Beyond Please & Thank You
Where have our manners gone? Are they speeding towards some black hole in cyberspace replaced with “kk now thx’s” as we enjoy our newly found freedom to express each mental belch without fear of repercussions thanks to our online anonymity? And are these newly evolving online bad habits subsequently leaking into our real lives where we easily forget such niceties as a “please” or a “thank you” selfishly assuming life’s gifts are now our due? Is it time to reinvent and follow the teachings of a modern Miss Manners in the cyber age? And will the social elite be the final guardians for civility while we devolve into hunting the Ralph’s of the world with their quaint needs to cling to these archaic notions of proper behavior? Should we then set up a spike with a pig’s head (how appropriate) and get to worshipping? In lieu of Miss Manners, I offer this swift kick – my small list of manner adjustments in my preferred style “the rant”. It’s just some general advice to help you avoid your predestined, knuckle-dragging, rude end.
Say “thank you” even if you don’t want whatever it is, just be grateful that someone thought of undeserving you at all. I’m not saying you have to fold whatever it is up, make a hat out of it and wear it on your head – just a simple “thank you” will suffice. Teach your kids to say “thank you”. It helps ensure they continue to get gifts, graduation money and help with that first car. When kids can’t acknowledge a gift either by themselves or through the help of their parents, I don’t feel obliged to continue to send them since I’m not a toy dispenser for ingrates. Rude kids grow up to be rude adults.
Say “bless you” when someone sneezes. It’s ok that you’re not a member of the clergy and may not feel empowered to bless – just do it. You’ll still be welcome back to your faerie rings by invoking a blessing upon someone. And don’t embellish, enhance or otherwise modify the blessing. If you want to add “… and may Grunthor the Mighty Blow Sweet Dream Kisses into Your Eternal Night…” resist that urge. Say it in your little thought-bubble and move on.
Acknowledge major life events. You can occasionally slide on a birthday, but try to pretend to notice the big ones – births, deaths, marriages, certain people’s 40th birthday party plans in Dublin (hey, a girl can dream and how kick ass would it be if we all got together in a pub in Ireland) – send a card, an e-mail, make a phone call – anything. Otherwise, come Christmas, I won’t feel particularly obligated to sit at your table. Everyone who was there for me this past November 11th either virtually or physically, I would move the earth for you.
Respect your elders even if they’re crazy, drooling morons you bump into on the street and aren’t your cup of tea. It never hurts to be polite and move on. If your hairdresser can work 8 hours a day, 6 days a week listening to drivel from 100’s of clients without rolling her eyes, then you can listen to one adult’s story without visibly flinching. Teach your kids to respect their elders as well. Nothing makes my skin crawl more than some kid telling off an adult while their parents look on indulgently. I’m not suggesting you beat them on the spot, that’s why you have your own house. (NOTE: To the Child Protective Service workers among my friends and family who read my blog, I’m kidding – I don’t condone child abuse. You didn’t go wrong raising me.) Still, raise your child in a way that doesn’t make me ever question if a couple of years in a women’s prison with a cell mate/companion named Big Lolita might not be worth it to discipline your child. If you think your kid might be in jeopardy of being popped in the mouth for screaming at an adult particularly a relative, it’s time to act like a parent.
Learn to actively listen as people have listened to you. There are billions of stories to be told, learn to appreciate them for what they are. There is nothing more boorish than the one guy who constantly demands to be the center of attention – the guy who has no need for others, but insists they always listen to him. Try to remember that while you’re the lead actor in your own life’s play, you may just be an extra in someone else’s (and someone may not have bothered to give you any lines – suck it up).
Remember, how you do things is not always the way I do things. Sure, you may have the best way ever to wipe down a counter. In my house, I don’t care. If I make mud pie differently than you do, it’s still mud pie – don’t correct me on the preparation. If I drive in a way that you wouldn’t drive, shut up or get out of my car. Be thankful that I’m cleaning the counters, preparing dessert and not jeopardizing your life. See, it’s why you have friends so you can run home and tell them all about my little kitchen/driving oddities and rest assured I’ll be doing the same.
And finally my last pet peeve of the moment – house guests. If you plan to have people stay at your house, be prepared. Guests need things like drinks, food, sleeping accommodations, fresh linens, clean towels, soap in the shower and on occasion activities planned (although, I once showed in Manhattan just to be a bum and was told, “if I come home and you’re still bumming around on the couch, you’re in trouble” – that was the day I had the best time at the MOMA, but I digress). If you know what your guests drink, have it on hand. Have food available, people can’t live on multi-flavored candy canes for days on end while you head off to work (although, I do have it on the best authority they actually can).
I think I’m ranted out at the moment, but you get my drift. Please add your own manner pet peeves in the comments section below.