don't remind me


An odd phenomenon we noticed on Staten Island: almost without fail, everyone who found out we were from Durham immediately asked us about the accusations of gang rape against the Duke lacrosse team. (Now that I think about it, the only person who didn't was the priest. Boy, that would have been awkward.)

I never really knew how to respond to the question. I think I said something vague to the effect that it was a terrible crime, which was exarcerbating tensions between the university and the community. Which response didn't seem to be what people wanted to hear. That confused me. I mean, what did they expect me to say? Maybe they were looking for a response like "They're guilty as sin" or "she's lying." Or maybe they wanted gossip about details that hadn't made the national news.

On the drive home Georg expressed his concern that if the case is still going on in May, we may end up having this conversation over and over again in Houston. We tried to think up a good answer that would derail the conversation, but we couldn't come up with anything. Georg's suggestion was "I think they should all be shot in the head." Eek. That might work, but more likely I think it would inspire an even more heated response.

But I couldn't come up with any decent alternatives. "Don't remind me" would require explaining why we don't want to be reminded. Pretending to be unfamiliar with the case would be even worse; the questioner might helpfully explain the whole thing to us. "I'm from Chapel Hill" would probably work; most people outside NC have no idea how close together the two towns are. But I don't want to lie about my town just to avoid an unpleasant conversation.

Any suggestions?


can you sort of sigh and shake your head and say, "yeah, it's a real mess" and then move on to some other topic?

I thionk you should pretend you hadn't heard about the incident. "What about the Duke Lacrosse team? Gang rape? Get out! That sounds awful! I'll ask people about it when I get back home."

Or, you could make up a whole new development in the case: "Yeah, the whole Satan worshiping thing really blew my mind ..."

what i had wanted was something so over-the-top that it would immediately derail all further conversation. but if fox news has taught us anything it's that there's nothing so extreme that someone somewhere won't try to top it. at any rate, that doesn't seem like the way to end the conversation. i think alicia might be closest. except i'd feel the need to be prepared for people who didn't take the hint to change the subject and either tell them flatout that i didn't want to talk about it. maybe i can memorize details of horrible crimes from all over the country so wherever they're from i can just change the subject to their local community crime.

Under these circumstances, I'd just be blunt: "We've been drowning in this topic for the past 3 months, and I don't want to talk about it any more." Or even, "Look, part of the reason I came here was to get AWAY from that mess." Then have a subject-changer handy, which shouldn't be much of a problem at an artcar event -- say something about one of the cars!

One major advantage to being at a gathering of enthusiasts is that a comment about something relating to their interest area will derail just about anything else. Why yes, I have spent a lot of time around gamers, why do you ask? :-)

Thanks for all the great advice! Since my goal is to end the discussion as quickly and politely as possible, I think I'll use Alicia's suggestion (yes, what a mess. How about those Mets?) with people I know and like, and Lee's (Ugh, I'm so tired of hearing about that. How about those Mets?) with strangers or people I don't care about particularly.

Lee, you're right that being at an art car event makes it easier to change the subject. I was really at a loss last weekend, since the event at hand was a funeral. Plus that made the subject of the gang rape seem even more inappropriate.

On the other hand, if I wanted to mess with people's heads, I would definitely take Lisa B's approach!

Well, since a trial hasn't actually taken place, and it's still under investigation, I really don't know WHAT to say. If I were asked I think I'd say something like: "Any rape is horrible and should be punished. If this accusation turns out to be true, then any participant or witness should all be punished to the full extent of the law. Until then, I really can't answer that question because I was not there and don't know the full (true) story."

I love Lisa's second idea. You could have some fun with it, although it would be work which totally defeats the purpose of your request - make up a list of false details, tell each person a different one, keep track of who got which line and then award a prize to the first one which gets reported as real on Fox News. Here are a few more suggestions to get you started:

"yeah, you know what I really feel sorry for is the chicken."

"you know, I used to date them and they were perfect gentlemen."

"really I think it's just a made up diversion from the point shaving scandal."

Strangely enough I was on talk radio in Asheville yesterday for two hours, even mentioned to the host that I used to live next door to the team and noted frequently on air that I am from Durham, and no one brought it up.

i ran into this issue at the full-frame festival this weekend. i met a good number of out-of-towners who wanted to talk about the situation now that they were actually in the city where it occurred.

interestingly, i took the same tack as you did, wanting to talk about the tensions between the city & the university. and, like you described, no one seemed satisfied with my response.

the thing that makes me most dread those conversations is the fact that most people have pre-formed opinions already. one woman couldn't stop focusing on the fact that the alleged victim was an exotic dancer and, well, "what did she expect?"

god, i just want to strangle people who say things like that.


I think I can identify. I was living in Boulder during the JonBenet Ramsey fiasco and would still get comments A YEAR LATER whenever I left town.

For us, it was always the same old question ("Do you think her parents did it????"), which might seem like this random stranger thought that, as a resident, I had some inside information to which the rest of the world was not privy; but in reality, folks just liked discussing the sordid details of her death.

I recall detonating at some poor cashier ("you're from Boulder?? How come they haven't arrested her mother yet??") when buying underwear in nearby Longmont (15 miles away! c'mon now!) and then sheepishly leaving the store afterward.

I basically just decided at that point to inform prying strangers that I was not following the case. I had tried some subterfuge at points - most successful was declaring, "I am on the grand jury investigating the charges and as such am not at liberty to discuss the case," but ultimately I would just smile and claim ignorance.

I wish I had thought of the chicken thing...

so? do you think her parents did it??


nah. it was the brother.

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This page contains a single entry by Sarah published on April 10, 2006 8:37 AM.

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