I’m not someone who is bound by a set of rules or guidelines dictated by religion, family heritage/expectations, or anything of the like. However, I do strongly believe in manners. I don’t mean archaic and misogynistic societal customs, but rather being considerate and having a certain level of respect for those around you, whether they be perfect strangers or your closest acquaintances.
There are a handful of cliché lessons I gathered from family elders and others during my childhood:
- Ladies don’t use toothpicks – growing up I noticed whenever we left a casual dining restaurant my dad would grab a toothpick from the hostess stand to put in his mouth as we returned to our car. Once I could reach them, I began to follow suit, much to the chagrin of my grandma.
- Never ask a lady her age or weight – I learned this one the hard way when childhood curiosity prompted me to ask my aunt and grandma these very personal questions.
- Always wear clean underwear – my favorite because the hypothetical consequence is if you were hit by a bus you wouldn’t want the hospital staff to see your dirty underwear, because that would be their utmost concern while saving your life.
These others may seem a little dated to some, but they’re adaptations of advice I’ve heard from various sources and work to make part of my daily life:
- Handwritten thank you notes – I stand by the fact that in almost every case, handwritten thank you’s are the only acceptable form. My one exception is after a job interview where the note should be sent later the same day via e-mail as time is of the essence.
- Say every compliment you think – for years I’ve made the conscious effort to speak aloud every compliment that crosses my mind. It can’t do any harm and you could improve someone’s day.
- Smile – I’ve been called out several times in LA for smiling while walking down the street. To me it feels unnatural to make eye contact without exchanging a smile, but apparently it isn’t the norm and makes me stand out here as if I were wearing cowboy boots and carrying a jug of moonshine.