There are three things I’m good at (only three): my handwriting, my smile, and my manners. At least these are the things I tend to receive the most compliments on. Although to be fair, I occasionally get a “Hey, your hair looked really great yesterday” or (true story) from last week, “You’re starting to look sexy.” Oh backhanded compliments, you’re so delightful! I also don’t sweat much for a fat girl. (Ok, that’s a total lie. I have sweaty knees. These are things you learn from going to a gym regularly or reading my blog. You’re very welcome for that shared moment.)
Basically, what I’m trying to impart is that I have a lot of great qualities that would serve me extremely well in the early 1800’s at the prairie school. Back it on up, Mrs. Wilder!
Well, it turns out I can’t really write a succession of blog posts about my handwriting. I mean, I could. It would be similar to watching the world’s dullest Sesame Street episode – one that was devoid of cute rhymes or catchy tunes. They would likely focus on a single letter, and there would be zero puppets to make you feel ok about your particular place in the world or your relationships with friends and family. And by the end of the post you’d find yourself in a rather awkward conversation, trying to explain yourself to friends and family, “No, I’m reading this lady’s blog and today we’re focusing on capital M’s… no, I don’t know why… The Office reruns weren’t cutting it? Guilt maybe? It’s like an alphabet train wreck I can’t seem to look away from! SPOILER ALERT: JIM AND PAM GET MARRIED! LEAVE ME ALONE! I need ice cream!”
I also can’t feature posts about my smile. Let’s face it, after one picture you’d either agree or disagree that I smiled well, then you’d start thinking, “Y’know, if I stare at it too long, it’s kind of creepy. Why is she smiling like that? Is the smile originating from inside my house? Halloween is bad enough, but now this? This smile? Like a red balloon hovering out of a gutter, beckoning me to approach, but more like an evil Cheshire cat. Where’s Alice?!?! I can’t escape!!!” By the way, when people say it’s one of the top three things I do well, that doesn’t mean as compared to other people – just a top three for me. “Beth, I dunno… I mean if you’re pressing me, I guess I’d say you’ve got good handwriting, and uhhhh… your… ummm… smile? Yeah, yeah, you’ve got a ‘nice’ smile? Hey, who likes Slurpees?? Slurpee run!” So, pump those breaks on that smile judgement!
Quick aside: Some of you may feel you now need to pay me some compliments. Nay nay. This is not a fishing trip, but thank you.
This leads me to manners – that third thing I get complimented on – that I’m apparently good at. Now if I’m honest, I think it’s likely a thing I get high marks on when you compare me to others. It’s not that my manners are flawless, or without fault. I mean, I still owe two thank-you cards from several years ago, I owe my closest friends a wedding gift from 19 years ago, and I’m being 100% honest when I say I still have some real guilt over that. I mean, clearly not guilty enough to see if I could unearth a two-decade-old wish list or send a card that read, “Remember that time you gave me… yeah, thank you for that!” But there’s guilt nonetheless. I may be on a personal mission to spoil their kids because I didn’t buy them a blender. Hey, I’m just saying blenders don’t hug or make me laugh like they do, so who really won out in the end? (Did I just make an argument on how being ill-mannered can pay off in the end? Oh dear. Ignore this part, ok?)
No, I really feel it’s that by comparison my manners just stick out. Also, I tend to sit up straight (yay orchestra years) and I usually manage not to hiss or make rude remarks at strangers. That should concern you if that’s all it takes for me to stand out among my peers, but you can clearly now see why I’m well-positioned to give practical advice on manners.
I ran the idea by my focus group (or Facebook followers, it’s practically the same; however, I feel “focus group” sounds so much more official – like I stuffed people into a room with overly-bright and flickering fluorescent lighting, loaded them up with Taster’s Choice and stale donuts, then projected a PowerPoint presentation called “The Way I Was Raised: An Inside Joke” against some wood paneling. Ok, I totally did that, but I offered up pillow mints instead of the donuts. Stale donuts are pricey! Then I collected the stubby pencils (why? why is there a market for overly short pencils that do not afford you the opportunity to erase if you need to? I have questions!), tallied the scorecards, and 23 people liked the idea. That’s right 23 people, who you don’t know, are subjecting you to this new “feature” on my blog. (Please feel free to leave your “thanks” in the comment section below.)
Then I ran the idea by a second focus group, my Aunt, and we now have a ladies agreement that I will not use this feature for evil. In other words, I will avoid skewering the family. It’s apparently not nice or the least bit fair no matter how well-deserved. I feel though that “family” really means “blood relations” despite what Merriam-Webster says, and that it’s open season for everyone else. (You really shouldn’t have been overtly rude to my cousin. Naughty, naughty.)
All of that said, here are a few of my thoughts: Gone are the days of Miss Manners, Emily Post or even Dear Abby. I’m sure a few of you are wondering who I’m even talking about. Let me pause a moment to address the youngest of our readers.
Dearest Millenials, we used to receive printed news that arrived at our house wrapped in cellophane and rubber bands. In fact, that’s where all household rubber bands came from – true story. In those “papers,” as we lovingly referred to them, were features from advice columnists who attempted to keep society from devolving into a chaotic, ill-mannered, anarchy. It was also a time when women who sought to be journalists were sidelined and their only hope of reaching a national audience was to help others with fork placement. They were beloved by a certain generation. Also, these women would probably quirk an eyebrow in my direction and politely pull me aside to let me know it’s rude to be patronizing. They are not wrong, so I do sincerely apologize.
What I will try to do is post a monthly piece on modern manners that will be titled: “The Way I Was Raised,” which is a bit of an inside joke that will probably reveal itself over time, and I will switch up topics based on input/feedback I receive from you guys. I recognize you all have a wealth of ideas and stories from the humorous to the grrrs, and I’d love to incorporate them here.
So, what do you think? Are you up for some posts about manners from a person whose manners are probably questionable, but are at least in the top three things they personally offer this world?
I love this! I tried to comment but Word Press is being rude. Perhaps a post a how the cold indifference of computers when refusing to do what the click indicates it will do? And also how this effects our human interactions? It did remind of 2 things though. One, WTF is wrong with people who won’t acknowledge your presence? Generally this is at some sort of counter. You want a coffee or to check in for your appointment and the person who will eventually help you (you hope) cannot look up and give you a nod so you know that they are aware of you. Now you can relax and stop trying to catch their eye. It drives me mad! The other is one of those things my mom said that just stuck for some reason. I can’t actually remember the words she used, but the gist of it is that it costs us nothing to be kind. When someone holds the door, to nod and say thank you. To say excuse me when you have to squeeze by someone. In short when life forces us into contact with each other to acknowledge that contact. I realize that in some cultures it is rude to look someone in the eye, but we’re Texans and if you can’t look a person in the eye, you must be hidin’ somethin’. Carry on! I’m ready for episode one! Also, the nod is apparently a thing for me. Tee hee.
On Sun, Oct 27, 2019 at 8:10 AM The Big Blue Mess wrote:
> Beth posted: ” There are three things I’m good at (only three): my > handwriting, my smile, and my manners. At least these are the things I tend > to receive the most compliments on. Although to be fair, I occasionally get > a “hey, your hair looked really great yesterday” o” >
Ju, I completely agree. It kind of goes back to something I’ve said, and that we all know, that we thrive as a community. When we’re denied that – by not being acknowledged, it’s not only rude, it also takes a small toll – it almost says “in this moment, you don’t matter – you’re not important enough to acknowledge” and that hurts. Also, you reminded me that I actually bristle when no one says “bless you” after a sneeze. Sometimes it’s that people just don’t do it, while others it’s that they don’t want to appear to be supporting a religious view point. Sure, I get that I’m not about to die in that tiny sneeze and I probably don’t need to be blessed, but just say it. Say it like you say “excuse me” when you’re squeezing by or passing in front of someone at a grocery store who is perusing the goods on a store shelf. I think we have a lot topics we can cover! Thank you tons for the ideas!
I agree. Monthly may not be often enough… You may just open up a whole can of something. Worms, Whoop ass. Crazy. This will be fun!
I am all about the Ms Beth etiquette posts!
I think we should definitely hit on “please” and “thank you” as one of the first posts. The fact you and Ang write actual “thank you” notes is so fantastic! You’ll have to tell me more!
Beth, here is one that has seriously irritated me for at least two years, when I first heard it from the cashiere at my small grocery store in my small Texas town. It’s when I say “thank you” and they say “you’re good”. Maybe this is just me, but now I hear it all of the time from younger people. My “thanks so much” is returned by “you’re good” or “you’re all good”. The reaction this raises in me is wait a minute…I’m the customer here…I am spending my money here…I have choices and I’m choosing to do business here… when I hear “you’re good” it makes me think that they think they are doing me the favor…like they are acknowledging my thanks as being one that is thanking them for taking the time out of their busy schedule to take my money even though it is their job to take my money… they’re supposed to say you’re welcome…it bugs! Oh…I heard on NPR last week that milenials consider the three dot ellipses… the most extreme example of a passive-aggressive response… I use it constantly…Don’t report on that in your manners column or I will take personal offense… many thansk and carry on…
I love these ideas!
So, that’s just weird about ellipses. I use them to show a break in thought – like a written “ummm”. Wow, now I need to purposefully use them all the time and in odd ways. That’s also really weird about responding with “you’re good” versus “you’re welcome.” I would say that if someone was apologizing for no real reason. “Beth, I’m so sorry…” “Oh no no no, you’re good!” (Woohoo, worked in both the statement and ellipses. Where are my Millenials?
One of the things I remove more than anything else from my own writing when I go back to edit is ellipses.
And regarding Julie’s WordPress difficulties–I tried to edit this when it came out and couldn’t for some reason. Trying again now… (doh!)
Thank you, David!!!!
Yay, editing worked! Also, speaking of Dear Abby and Ann Landers (I’m ignoring the fact that you didn’t mention Ann Landers for the purposes of this anecdote), one of my favorite pieces of trivia is that Dear Abby and Ann Landers were twin sisters in real life, and they became estranged for decades because of their rivalry.
Related trivia: advice columnist/podcaster Dan Savage owns Ann Landers’ old writing desk, and uses it to write his column.
I’d forgotten about Ann Landers. You can tell I was more a Dear Abby girl. I vaguely remember they were sisters. Also, are you saying that due to Dan that advice niche is filled? Perhaps the etiquette rivalry of the new century (which will be extremely polite) will between Dan and myself!! I’m coming for you Dan, but will let you know ahead of time and invite you out to brunch beforehand!