Tea and repression

Today, Éila invited a friend from school to play. Aw, sweet. Except, she invited herself and her schoolfriend into someone else’s house. Awkward.

I ended up chatting with my good friend in her kitchen while her daughter, my daughter and my daughter’s new schoolfriend played upstairs, watched over by the schoolfriend’s mom (who we’d never met before). We tried to persuade her downstairs to join us. We tried to start up a conversation with her. She remained monosyllabic, unsociable, and there.

Rather than stay for a cup of tea as I usually would, I left after ten minutes, dragging Éila, sobbing and complaining, with me. The schoolfriend’s mom took the hint and left too.

I was responsible for inviting a strange woman into someone else’s house and I could only have felt more uncomfortable if I’d been direct and told the woman her child wasn’t welcome to come and play. Curse you, British upbringing.

You see, in the course of writing this, I’ve realised that the point is not; "wow, how weird was that other mom?", but rather, "why should I expect everyone else to know the unwritten rules of British social interaction?" The problem is that Brits are unlikely to tell you if you break a rule, they’ll just be extraordinarily polite. But then the rules dictate that we’re always extraordinarily polite. You might figure it out eventually… depending on how much tea you can stomach.

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