Etiquette is Ridiculous!


I am often bitching in this or that post about rudeness that I have experienced or witnessed… or ok , performed myself.  I can say with certainty, it’s almost always been about lapses in manners  rather than in etiquette:  “Omg!  That guy just totally put his elbows on the table! I MUST BLOG THIS”.

I do not want to sound as though I feel all specific behaviours that mark “culture and refinement” are bad things.  I think I automatically think less of a person who does not have a good handshake, soup slurpers get on my very last nerve, and it’s just nice when someone holds the door for me.  So…. I guess I like some of the RULES? I just am not going to write someone off as boorish because they put their elbows on the table.  Mainly because I don’t understand how that single behaviour is actually bothering anyone else. I realize that “Etiquette books say it’s rude,” But that does not mean that an elbow on the table actually infringes on someone else.

As I’m sure we’re all surmised at this point, yes, I put my elbows on the table.  Until today, I wasn’t aware of the whole deal of  *why* this was a “rude behaviour;”  just that Miss Manners (and my mom) has always said “Rude Rude Rude.”  I could have hazarded a few guesses and been largely correct with the “leaning forward and crowding people,” and “appearing to focus too strongly on one’s food” reasons.  The “appearing to spread germs” bit was new to me.  And pretty retarded, in my own humble opinion. 

I’m pretty sure the crowding thing in these days of  booths and big roomy tables is largely obsolete.  Am I really crowding my mom when she is sitting *across* from me at a restaurant? And further more, she ought to be excited that I’m interested enough in what she’s saying to lean into it a little. 

I really have no use for pointless rules in general. But … I actually find rules that attempt to dictate behaviours that affect no one but one’s self  a little (or a lot) offensive.  However, talking with one’s mouth full of food at the dinner table? I get it. That is generally disgusting: crumbs flying around, garbled speech, and *LOOKING* at half chewed food in someone’s maw.  So yes, “Don’t talk with one’s mouth full” – Good rule.  On the other hand, my elbows are not bothering anyone, in my opinion. I’m not crowding and I’m not spreading more germs than I would be without them resting on the table top. In fact, I dare say my elbows have less germs on them than my palms.

I guess, in truth, my etiquette book would be pretty damn short.  “Be mindful of those around you and do not offend.”  Short and sweet, huh? That would be much better than spending 25 pages going on about correct fork placement.  I’m not speaking from blissful ignorance, I know how that all works. The salad fork would be on the outside and/or the smaller fork.  That being said, I’d never mention it to someone who grabbed the wrong fork for their salad. Partly because I feel that while it’s possible to do it politely, more often than not,  pointing out little mistakes comes off as slightly patronizing, ie. rude.  But really, in all honesty, chances are I’d never even notice a “faux pas” like that because I simply don’t care about that sort of shit. It’s more important to me that my dinner partner(s) chew with their mouth shut, converse, and manage to consume their meal in a relatively tidy manner. If all of that happens, I’m convinced I had dinner with a polite individual.

So yes, I realize I just trivialized everything Emily Post spent her life trying to convey to make us all better people.  There is one thing, though, that I agree with her absolutely: the idea that the biggest indicator of a lack of class is to point that out in someone else.  THAT is rude. every time.  In my opinion, if our goal isn’t to set the other person at ease and make them feel comfortable, we shouldn’t even bother. So in that case, just go ahead and shove that whole cake in, Sweetcheeks.

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~ by Layla on February 17, 2011.

4 Responses to “Etiquette is Ridiculous!”

  1. I agree with the biggest indicator of a lack of class. That said, I think “etiquette” is a remnant from days gone by when it was inappropriate to say, “lean in” when interested in what a person was saying. That it could be construed as inappropriately sexual, and what not. As far as using the right fork and spoon goes? Unless you are serving me a multi-course meal I don’t want to see five hundred pieces of cutlery at my plate… yes, I’ve been subjected to this. A full setting for a soup, salad, and appetizer/entree combined. Absurd.

  2. I like my elbows on the table. I need *something* to help hold me upright with these massive tits I got going for me. Granted, not as huge as Geannie, but still. Bahaha.

  3. Yeah. My mother-in-law is a champion of etiquette. She will point out how it is indeed bad for me to fart loudly in her presence even though this practice is pure comic genius. The hypocrisy is that she is also a world-class talker, which conflicts with her ability to eat at the same time. Sometimes she puts her hand in front of her mouth while chewing and speaking as if this will somehow lessen the horror. Usually, though, we all get to partake in the full colourful exchange of chicken, broccoli, wine, nouns, verbs and adjectives.

    Great blog!

  4. […] Etiquette is Ridiculous! (laylay.wordpress.com) […]

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