The prosecution: Helena

She likes to put on music and burp to the beat. Her favourite is Sister Sledge’s We Are Family

I find my best friend Rowena’s habit of burping in public quite disgusting. And she feels no remorse, which I find even worse. Every single time she eats or drinks, she seems to burp. Well, it’s probably not every single time, but it certainly feels like that. Rowena is an extremely gassy person – she burps in a way I’ve never heard before. They’re really low and long. It’s like something from a warthog. Why do we all have to be subjected to it?

Her lack of embarrassment or shame about it is also weird. If I were to ever burp in public, I would immediately say sorry to everyone around me, but Rowena just finds it funny. We go out together often and I’ve seen the disgusted looks of people around us after she has let one rip. I’ve apologised to them on behalf of her.

Once she let out a huge burp after some beers and a man turned around, horrified. Instead of apologising she said, “better out than in!” I said to her: “Is it though? Is it really?” There are rules of etiquette for a reason; to keep society in order. But Rowena revels in the shock factor. She fully leans into it and enjoys putting on a show.

Another time a man in the street called her disgusting after she belched really loudly after drinking a cider. Rowena tracked him down, then lectured him about how it’s all gendered and that men are more likely to be lauded for belching than women. I don’t know if that’s even true but it was a great defence. Anyway, the man repeated his insult and walked off, so it didn’t get her anywhere. I think she enjoyed, it though.

I’ve been at dinner parties where she’s let out a few burps and noticed that some of our friends don’t like it either. But it’s kind of a running joke now – Rowena’s party piece. She likes to put on some music and burp along to the beat once she’s had a few drinks. Her favourite song to belch along with is Sister Sledge’s We Are Family. I don’t know why.

I think Rowena needs to work on her gas issues. Take a tablet. Get a better diet. I can’t defend this behaviour any longer.

The defence: Rowena

I’d never burp in anyone’s face. It’s just for a laugh when out with friends or after a few drinks

I actually find holding gas in very uncomfortable. I think I’m one of those people who needs to let it out because I find it physically difficult to keep it in. I don’t know, maybe it’s my digestion, but I let them rip quite often in the confines of my own home and find it really satisfying. I feel lighter and less bloated after.

When I’m out, I try to control my burping, but it’s hard. I just like the feeling of letting the trapped air out and yes, I admit, I do feel like my belching has become a bit of a party piece. I’ve learned to burp in a particular way. I can burp out partial sentences and burp in time with the music. Helena gets mortified if I do that in public, so I try not to make a burping scene unless we’re among friends, but even then she will still tell me off. She says: “Ro, that’s totally gross.”

I can see her point but I’d never burp in anyone’s face or anything. It’s just a bit of a laugh when we’re with friends or have had a few drinks. My burping gets worse with alcohol or fizzy drinks, and certain foods trigger it, too, like artichokes, cauliflower, beans and cabbage.

Yes we’ve had a couple of incidents where people have told me off, and I get a bit sassy in response. I once told a woman that it’s not illegal to burp in public and she called me rude. When I tracked down a man in the street to tell him about gendered double standards, Helena had to drag me away. I don’t like people telling me off at all.

Helena thinks I want to upset the social order. I think it’s more to do with my digestive system. But maybe my digestive system has made me a bit of a maverick. Who knows? Helena definitely loves a rule, which is why she always tells me off for burping. I accept that most other people don’t like it either. Once I met a stranger in a bar and we had a burping competition, but apart from that I seem to upset everyone when I burp in public. I can try and hold in my belching a little more, but it’s so satisfying I’m not sure I’ll succeed.

The jury of Guardian readers

Should Rowena rein in her public burping?

Manners are important – they make a big difference to how we all rub along together. Most people would find Rowena’s behaviour offensive but wouldn’t tell her; Rowena has a friend in Helen because she does tell her.
Michael, 63

Rowena seems to be burping performatively. She is burping for attention. This is disgusting, and also a bit sad. You are more than your burps, Rowena! Have faith in your inherent wit. Flex that muscle rather than exhausting all your energy by burping along to Sister Sledge.
Ellen, 32

I am a burper myself, so cannot throw stones. I also think we worry too much about presenting shiny, perfect versions of ourselves. Embrace your animal nature, Rowena! Everybody burps. End burp-shaming now!
Brian, 26

Rowena is breaking all the rules of good manners and etiquette. In some cultures burping is seen as a compliment to the chef’s cooking, but here it is seen as incredibly and disastrously rude!
Catriona, 64

Rowena is offending a lot of people and not apologising. It’s OK to burp in private and occasionally in public, but not as frequently as she does. Think of others Rowena – change your diet and lay off those fizzy drinks. And yes, I’d say the same if you were a man.
Katharine, 71

Now you be the judge

In our online poll, tell us: should Rowena stop burping in public?

Last week’s result

We asked whether Sasha should stop allocating household tasks on the basis of whether they are “men’s jobs” or not.

65% of you said yes – Sasha is guilty

35% of you said no – Sasha is not guilty

Find out how to get a disagreement settled or become a You be the judge juror

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