Real Simple's Modern Manners columnist Catherine Newman shows you how to quiet a Chatty Cathy.
Q. My 85-year-old aunt loves to go to the movies with me. It’s one of the very few outings that she seems to enjoy. However, she talks incessantly during every movie, saying things like “Oh, look—that lady has a blue hat on!” or “I don’t like that bad man at all.”
It irritates me, but, worse, it seems to ruin the experience for people around us. (They turn their heads and glare.) I don’t want to stop taking her, but I fear saying something to her. (She can be prickly.) What should I do?
A. When my husband and I first saw Titanic in the theater, an elderly woman sitting behind us announced anxiously to her seatmate, moments after impact, “I don’t think the ship can sustain that level of damage!” We still laugh about it. Which is not to say that your fellow theatergoers are necessarily amused by your aunt’s outbursts (although they may be) but to suggest that people might be more compassionate than you imagine.
But if we’re talking about more than an odd utterance here or there, then people are bound to lose patience with your aunt, especially given the high cost of movie tickets these days. Still, I wouldn’t sit around waiting for someone to admonish your elderly aunt and tell her to pipe down. If only for your own sake, address the issue head-on.
To open the dialogue, mention the fact that conversation seems important to her movie-going experience. She may be surprised. (In fairness, she might not realize how much she’s gabbing away.) Point out, gently, the frequency of her commentary. Then float the idea of allotting time after the film during which the two of you can share your thoughts.
If she insists that she enjoys movies more when she can talk during them, suggest that you switch to popcorn and Netflix at your home. Sure, you might miss out on a plot thread or two, but that’s a small price to pay for treating your aunt to an activity she adores.
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Want to Ask Your Own Etiquette Question?
Submit your social conundrums to Catherine at realsimple.com/modernmanners. Selected letters will be featured on the website each month.