Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Post-Traumatic Etiquette Whore Series: Miss Manners Part 1

Gentle Readers,

I've spent much of 2005 either terribly stressed out or in mourning, having lost two loved ones in the space of three months, on top of a few other disasters of notable size. One of the things I've noticed about myself is that in these recent times of turmoil, I have become incredibly aware and critical of the bad behavior of others. From the strange behavior of certain individuals at Jacob's memorial service to the acquaintance who wore flip-flops to our friend Jae's wake and funeral, I've been there with my mental notepad, keeping score on who commits the biggest social gaffes in the face of unspeakable tragedy.

I keep track of who calls and who doesn't call; who sends cards & flowers and who sends none; who dresses and behaves appropriately and who ends up lacking. I make note of the stupid and thoughtless things people do and say, although I do offer a sliding scale for people who unwittingly commit gaffes when they are just trying to be nice. But come on. Flip-flops at a funeral?

It's obviously a coping mechanism, a way of avoiding the overwhelming sadness that might otherwise engulf me and take over my life. But for whatever it's worth, for good or for bad, it's who I've turned out to be. And although I don't deny that I've been incredibly rude myself at times during my life - remember that I get scored along with everyone else - the plain & simple fact is that I've turned into a Post-Traumatic Etiquette Whore.

Miss Manners would not be kind about this blog entry, and I don't blame her. After all, the purpose of etiquette is not to make others feel uncomfortable or embarrassed; in fact, the purpose of etiquette is quite the opposite. Those of us who weren't raised in barns try to observe simple rules of good manners to show our respect for others and to avoid making others uncomfortable. Publishing crudely worded blog entries seems to fit neither of those purposes.

I sincerely hope that none of my gentle readers feel uncomfortable with what I am expressing today. But if anyone were to feel uncomfortable with my new moniker "Post-Traumatic Etiquette Whore," I would simply have to remind him or her that Coaster Punchman's World ain't no tea party. In this purportedly warm & welcoming cyberspace, we live only by the rules conjured up by my sometimes dark & twisted mind. "House rule, sweetie."

And so, to celebrate my newfound status as Post-Traumatic Etiquette Whore, I have decided to share some occasional words of wisdom from the etiquette maven of the millennium herself, Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners. My hero, she is. Only Miss Manners can slay people with such delightful charm & grace.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: An acquaintance of mine recently informed me and others, through e-mail, that our children would not be invited to her child's birthday party due to the large number of possible guests. She was very apologetic and hoped that this would not harm our relationship.

I had thought not to invite her child to my own child's party for similar reasons. Should I now inform her so, as she did for me, or am I right in thinking that this approach is presumptuous and rude?

GENTLE READER: The announcement that you - or in this case, your child - did not make the cut when a guest list was scaled back to only the most desirable guests is not Miss Manners' idea of a charming social form. You did not seem to care for it, either. So why would you consider adopting it?

7 comments:

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