AuntBossy-NewPlane Talk

Dear Aunt Bossy,


The other evening, I was returning from an exhausting business trip and was on the third flight of the day. I was, unfortunately, in a middle seat because I managed to get an earlier flight on standby.


            The woman sitting on the aisle reached across me and flicked her finger on a picture in the magazine I was reading (trying to forget I was in the middle seat) and said, “That’s nice.” I mumbled “yeah.”

            She then proceeded to ask me if I lived in Savannah. I gave a one-word answer: “Beaufort.” She then bombarded me with a tornado of negativity about how much she hated Savannah, had only been there two weeks and just quit her job and was only flying in to get her car and drive back to Indiana. Fortunately the flight from Atlanta is short, but she filled most of it with the diatribe. I didn’t want to be rude, but refused to be held captive, so I just nodded and made sounds and read my magazine.

            What do you suggest in this situation?

            All ears.

Dear All Ears,

I spend a lot of time on planes and hear you, sister. I never know what to do, but decided to give it a good think and advise both of us.

            You can always look confused and say “no English.” If your seatmate tries Spanish or French, you can always say, very loudly, “Croatia!”

            The other thing you can do is give nonsensical responses. For example:

            Other Person: “Do you live in Savannah?”

            You: “The doctor said it was a three month program.”

            Other Person: “I asked do you live in Savannah?”

            You: “I gave up spaghetti for Lent.”

            Other Person: “Do you live in Savannah?”

            You: “There are only twenty people in my religion.”

            I’m not sure I would have the nerve to do this, but it should work nicely. Give it a try next time and let me know.

            Also, never, ever start a conversation until you are landing.

When Dad’s a Downer


Dear Aunt Bossy,

            We are a minority family and have never let that hold us back. Once in a while my kids and I notice someone who has a problem with that, but we just laugh about their ignorance later. I always made sure my kids know lots of different kinds so they would feel comfortable in society, and we have never segregated ourselves.


            My husband is the problem. He is convinced that our people will never have a chance, that the white man is dedicated to holding us back, and that any criticism of a person of color is racism, no matter what they do.

            I don’t want my kids to feel this kind of hate and anger because it will poison them, but I don’t want to fight with my husband about it or have my kids live in a dream world. What can I do?



Dear Peacemaker,

This is tough. You are right to want to save your kids from the destruction of hate and anger, and still know their history.

            The best, and most effective, thing you can do for your children is to put them in situations where they can succeed by their own hard work, intelligence and gifts, so they develop true self-esteem. Too many people lavish their little ones with praise just for breathing. That doesn’t imbed the message that they are valuable, but teaches entitlement, which is never a healthy option. Everyone is good at something. Make sure your children know what it is and aim for the best.

            Secondly, you can be certain they know their history AND their place in history. In other words, they should learn the horrors inflicted on their race and the horrors inflicted on others. Thinking of oneself as the center of the universe is bad enough; thinking of oneself as the victimhood center of the universe will stop anyone in his/her tracks.

            Continue introducing your children to all sorts of people so they can experience fault and virtue across the board. This will give them a chance to avoid group -think and open up a world that really does want to love them.

            As for your husband, tell him you understand why he feels the way he does, but that there is a whole world out there waiting for your children and you don’t want them to be wary or afraid of most of the people in it.

            If your husband lays his trip on the kids, just take the next opportunity – out of his earshot – to point out that daddy is a great guy, but he grew up in a different time and has a hard time accepting change, good or bad. They will have experienced that in other contexts such as music, movies, dress, behavior, so it will not stick out like a sore thumb and will also not make daddy sound like a dolt.

            Good luck. It sounds like you are doing a great job at the most important job of all, raising loving children.

Aunt Bossy is Susan Murphy, an internationally known Communication Skills Coach who adores spending every winter and spring in Beaufort. Ask for advice at

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