Mia’s column: When is it too late to correct someone?

Mia Freedman







They’re those moments so awkward you don’t know whether to speak up and correct someone’s mistake or let it slide.

And before you can even decide, it’s suddenly too late and the conversation has moved on and you’re trapped in a horrible misunderstanding you feel powerless to rectify.

There I was sitting in the doctor’s office. He wasn’t my usual doctor but my youngest son needed his 4yo immunisations and I’d heard he was an expert injection-giver. Which he was. He’d been doing it for more than 50 years. But that wasn’t the problem.

Early on in the consultation, he referred to my son as ‘she’. As in, “….and how old is she?”

This threw me. My son’s name – Remy – could possibly be seen as unisex. OK. But he looks very much like a boy. Short hair. Dressed like a boy. Not a lot of room for error, visually.

As this all flashed through my mind, the very small window of opportunity for me to correct the lovely elderly doctor passed.

And I was trapped. We were all trapped in this very awkward gender misunderstanding.

It got worse.

“So, is there any family history of breast cancer?”

Um, yes but that’s probably not going to be a huge issue FOR MY SON. I thought this but didn’t say it because I was so sure the doctor would spontaneously notice that the child I was holding on my lap was, you know, not a girl.

He never did.

And I was then forced to avoid using any personal pronouns myself so as not to draw any attention to the misunderstanding and make it even more awkward.

Because you get to that point where you just can’t correct someone any more, can you? When it’s just too late.

Ja-mee-la, apparently.

This happened to me recently except I was the one who needed to be corrected.

Mamamia’s Managing Editor, Jamila Rizvi – who I have known for 4 years and worked with for 4 months, had to make a small announcement to the MM editorial team that we had been pronouncing her name wrong.

It’s not Jamila-rhymes-with-Camilla.

It’s Ja-mee-la.

Which is actually far more beautiful and actually MEANS beautiful in Arabic.

Naturally, we were all mortified that we’d been pronouncing it wrong all this time.

And then she felt bad that we felt bad. And it was all just hilariously awkward.

Selfish of her to bring it up in the first place, I reckon.

Have you had one of these moments? Ever been wrong about someone’s name (or had someone be wrong about yours) for years? When does it become too late for a correction?






nailed it

More articles