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NO

How you don’t know this already… :

What do you say when a friend on facebook or something asks you to comment on something like the school shootings or gun control?

LISTEN:

No.

Specifically: No, thank you.

That’s it.  Say no more, say nothing else, leave it alone and go on watching your cat videos.

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POOR KITTY

A vexatious version of events:

What can you say to shut someone down when they ask you really personal or inappropriate questions?  My brother-in-law routinely asks me and my husband how much money we make (we’ve never answered), and my sister asks WHEN am I going to have children or WHY don’t I have them already? – It’s infuriating.  

 LISTEN:

Yes it is.

But I’m afraid that for you to – how did you say it? – “Shut someone down”? – is quite rude, so I can’t possibly answer the question from an etiquette point of view.  My New York friend informs me that the correct answer is “That’s none of your fucking business, asshole”, but there you go.  He’s peevish like that.

No, no, no – what you want to do is parry the question right back; a glancing deflection that leaves you cool tempered and them flustered.

It’s also a great deal of fun.

A: So, how much do you bring home, the two of you?

B: Why in the world would you need to know that? (you ask, laughing sweetly)

A: I’m just curious.

B: Well now I’m curious why you’re curious! (said with beaming eyes)

A: I just am!

B: That’s not a good enough reason… (teasingly)

A: How much do you make?

B: Why in the world would you need to know that? (another genuine chuckle)

And so on.  They usually give up after five or six attempts, so it won’t take long.  Some really determined inquisitors, however, will continue to hound away.  Then you can shift into making statements.

A: How much?

B: (a la Gosford Park) You’re not very curious, are you?

A: HOW MUCH??

B: I couldn’t say off the top of my head…

A: Give me an estimate.

B: Oh, I’m terrible at estimations.

Finally, you can treat them like children.  Without correcting their behavior, you tell them the consequences of their actions and let them make their own decisions.  Research shows that when people take an active part in making the choice in their own action towards behavior change, that change is longer lasting – they learn their lesson.

A: Why won’t you tell me?

B: You know, some people feel extremely uncomfortable talking about money.  It can even really hurt some people’s feelings.

A: (abashed) Are you uncomfortable?

B: I didn’t say that.  I just said some people wouldn’t be comfortable with this line of questioning.

A: Do you want me to stop?

B: Do you want to stop?

A: Well… (slowly sinking in) I was just asking… (making excuses) I don’t want you to be mad at me… (seeking forgiveness)

B: I’m not mad at all.  Say, would you pass the sweet potatoes?

The tactical redirection is useful in all situations.  No matter what is asked of you, when it is inappropriate or too revealing, you just redirect the question back at them.  Oh, unless you’re in court, then you say “I plead the 5th.”

I know that there are people in this world who just won’t take no for an answer.  They’ll bring it up, harass and bully, manipulate and whine until you break down and tell them what they want…or respond like you’re fresh off the bus from a visit to New York.

I sincerely hope you aren’t related to those people.

Cause they need to quit.

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WHAT??

An unheard plea:

My husband has a habit of walking away from me or suddenly starting to talk to me from a different room.  I can’t hear him!  So I say “What?” all the time and he gets frustrated.  He said he’s tired of me always saying What or I’m sorry or whatever…he never seems to think about how frustrating it is for me!  PLEASE tell me what to do to get my point across.

LISTEN:

Ignore him.  Literally ignore him when he starts speaking from another room or as he’s walking away.  If it’s important, he’ll come find you.  If it isn’t, then it’s no big deal.

Oh, I can hear the conversation now…

“But I told you to pick up some cruelty-free organic blueberries!”

“Oh, I’m sorry honey – when was that!?”

or husband finally comes in the room: “Hello!?  I asked you what’s for dinner?”

Wife ignores mention of previous possible questions: “Why, whatever you’re cooking, sweetheart!”

Etc.

The only possible problem is if you have a particularly spontaneous spouse who is liable to accept dinner invitations and make plans without your consent, though they might make a half-hearted attempt to ask you (which you’ll be ignoring, right?), and then you’ll find yourself caught up in the social whirl, too busy to be apart from each other much (other than at dinner parties, where you won’t be seated together anyway) and you can catch up afterward on the ride home, and your problem will be solved.

Oh, unless he decides to do the same thing the next time you call out for toilet paper.

 

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MOVE, BITCH, GET OUT THE WAY

This is the theme song for the person:

Who wants to turn left.  From a residential street.  Into two-way traffic.  During rush hour.  MAKE THE BLOCK, JESUS CHRIST…

Who pushes their cart in front of you, then turns their back to scan the opposite side of the aisle in the store.

Who starts into a crosswalk late and saunters to the other side of the street.

Who rides their bike in the car lane as opposed to the bike lane.

Of course the well mannered person wouldn’t dream of saying these things aloud.  No, they would wait patiently, whisper “Excuse me,” and or safely on the left.

If you have your radio turned way up when you’re driving, however…

 

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TAG, YOU’RE IT

A dissenting opinion:

I think people should just wear name tags at parties.  That way you don’t have to remember people’s names and you can learn them slowly as you talk to them.  You could wear name tags at meetings, too.  Don’t you think that’s a good idea that would solve the problem?

LISTEN:

Nope.

Name tags are tacky.  Not just in appearance, but in utility.  The markers smudge all over, the stupid little borders, the nasty glue they use to adhere them to your clothing…everything about them is just appalling.

So no, no name tags for you.

Or how about this…if you want to wear a name tag, go ahead.  But don’t expect everyone else to wear one.  Deal?

Again, I think we have a duty to remember people’s names.  It’s up to you to figure out how to do that, and delegating the work to other people is not acceptable.

Try again.

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NOMEN OBLITUM

A question from the absent minded:

Is it that bad to forget someone’s name?  I’m terrible with names, and sometimes people get really mad at me.  What can I do to make people feel better?

LISTEN:

You could start by remembering their names.  That should do it.

Second, you could stop telling yourself you’re terrible at names.  Psychologically, you’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by constantly reinforcing your deficiency to yourself.  From an etiquette point of view, it’s just a crap excuse.  Cut it out.

And yes, forgetting someone’s name is one of the top ten etiquette sins one can commit.  And just like eating with a fork or learning a language, it’s going to take work to master.

Here’s how you do it:

Whenever you meet someone new, attach something ridiculous to them that corresponds with their name.

Say you meet someone at a cocktail party, in or near the kitchen.  Her name is Jessica.  Jessica, like Jessica Lange, and there’s a range, right near the oven.  Jessica Range.

Or you meet a guy name Scott, and he has a floral tie.  Like a flower pot – Scott.  Whatever – it doesn’t matter, just associate anything ludicrous with the name and you’ll be able to remember it in the future.  Especially if you say it a few times to yourself…but don’t sit there and mumble.  That’s creepy, if not quite rude.

Look, no one expects you to go to a cocktail party or a meeting and remember everyone’s name right off the bat.  At a meeting, at least, you can write down everyone’s name on a piece of paper as you’re introduced.  But if you’re at a dinner party and introductions are made and you have a long conversation with someone…yeah, you need to remember their name.

Shouldn’t you be writing this down?

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CAKE OR CANDLES?

Substance or Style?  Existence or Experience?

There is room for both in our big old world, and lots of leeway should be provided for the varying definitions we’ll find of the word style, or at least its incarnations as experience.  But it’s a false choice.

Think about it this way: You’ve gone on vacation with your family or friends and one of you has a camera.  Instead of stopping the experience every hundred or so feet to take a picture, take a few candid snaps and then put the thing away.  There’s no reason to document every bite of food, every star on the walk of fame or every monument you pass by.  God, get a history book, one with lots of photos.  Get stickers of yourself made and just slap them in that – save everyone a lot of hassle.

The same goes for trinkets and knick-knacks.  If we’re not talking about Chanel or Hermès, then these are no more substantive than a poorly-lit, blurry photo of the Mona Lisa and the jostling crowds in front of her.  Send postcards instead, or bring some back – they actually have some utility while demonstrating the thoughtfulness you had while away.

Savor the ephemeral, and leave the ephemera behind.

But on the other hand, don’t get carried away by the experiential.  In the material world, the best thing is to be timeless instead of trendy.  Buy the best you can afford and take care of it.  Classics are classics for a reason, and you should invest in longevity.  That’s not to say you can’t accessorize with shocking novels or clothing with a limited life-span, but these shouldn’t be the lion’s share of your library or wardrobe.

Seek to find balance between what you want to own and what you want to do, and don’t look down your nose at people who haven’t figured that balance out yet.

That’s my job.

 

Happy New Year!

 

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COMPUTER (INTERRUPTED)

The robots that write to me are really reaching out.  It seems in this instance I’ve stumbled across the end of a really intense conversation.

They’re plotting to kill us, people.

“…but he or a substitute will say the same thing when this piece of habitual cowardice has killed enough women and children. But it’s a wasted message.”

*shiver*

Happy New Year, folks.  YNTQ returns on Monday.

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BREAK!

YNTQ is going to be on break until 2013.  Do take care, and I’ll see you in the New Year.

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THAT’S NOT FOR DOING THAT

A concerned clickette complains:

I just HATE IT when people put things on facebook get people to respond to them.  Yesterday, someone posted about how they couldn’t reach their child who is in an area suffering a national disaster.  While I hope for the best – what if this kid got killed?  Is that how you really want to tell people??  On facebook???

LISTEN:

You need to calm down with the question marks, buddy.  I do like how they increase in number as your frustration grows – there ought to be a stylistic rule for that, now that I think about it – but don’t shout at me!  I’m here to help!!  OK???

Do you see how annoying that is????

Alright – no – I don’t think that people should post anything from enigmatic, attention-seeking drivel to absolute freak-outs about the well-being of their loved ones to their facebook feed, and I’ll tell you why:  It’s rude, rude, rude.

Attention whoring at any level is rude.  Whether it’s yet another anorexic party-girl your thoughtless friend brought as a date texting and sighing at the end of a table during a dinner party, incessant shirtless or racy photographs by your oversexed gym-rat friends, or a maniac shouting at the end of the street holding a cardboard sign and shaking pencils in a cup – it is all completely out of line.  That’s because these people are acting as human billboards, saying, effectively, a) You’re all not as important as me, b) I have no self-esteem so I need to look for assurances elsewhere and c) I’m batshit crazy, so you might want to cross the street.

Here’s a difference.  Whether it’s in Tehran or Tennessee (vanishingly similar nowadays, but there you go), if there is a massive upheaval or national disaster, social networking sites like facebook, twitter and instagram have shown their usefulness in coordinating information, alerting survivors and generally being helpful.  This isn’t attention whoring.  This is actually being worthwhile, for once.

But if there’s a shooter on your friend’s campus, posting about how you hope their OK is a shitty thing to do.  There’s an earthquake in a village in which your kid is doing charity work?  Terrible time, surely, but much more terrible if you have to center stage and start looking for reassurance when you know anything yet.  Turn to your friends, sure, turn to your family – but the whole fucking internet?  This is self-absorption nonpareil, and less to do with your concern for your kids than the black hole of sucking need you display on a regular basis.

OF COURSE you hope they’re ok.  OF COURSE you don’t want your child flattened in some mud-hut collapse in a god-forsaken shit hole island.  That goes without saying.  What should also go without saying is that if something were to happen, then you have trivialized their death in a medium better suited for some.e.cards jokes and pictures of cats with captions.  And if they didn’t die, then you betray your own cold-blooded callousness when it’s “Oh, thank god he’s coming home!  Pray for the survivors!” in one post and a link to TMZs latest Kim Kardashian Kunt shot an hour later.

Life goes on, I suppose.

But please let it go on with a little more dignity than we currently seem to have.  Start with yourself, and encourage others.  I realize we have an industry built on attention whoring (see Kim Kardashian, above), but that doesn’t make it any less rude.  Sweet Jesus, you shouldn’t take your cues for behavior from anything you see on television, least of all that which is fancifully and inaccurately labeled as “reality”.

So back to your friend – it’s too late for her.  If she’s old enough to have a child that’s a world traveler, then you’re fucked as far as her behavior ever changing.  Just hide her posts if she does this with any frequency.

Actually, that brings up a good point – if she’s unaware of how far reaching her comment goes, you could point that out.  The stories one hears of relatives saying horrifying things on facebook speak for that.  But your question makes me think there’s a few people you have in mind already, so –

Yeah, it’s too late.  Cultivate the social media you want to use, hide everyone else, and don’t worry about other people’s stupid, rude and thoughtless posts.  And don’t you dare point them out as stupid, etc., because that’s just rude, though thoughtful, and it just isn’t done.

Now go find a picture of a cat and post it online.  Better yet, get out of the house – go get some fresh air.

Physician, heal thyself.

 

 

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