Happy Friday! Is it Spring yet? No? I’m sure I speak for many of us when I say winter is about two months and three weeks too long. But I finally got some Sorel Joan of Arctic snow boots on an end-of-winter (end of winter!!) sale, so I guess it wouldn’t be too terrible if we had a couple more snowy days and I had a chance to try them out.
Also! Yesterday would have been Nina Simone’s 80th birthday so what better time to post that clip of her singing “My Way”? It’s one of my favorites of hers.
Anyway, before I get lost on a long tangent, I wanted to open this weekend’s thread with a question that was inspired by a recent discussion in the forums. Addie Pray asked whether there was a bible of wedding etiquette and someone suggested I write one. I’m not going top write a bible of wedding etiquette, but maybe some day I’ll write a book of etiquette for modern times that would include online dating etiquette, texting etiquette, social networking etiquette, and stuff like that (as well as more traditional scenarios). And that got me wondering: if you were going to write an etiquette book, or contribute to one, what “rules” would you be sure to include? What are some of your etiquette violation pet peeves, or what acts of etiquette are super important to you?
For me, thank you notes are a pretty big deal. Any time I receive a gift and the giver isn’t there to see me open it, I always send a thank you note. And, depending on the occasion, I sometimes send a thank you note when the giver is there to see me open the gift and receive my in-person thanks (like, at a baby shower, for example). I like to send thank you notes when people have been gracious hosts or helped me out with a favor. I wish people sent thank you notes more often. It’s such an easy way to show appreciation for someone’s time, effort, and thought.
Another big one — and it’s one that I have admittedly violated on occasion but I hope am much better at following these days — is giving unsolicited advice, especially to strangers and especially in regards to highly personal topics, like parenting, appearance, and … relationships. I didn’t realize what a biggie this was until I became a parent and was suddenly bombarded with strangers telling me how I should raise my kid. There were many well-meaning but annoying readers of this site who emailed me and left comments along the lines of, “You really should try harder to breastfeed!” and “Try breastfeeding THIS way and not that way,” and “No, don’t give your baby a bottle right before bed or he’ll never learn to fall asleep without one.” And then there are the countless strangers and acquaintances who have stopped me when I’m out and about with Jackson to tell me that he isn’t dressed warmly enough or he’s dressed too warmly or he’s crying too much and I should try this, this, and this to get him to stop, or I shouldn’t be feeding him formula because it will basically kill him, or I shouldn’t let him play with any toys that light up or make noise because it will stunt his attention span, and on and on and on (oddly, Drew has never once — not ONCE — been given unsolicited parenting advice when he’s out with Jack. Nope, it’s always the mothers people pick on). Anyway, as I said, I know I’ve been guilty of this etiquette violation, but it’s something I’m much more aware of now and really do hold my tongue when I feel the urge to “be helpful.”
I’m also experimenting with different responses that get my point across — the point, of course, being that I don’t care to hear any unwanted suggestions, however well-intentioned they may be — without sounding like a beyotch. A few weeks ago, I was out on a walk with Jackson. It was lightly snowing, but he was bundled up in several layers, a hat, and a stroller blanket. He was not, however, wearing mittens, but that wasn’t from my lack of trying. After about 15 failed attempts to keep those mittens on his hands, I finally surrendered and tucked them back into the diaper bag as he reached his bare palms skyward, caught his first snowflakes and squealed with delight. Just then, a woman who was standing on the corner watching us, said sternly to me, “He needs mittens!!”
“Sorry?” I said, buying time to form a proper reply.
“His hands are so cold!” She huffed.
Jack grinned at her. I seethed.
“He needs mittens,” she said again, this time a little softer.
And I replied, simply, “I’m his mother.” I wasn’t combative. I wasn’t cranky or rude. I just stated the fact: “I’m his mother,” I said again, this time more firmly.
“Oh,” she said, suddenly flummoxed, “Oh, okay.”
And that was that.
Yeah, so unsolicited parenting advice is definitely a pet peeve of mine. Some other little things that bug me: when people don’t hold the elevator even though they see you coming; when people let the door slam in your face because they can’t be bothered to extend their arm long enough for you to reach out for it; when Americans are super loud in foreign countries (I mean, it’s bad when they’re loud in their own country, but it’s just so damn embarrassing when they act like fools on someone else’s turf); when the person in front of you on the plane reclines his chair into your lap (I’d be stoked if reclining chairs on planes were outlawed — at least in coach); when the waiter/waitress automatically assumes that Drew should taste the wine first just because he’s the man (even when I’m the one to order it!); and, oh my God, how could I forget this one: LADIES, WIPE THE SEAT AFTER YOU GO!!!!
Okay, I’m sure I’ll think of others, but these are mine for now. What are yours?