The Steampunk Empire

The Crossroads of the Aether

Bombasts, Bullys and Boors: Little Irritations in Social Situations

Now, I know all of you have encountered these people at events, conventions and even innocent tea parties.  They come in all shapes and sizes and sexes (Yes, I did say sexes.  People have sex.  Language has gender.).  They usually show up at the event late. Often they are inappropriately kitted out (that means "dressed") and baring an attitude.  This I can tolerate.  After all, we don't all have three closets full of clothing to choose from and everyone has a dreadful day now and then.  But it is what these persons do after they arrive, overdressed, under-dressed and cranky, that really annoys me.  

Shortly after arriving the BBBs, as I will call them, will corner one or two unsuspecting persons and begin to complain about the sad state of the community.  They whine about how they have been treated online.  They criticize the costume of others as being "not Steamy enough' or "too punk", or worse they hold forth about what is, or is not Steampunk and how everyone is doing it wrong.  They complain about how disappointing the last event was and how stupid, silly or ill-planned things were, without ever offering to jump in and help to make the next event, convention or tea party, better. In fact the BBB's will hold forth for hours about how much better the party would have been if they had been in charge, while never, ever volunteering to any organization to plan or just help out in any way.   Often a BBB will brag about projects they are engaged in and how fantastic this will be at the next convention, while never producing anything.  Then they will take their wet blanket and circulate it around the room, eat, drink and generally turn a convivial company into a sad collection of people fleeing as fast as they can pack up their tea things.  Then with their work done and a "hale fellow well met" smile, they will beat  a hasty retreat before anyone can ask them to stay for the clean-up.  Every community seems to tolerate one or two of these people.  Heaven knows why, but they do.

My usual response to such persons is to flash my fan/parasol, and politely excuse myself from boorish company.  Lately, I have grown weary of allowing the BBB to rule the room and break up the party. I am not good at the snappy come back and usually think of just the right witticism, fifteen minutes after the moment passes.So I am hoping ya'll will help me to compile a list of polite questions to interrupt the flow of such persons and regain control of the conversation. The bar is reached when  you hear one more word than you are willing to listen to, or you are feeling so uncomfortable you are looking for a reason to excuse yourself.  Please post your BBB stopping questions or statements in the comment area.

Please use civil speech and try to restrain snarkiness.  The goths cornered the market on snark some time ago and I wouldn't want to trespass.




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Comment by CoastConFan on October 3, 2012 at 5:55am

Hmmm ... Try changing to the Dioginense Club, the clubbers there get removed for rattling their morning papers too loudly.  I sat across from this fellow Mycroft and never got a peep out of him and his brother is also a prating bore who is always on about writing monographs.

Comment by Prof. Sebastian Fate on October 2, 2012 at 8:34pm

CoastConFan might be interested in Noah Meeraum's discussion ' Reactions and phrases to appearing in public well dressed ' . Most of the inter-actions noted are amusing ( my encounter with a seven foot tall biker notwithstanding ) and seem to be highlighted by curiosity on one side and good manners on the other .

I was reminded of this when the Club bore button-holed me the other day . There are some situations that cannot be avoided .

Comment by CoastConFan on October 2, 2012 at 8:00pm

Bullies are a quite different animal than simple transgressors of etiquette.  Boors are generally uninformed or ignorant about their behavior, whereas bullies purposely act badly.  One is due to ignorance and the other is about low-self esteem and a need to control others.  That doesn’t excuse the behavior of either one, it just sheds a little light on it.

Most people don’t know how to express their curiosity about differently garbed people and simply don’t have to tools to ask politely, if asking is actually irresistible.  By keeping your cool and sense of humor, you can defuse an awkward situation and put the person at their ease.  Generally, folks don’t mean any harm, they just lack experience in social situations.  It’s up to you to teach them the gracious skill of social chatting. 

To lighten up the mood a bit, here is an amusing example of sidewalk hogs in San Francisco in the 1880s:

Comment by Miss Cherries Jubilee on September 9, 2012 at 10:04pm

Yes. you are quite right Ms Brynn.  A boor can not be blamed for ignorance, but society can be blamed for allowing said person to remain ignorant.  Boorishness, bombasty and bullying can be cured when a group decides that it wants to include everyone and it is willing to allow that we all come from different places, with different customs, but we are willing to gently educate.

I am looking for ways to do that.  Social civility is one tool that a community uses to maintain the peace without quashing creative discourse.  How do we do this in such a way that if a person chooses to remain ignorant, they will also choose to quite our company of their own accord.  

Should a person who consistently exhibits anti-social behavior be allowed to continue?  No. But how do we approach the  person and get  our needs for civility met, without becoming verbally violent ourselves? 

Comment by Brynn Watson on September 8, 2012 at 12:31am

I think the assumption we are supposed to make is that these people are interfering directly with the enjoyment or happiness of those surrounding you, incurring the temptation for self-defence or the defence of others. 

I think the question is how to go about defending/protecting yourself and others without being in turn mean to the person in question. 

Have I got that right, Miz Jubilee?

Comment by Svenja Hansen on September 7, 2012 at 9:57pm

Can a boor be honestly blamed for simple ignorance, I wonder? 

Granted, I can attest to the frustration boors often cause, but how is one to get a proper handle of a situation is they're put into a category such as that? Surely classifying someone as a boor could potentially lead to bullying?

Comment by Prof. Sebastian Fate on September 6, 2012 at 5:08am

The comment about bombasts reminds me of of an astrological piece lovingly preserved by Madam Fate , my guide in all things , as a warning : ' Will attempt to explain the Hare-Clarke system of voting . This will occur regardless of your interest in same . Any attempt to change the subject by , for example introducing the subject of quince jam into the conversation will be met with a dissertation , in this case on the mechanics of gelatin production . Can be relied on to to express a definitive knowledge of air-freight prices in the Congo and the reproductive habits of dysfunctional quokkas . '
The Professor likes to feel that he has mellowed over the years .

Comment by Miss Cherries Jubilee on September 5, 2012 at 10:18pm

I think I should explain what I mean by bombasts, bullys and boors, just to make clear why I think we, who are in society should step in when they go too far.

A bombast is a man or woman who holds forth on almost any subject as if giving a lecture to undergraduates in a third rate college.  These men and women (and there are women) will admit no facts to displace them from their podium, or moderate their views on the subject.  They tend to do this loudly and with little regard for the views of others. They are always, always right....even when they are not.

A bully is someone who uses, cynicism, snarkiness, put downs and criticism to bolster his or her superiority.  Often they are also gossips who speak unkindly about people who are not there to defend themselves.  these people are often critical of others who are not present to defend themselves, often this person is their wife, husband or child. I include, bigots, chauvanists and just plain 'mean girls' in this category

A boor is someone who has the habits of someone who unwittingly (I use this word deliberately) says or does things that most people find mildly unacceptable in mixed company.  They usually don't mean it, and are confused at the reactions they get to what they think of as the simple truth from their point of view.  I am usually more tolerant of these folks because I assume they don't know better or can't help it; unless what they are saying or doing is deliberately unkind.  The truth can be cruel and a boor needs to know that just because something is a fact doesn't make it socially acceptable, much less kind.

I am not adverse to walking away from such people.  What I object to is that they invariably cause such a kurfluffle that all the good humor seems to drain from the room.  Sometimes they are very amusing, in a cruel sort of way, but this changes the whole emotional tenor of the company.

Comment by Brynn Watson on September 5, 2012 at 9:18pm

I think the difference between a boor and a bully ought to be emphasized here.  Boors often can't help it, and must, therefore, be allowed to continue.

Bullies must not.

Comment by Spiro Dimolianis on September 5, 2012 at 8:49pm

Generally, when a woman prefaces a complaint with gendered language, it is usually another woman she complains of. 

Having said that, I would advise caution, a deep corseted breath... and check demurely around the room if others are so affected by the subject BBB. If so, you are not exclusively paranoid and so, the offending subject is only encouraged with further witticisms. Withdraw and seek company with more congenial kinds, strength in numbers and all that.

However, if others are not so stricken by the said subject BBB, I can not better advise than the wise Prof. Sebastian Fate has enunciated. 

Good luck and may the Steampunk fates smile upon your sweet fairness.                                                         

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