

Older Man I Barely Know (looking at my left hand): "So you didn't get married? Still alone?"

Me: "Not alone. Just not married."

Man: "There is a documentary about staying single in America. It's on the internet."

Me: "Okay. But I'm not single."

Man: "You should look it up."


Stop asking, stop assuming, stop commenting.


I know there are worse things that can be said, but still: it's tired, it's frustrating, and it's insulting.



  1. I find it interesting that he knows about that particular documentary. Is he single? Why would this be in this thoughts? I like to think about the crap that people spew and how it applies to themselves. (It helps me be less offended -- SOMETIMES.)

    My answer when people ask me why I'm not married is that it's not legal in my state yet.

  2. That's a good question! I know he has kids/grandkids and he's said stuff to me before about not being married - (I've told him I have a boyfriend, I guess that doesn't count) - under the guise of "concern," but it comes across to me as totally condescending and intrusive. Just talk about something else! The weather! Books! Anything!

    Great answer. I bet that shuts them up. :)

  3. I agree 100%! It's rude and insulting.

  4. I usually tell the patron that my personal life plays no role in my library work, and can I help them with something? This usually moves the conversation away from anything personal (relationships, religion, etc.).

    I am married, but my fingers had a reaction to the rings and now I can't get them back on again. So, no rings on my fingers to alert the wondering public if I'm a spinster (yeah, I'm old enough they would call me that) or not. *Shrugs*

  5. I have had a patron (older, male) walk up to me and out of the blue start berating me for being a liberal, close-minded, and too much a part of my generation. (What?!) When I tried diplomatically asking him what he was talking about, he accused me of "not reading" (really?!) and being uninformed. Unfortunately, this was not a one-time thing. I work in the Local History department of my library and would have to stay in this room with him for hours at a time when he came to research. Almost every month, he comes in at least once and berates me (and was especially difficult to ignore during election season!) I struggled with how to deal with this situation, especially since it was so frequent. While it is important to stay removed from the situation and respond politely (all the good things they teach us in school), eventually I felt I had to stand up to him. Just because I'm the librarian doesn't mean he can treat me like dirt. I told him one day that he was being a bully and I didn't appreciate that he was bullying me. It didn't really work, but I finally felt like I had asserted myself in the situation, which made me feel a bit better. This is something I wish they would discuss in library school: how to be diplomatic and assertive in negative reference situations.

    1. Yikes! I'm sorry that happened to you. There is a definite balance between remaining polite/professional and not getting stepped on.

      (Also, I should have specified that this was actually NOT a patron, but I thought maybe that would be saying too much). :)

  6. Whenever anyone asks me why I'm single/not married/don't-have-kids I slap my forehead and say "Dang! I knew I was forgetting something!" and move on to the next subject. Works every time.

    1. Yeah, I usually use humor to diffuse situations or avoid awkwardness but there comes a point when you just get TIRED of it (or it's a bad day or the situation is just inappropriate).

  7. They look too hard at my left hand, they get a smack. Just their good luck there's no rock on there.