The holidays tend to mean quite a bit of socializing, whether with family, friends, work colleagues, perhaps even more forced exchanges with retail workers or customers than normal. The pinnacle time of year to pull out all of your mad Social Pleasantries.
Hopefully, the vast majority of these are ingrained in most people. For instance, when to use someone’s first name. Or knowing that “gifts of love” are thoughtful mementos given only to bring a ray of sunshine to others.
AND FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD please know better than to say anything like
“I would never have known you.”
when someone has had say, a change in weight. Or
“I thought you were still married to Helen.”
when the person they are with is most decidedly NOT Helen.
You’re better than that.
Who the Hell Are You?
If you can’t remember names, you probably already know not to just blurt out that you have no idea who the other person is. And it’s kind to help out someone else who may be in the same position, by opening with a quick and graceful identifier of your own
“How do you do, Mr. Burton. I’m Joseph Bye of Arbor Mills. We did a little business together last fall.”
Or something along those lines.
Amy V regales us with a quick aside
“I well remember the effect on me when my partner at a public dinner sat down, turned to me, and said, simply, “My name is Hoover.” It was Herbert.”
Now, I assume she means former U.S. President Herbert Hoover, and she’s making a funny about how obviously she knew who he was already. It took me a minute, though. Of course, he’d only been out of office 20 years at the time of the first edition.
Also, it seems slightly rude, even for the sake of the story, to refer to him just as Herbert. But there is an entire chapter on being A New Resident in Washington, which includes being received at the White House, so we’ll get there when we get there. No spoilers.
How Do You Do?
Apparently it was evident even back in the day that no one ever expected a real answer to this most common question.
“No one wants a clinical discussion in response to this purely rhetorical question.”
Aight then. Cool.
And for goodness sake, when saying goodbye, keep it to just that.
“Don’t use some current banality such as “Good-by now.” It is obvious it is now you are saying “Good-by” – not an hour previously, not an hour hence.
Damn. Amy V could be hella literal.
Ugh, all the rules of introductions are so boring. And when it comes to pieces of clothing, quite unnecessary for modern times, I think. Meaning, removing gloves and tipping hats, really. I’m not even going to deal with it.
There’s a lengthy bit about rising if you’re already seated when being introduced to someone, it’s all long and complicated. Basically you should if they’re older or super important. But even THAT can be difficult, because they could get insulted if they’re not actually that much older. So whatever.
Always rise for the hostess, host, or guest of honor.
“No one properly says “Charmed,” “Delighted,” or “Pleased to meet you” when presented to anyone.”
Basically because it’s a bunch of bullshit. If you’re TRULY feeling it, a “I am so glad you came” or something is cool, but you gotta really mean it. Otherwise, just a “Hello” or “How do you do?” will suffice.
There are a few sections on dances. I have to wonder how relevant that is at all today. For real, let me know if there is any reason for regular people to know this anymore, or if dances are purely proms and the like for high schoolers now. Weddings, maybe?
Any well-brought-up young man asks every female member of the hosting household (even grandmothers!) to dance. “May I have this dance?” or “May I have the pleasure of this dance?” are both proper phrases, though Amy V acknowledges very young people just abbreviate it to “Dance?” between themselves.
“At a supper dance those who have come together sup together.”
I include this only to throw my full support behind bring back the word “sup” in this context.
“No lady need dance with anyone if for some reason she doesn’t care to.”
Oh HERE Are the Old-Fashioned Tenets!
Now look. Everyone knows not to ask someone their age or weight. You just don’t, but the reasons Amy V gives…
“Most women are equally sensitive about their weight and dislike being asked to name the figure, with which they are doubtless displeased.”
“Doubtless displeased.” Y’all.
“The fat and the very thin are sensitive people, easily hurt.”
Ugggghhhhhh I’m very uncomfortable right now, let’s move on.
Ah, age. That could be bett-
“Women are expected to lie about their age, anyhow, so even if you bared your sensibilities and told the truth the chances are your interrogator would, mentally, add another five or ten years.”
Well, I think that’s on them, mentally, for being an asshole.
“…you never ask that of a woman over twenty-one, except for official reasons. Even then, the courtesy of letting her say “over twenty-one” usually is accorded a woman.”
I have no problem with my age, but I’m going to begin simply stating I’m “over twenty-one” purely for the reactions and my own amusement.
“…it really is no one’s business, and it is, I think, a permissible conceit for anyone to shave off a few years if her face doesn’t belie the amputation.”
Such a charming turn of phrase, Amy V.
Now for a bit more body-shaming!
“And while practically all American girls -and men, too- have big feet these days…”
That was/is a particularly American thing? Apparently 8 1/2 was considered cool to get defensive over, btw.
Thank You for Being a Friend. I Think?
“I’d never ask my best friend whether he or she had dyed hair, false teeth, a wooden leg, or a glass eye.”
Your BEST friend? Just an acquaintance, sure. That might be pretty rude. But you don’t ask your BEST friend about her hair? And if you’re BEST friends, I think you would know about any of the more serious stuff?
And I’m fairly sure it is quite common to discuss relationship problems with your bestie, or “most intimate friend.” But I assure you, this is indeed a no-no, as well.
I mean, I get what Amy V is going for here. Once things have been discussed, they’re out there. And the listener is only getting one side. But. I think everyone is aware of that.
“Somehow if all her best friends keep reminding Helen that Herbert’s behavior has been unforgivable she will find it harder to forgive…”
Maybe Helen needs to hear it, Amy V! If it’s really not that big of a deal, though, Helen’s friends need to use some discretion and drop it. It all depends. Peopling is difficult sometimes, but it’s important to be a good friend, yo!
“Never take them seriously until and unless you see separate residences established.”
Damn. That is a hard line to take. I’m pretty sure a lot of people depend on the support of their friends before they ever get to that point.
Know who your friends are, y’all, then be a good one!
I need a drink, y’all. Alcohol discussion for the next post!