Tag Archives: etiquette

It’s Time for Me to Start Smoking

28 Aug

There are a lot of situations that make me uncomfortable. Partly because I am innately sensitive to social discomforts and partly because I was raised by a light-hating dungeon hermit and grew up hating everything before I learned to like it. Thus, when I’m out and about in the world, it’s safe to assume I’d rather be home and when people are talking to me, it’s safe to assume I’d rather be on a laptop on my couch, wrestling with my cat as she tries to lie across my keyboard.

Last night for example,  I went to one of Dave’s open mics (with laptop in tow), only to find a private party of fifty people crowding the room and I had to *wince* move through the crowd of people to get to the other side of the bar and some of their arms and shoulders brushed me a little bit and had to have a beer just to come down.

Then I got to the bar, I shit you not, the only available seat was directly beside a grown man in a vampire cape. 

And that’s why I struggle. Because in addition to experiencing regular social inconveniences and anxieties at a more intense level than your average Jane, I also tend to attract grown men in vampire capes.

As it turned out, he was there for the open mic and plays the keyboard. With a house funk beat. With the cape on.

I often get stuck in situations like these. I struggle to maintain casual conversation with the averagest of bears without my stomach squirting high octane nerve juice into my bloodstream. Trapped at the bar where my choices are intimate conversation with an adult Dracula impressionist or a room of fifty tight-collared strangers? Just tranquilize me.

I opted for the vampire, obviously. He was actually pretty nice. When the other side of the bar cleared of the private party, I holed up at my favorite spot in the back where I could hook up my laptop and listen to the open mic. It works out perfectly because no one bothers me but I can also claim that I’m out in the world being social. It’s kind of perfect. 

Except for last night. Last night I attracted a talker.

This is about right.

This is about right.

Usually I’m pretty good at spotting them when they don’t easily identify themselves with capes. At first I thought the table beside my was being used as a gig bag spot; there were backpacks and plastic bags and totes of all shapes and sizes. But then there was a helmet. And a person walking toward it all with a sense of territory. I’d made a terrible mistake. 

But my laptop was already on, my fries and drink already settled; to pack up and move to the other side of the room would perhaps have been even worse than sticking it out.  So I stayed. 

Sometimes my curiosity gets the best of me. I kept my head down, knowing what would happen if I dared to make eye contact for even a moment, but the pull was just too strong and for a second my eyelids flitted up and then it happened: he talked.

I’m actually able to endure a talker for quite a while. I can throw a few general responses in there to keep them going, and I’m pretty good at making up something that sounds fitting in the unexpected lulls where they’re anticipating a genuine response. But I can only do it for about ten minutes before I fear I’ve become visibly uncomfortable. I know I’m like a ticking time bomb in those moments; I can either exit the situation or make it incredibly obvious that I’m overwhelmingly rude and live like Gollum in a cave of carpet and cheese curls at home with my cats and can’t endure human contact for significant periods of time.

Babies have it so easy. I should have taken advantage of this more as a youngin.

Babies have it so easy. I should have taken advantage of this more as a youngin.

Just when I was considering sending Dave the emergency signal (“David, get me out of here or I’ll lose my shit in front of God and all these people”…it’s something like an ear tug or a nose wiggle or scooping my eye out with a soup spoon; I can never remember when I’m all angsty), I was sent an angel in the form of a friend.  Let’s call him Petey.  Petey is a friend with warm, inviting eyes, a hearty handshake and a face that makes you feel comfortable talking if you’re a talker.

So I left him there to rot.

I almost felt bad for a second, but the feeling of release was too euphoric to sense the guilt. I thought long and hard like Pooh Bear about every time I endured a talker as an act of martyrdom for my friends or for blog fodder or because I simply felt bad for the poor bastard.  I figured I’d paid my dues and it was high time I bow out and soak up the win. So I stared at my screen and pretended to be working on something very, very important.

Actually, in the time I observed I learned some new tactics. 

Petey’s survival rate is about six minutes, to my ten. So after five he does this really great thing that I’m going to start giving a go: he responds to everything with a clever exit line until one works. For every new topic the talker introduced, Petey had a line straight from a sitcom. The talker could have been in the middle of detailing his great aunt’s battle with cancer and Petey would boldly attempt, “Well, sometimes cancer gets ya!” as he inches a little closer to the door. 

It’s really impressive.

Ultimately, however, the talker won. Never sensing the “goodbye moment” attached to Petey’s one-liners, he droned on and on, never sticking to one subject, never really eliciting a response – just…talking. And that’s when Petey simply pulled out his pipe, stuffed it with tobacco, mumbled something or other about a smoke, and unapologetic acquainted himself with the exit.

That’s when it hit me: I should take up smoking. 

Honestly, I’ve considered high-tailing it a number of times to the local convenience store to snag myself a pack of all-around-excusers. But there’s no way to guarantee that the talker isn’t also a smoker, in which case all I’ll do is double down and take my situation from being trapped in a bar to being trapped in a somewhat-intimate smoke break wherein I don’t smoke.

Talk about awkward.

So I’m taking suggestions. What are your favorite ways to escape a talker? I know you do it. And you’re going to fork over your secrets or I’m going to take up smoking. You don’t want me to die of cancer, do you?

…Well, then again, sometimes cancer gets ya. 


Strumpets in the Summertime: Part Deux

22 May

I was all geared up to write you a poem about the oncoming summer. It was something to do with the good Lord protecting us from the inevitable onslaught of boobly boobs and private unmentionables coming our way with the heat. Spring has been hot and muggy, and while prefer it to the bitter cold I am never quite prepared for how bare-ass naked other human beings can be in the wide open public with complete and total comfort.

But as it turns out, I’ve already done that one. It was called Strumpets in the Summertime and was one of my 365 musings in the 2011th year of our Lord. So here I am, getting all old and cranky with the same, repetitive complaints about humanity. I guess that sums up my life experience to date: I was simply born a cranky, old woman. I like to think I just matured at a terrifyingly rapid pace.

I should note that Dave caught me checking a girl out the other day (boobs are magnetic, I don’t care who you are) and said it’s a frequent observation he makes about me. So I guess I’m the one needing protection from The Almighty this hot, muggy spring. 

May He be with us all.

Strumpets in the Summertime

 Is it just me or are clothes being made smaller and sluttier?

That has to be the only reason it’s acceptable for all these body parts to be out on display.  It’s not even summer and all the gals in the city are free-flying with their anatomy out in the sunlight for all to see.  Tiny little short shorts, dresses with dangerously high hems, and low, low, low cut blouses.

How, exactly, am I supposed to compete with that?

I don’t really have any good ideas.  I mean, I’ll put on a dress but I’m not about to approach looking like a lady of the night when I do it.  Quite frankly, I was raised a tomboy and the fact that I’m willing to wear dresses or skirts of any kind should have everyone’s mouths agape.  When I reach for a makeup brush, people should have near-heart attacks.

Or at least they would be if there weren’t five girls within a 50 foot radius at all times with their legs and arms and boobly-boobs on display.

It’s not really a matter of competition.  After all, I’ve got a handsome guy by my side and I don’t really have any interest in attracting anyone’s attention but his.  But holy cow if I were him I’d have a hard time paying attention to me.

Since I’m unwilling to go the way of sluttery, I’m going to have to think of something else.  Maybe I could always smell like something nice.  Not flowers or musk – I need something that competes with tittery.  What’s a good scent to get a man’s attention? Bacon? 

I don’t know that would help my cause to be associated with cooked pig.

Why isn’t there already some sort of scent out there to assist in these situations?  Perhaps I should bottle something myself and label it as strumpet defense.   The commercial could feature a bunch of strumpets (naturally) all dressed up in their strumpet clothes (of course) and a decent-looking-but-not-blow-your-socks-off woman in the midst of them with an aura of light around her and a man staring at her with rapt attention.   And then some clever slogan. 

I’m going to have to work on that.   In the meantime, I’ll just have to keep making delicious food and being charmingly dorky.  Because those are really my only two redeeming qualities and I’m not sure the last one even counts.  I’m just trying to slip that in so I can make ‘redeeming qualities’ plural.

Maybe the bacon perfume isn’t such a bad idea after all.  It might remind him of pig, but that will remind him of food and that will remind him of me.  We can go from boob-gazing to food-grazing in 3 seconds flat and I can pull him out of the outside world of strumpetry and into our apartment where it’s safe and where I feed him and make him forget that there are attractive, young women absolutely everywhere.

Oh man- it’s only spring!  I’m gonna need one helluva plan when summer hits. 

Everyone Please Stop Getting Married and Having Babies

1 Aug

I envisioned a lot of things for my twenties.  I pictured myself being a super cool adult.  I somehow thought that paying my own bills would be awesome.  I imagined I’d be in the best shape of my life.

These things haven’t exactly come to fruition.

You know what I hadn’t imagined?  Everyone I know getting married and having babies all at once.  …Or the invention of Facebook.  

I am constantly bombarded with announcements of love and adoration and procreation.   Which is lovely, in a way.  The Book of Faces has ensured that when I run into someone I haven’t seen since we shared Algebra class, my jaw doesn’t drop to the floor at the size of their stomach.  Or the train of munchkins behind them.  Or the size of their ring.  And since my face tends to immediately barf my thoughts, this has been a source of great salvation.

As happy as I am for all these folks and their hitch-getting and their baby-making, my wallet is getting seriously ravaged.  

Of course I’m glad for them.  Really, it’s a lovely milestone in their lives.  It’s just unfortunate that their milestones cost me so much of my hard-earned American dollars.  Do you realize how many days I have to sit at a desk typing to pay off just one friend’s marriage?! Too many, folks.  Far too many. 

I’ve gotta take off work.  I’ve gotta get a hotel.   I’ve gotta get an outfit.  I’ve gotta pay for gas.  I’ve gotta get a gift.  I’ve gotta hold my empty wallet in my hand as I cry in the hotel shower.

We need to get a handle on this.  My Facebook news feed is blowing up with pictures of fingers sporting rings and pictures of babies still in the womb (which is a post in itself,  mind you).  Every status update is a hit to my bank account and a day of my life spoken for.  We all hit the 20’s at the same time and we’re all racing to avoid a life of cat-filled spinsterdom. I get it.  I fully support it.  I just wish I didn’t have to pay for it. With the number of wedding gifts and baby shower sprinkles I’ve purchased, I could have backpacked through Europe by now.  

Maybe we should just all agree to not get each other anything.  I’m pretty sure we’re all just throwing the same money around and around anyway.  With so many invitations in a year, I can’t even attend them all.  And while that should mean that I save money, social etiquette dictates that if I opt not to attend, the pressure to purchase a gift is only heightened.  That doesn’t even make any sense.  

So I have a proposal of my own; let’s stop buying each other crap.  Let’s just save our money to buy ourselves the things on our registry instead of asking other people to buy those things.  Doesn’t that make lots of sense?  Then again, the gift is the cheapest portion of the wedding excursions.  Its the driving and the hotel-staying that does me in.  Maybe everyone can just get married in a closer proximity to me.  Or maybe everyone can get married at free camping grounds.  Or just revert to immediate family only. That’s probably best.  Let’s do that.

Except start after I get married – because I’ve already invested in folks and I want that money back y’all. 

4 Notes on Better Gift Card Giving

26 Dec

I’m going to go ahead and venture into uncharted waters here.  I’m going to explore the unexplored – to encroach upon indecency.  I want to talk about gift card etiquette.

Let me start by saying that gift cards are a lovely thing.  They’re the perfect gift, if well-employed.  Being given a well-considered and well-delivered gift card for a special celebration can provoke a grown man to pee himself with glee (also known as Glee Pee or #gleepee).  In return for their generosity, the buyer typically receives discounts or a free gift card of a smaller amount at their favorite stores.  Thus, when properly employed, the gift card is the gift that keeps on giving.  When not properly employed, it’s a last-minute, lazy gift.  While still appreciated, it struggles to leave an impact.

So here are some of what I believe are useful gift card etiquette tips.  Somewhere out there, I’m sure there’s an incredibly official and highly lauded version of this already that the world has agreed on. If such a thing exists, I hereby declare my willful ignorance.  I am the original and only source for final consultation on these matters.

Be Sure to Notate the Amount on the Card. There are several ways to do this. You can simply write in a card what the amount is,

This is the look of grateful confusion.

along with a personal message.  You can write it in Sharpie on the back of the gift card itself.  Most stores have made this easy on you by setting up the world’s easiest Ad Lib so you can stop scratching your head on how to approach the issue.  “Happy Shopping from __________.  The amount on your card is _______________ and can be used in store or online.”  Or if you’re being totally awesome and shopping small business, you’re dealing in paper gift certificates and this is already handled for you (one more reason to shop small).  No matter which way you prefer, please don’t overlook this detail.  Though we’re thankful for any gift of any size, the difference between the way you thank someone for a $5 gift card and a $500 gift card are significantly different.   It’s like a piece of candy and a car, folks.  Give us a little guidance.

Do Your Homework. Now, I may be a little old school in this thinking, but I’m a firm believer that any gift that is given should be given with great thought.  There are some occasions which call for gifts of light and casual measure; hostess gifts, for example, are the kind that show appreciation for someone without making a personal commentary.  But when you’re buying birthday, anniversary, or holiday gifts, the occasion calls for some forethought.  You can say just as much with a gift card as with a hand-selected gift if you just put the same amount of thought into it.  Consider the stores your recipient likes to shop at.  Extra points if you pick a place the person would like to shop at, but doesn’t do so frequently because of the price points of that store.  If you give me a $50 gift card to a shop I usually can’t justify spending money in, you’ve just given me the best guilt-free shopping trip ever.  More bonus points if you check out the store’s price levels beforehand to gauge an appropriate amount.  a $10 gift card to a store that carries $250 shirts probably isn’t the best choice for a personal and impactful gift.

Get Creative. Consider grouping cards together or selecting a gift certificate for a  particularly great location.  For example, by purchasing a gift certificate for the movie theater and a gift certificate for a restaurant nearby, you’re giving someone the gift of an evening out.  Or if you give someone a voucher to a location near where they vacation or have always wanted to, you’ve just reminded them that you know what they love and given them a reason to go visit it.  Or even just coming up with clever labels for the way you give the gift (e.g. give them a gift card to a liquor store and a bake shop and label them “naughty” and “nice”).  Anything you can do to show that you didn’t just pick a gift card lazily off the kiosk is one step closer to a meaningful gift.

Be a Better Recipient. This is by no means required, but it sure does go a long way to show appreciation by sending the giver a text, call, or casual note mentioning a second thank you for the gift and what it was you just purchased with it.  I bought my brother and sister-in-law a gift certificate to an upscale restaurant for Christmas.  Ten months later, I got a text from him thanking me for a great anniversary dinner.  It’s a fantastic feeling to be thought of and to see how the person chose to use it.

So there you have it: four things I think everyone should bear in mind with gift cards.  I’d even go so far as to say that if you don’t want to consider the above when you’re giving a gift card or certificate, you might as well just stuff money in the card and scribble your name.

It will leave the same impact, but require less of you. 

How to Be a Good Houseguest

31 Oct

Well, we’re staring down the barrel of November, folks. That means that in what will seem to only be a few short days, we will fly through the holidays season with every moment full of angst, hurriedness, and guilt. I’m so looking forward to it, arent you? So allow me to address a holiday matter before the holidays are truly upon us: How to be a good houseguest.

Being a good houseguest is a crucial skill. Not only do you want to ensure you have a place to stay when you’re away from home so you don’t spend your holidays in a hotel, but you would also like to not completely ruin your relationship with the host. And having had a plethora of folks shack up at my place, I am deeming myself an authority on the matter. Heed my words, oh wonderful and knowledge-seeking followers.

How to Be a Good Houseguest

1) Leave it how you found it.  Doesn’t that seem simple? But that means everything. It means making the bed to the best of your ability before you leave. It means cleaning up after yourself when you put your feet up and have a snack somewhere in the house. It means that if you use their towels or washcloths or anything else they offered you that you give them back at the end of the run and even offer to throw them in the washing machine.

2)  Be gracious for everything.  If they make you food or offer you a drink or got a different kind of bath soap because they know you are allergic to theirs or whatever they may do to make you feel at home, be gracious. That includes eating whatever they are kind enough to make and saying thank you for it.  Hey, if you dont like it you can sneak out on the town and eat something else. Or pack granola bars for such an emergency.

3) Offer to help.  With anything –  dinner, cleaning, whatever.  If there are dishes to be done and some of them have been dirtied by you, help.  Insist on it. Because no matter what the host says, they’re completely and utterly thankful for the helping hand. After all, they’d rather be spending time with everyone than spending all their time cleaning up after them.

4) Maintain. Sure, you were given a guest room for the duration of your stay, but that room is still part of a house that is not yours. So while you should feel free to make yourself at home you should not feel free to live like a complete slob in that room until your departure.

5) Enjoy yourself.  I know all this seems like a lot of fuss and trouble but it’s really not.  Essentially just offer to help here and there and clean up after yourself. Easy peasy.  Remember: above all the host just wants you to enjoy yourself. So kick back, relax, make yourself feel at home (so long as your home is not a nest of digustingness) and enjoy the stay.
And a sidenote for good measure: If you can’t commit to doing any of the above, you should stay at a hotel.  Because there, people are paid to clean up after you, you don’t have to be grateful for it, and regardless of how you live in the room they provide you, you are always welcome to come back again.

Happy holiday season folks. May all our relationships stay in tact.

I Blame Old People

24 Jan

I’m convinced that the world would be a much safer place to live in if old people didn’t have cell phones.

Or maybe just less annoying.

Listen, I’m really sorry to have to be the one to say this because making fun of old people supposedly shortens your life expectancy, but I’m willing to take one for the team.

I constantly hear people complain about “these kids and their cell phones” on the road, in conversation,and at the dinner table.  And I certainly agree that unfortunately technology develops and improves faster than the rate of our etiquette.  Remember how long Facebook was out before we all collectively decided it just wasn’t okay to run around poking people or plastering personal information of an embarrassing or degrading nature on each other’s walls?  And we’re just finally getting to the point where we are pressuring people to stop posting personal, individual-related, emo status updates. 

So I understand.  I really do.  I don’t like a gum-chomping, oblivious teenage cell phone driver any more than the next guy.  But I have to admit that when I look around on the roads, I see a lot more old people doing it.

When I’m stuck behind a car that isn’t hitting the gas within 3 seconds of a green light, it’s not always a youngin in the front seat.  And when I’m out in social situations, it isn’t just the kiddos who are pulling out their cell phones in the middle of conversations. 

 I was attempting to cross the road to my house the other evening and spotted an older woman in a minivan full of children (presumably her own) approaching an intersection with her texting phone propped up on the steering wheel, eyes fully locked on the keyboard.

I’ve also heard far too many times that “these kids” constantly google things on their phones when in the middle of a conversation.  And that is definitely true.  I’m not really sure how it’s considered a flaw to want to end a debate quickly with the introduction of fact, but that’s another issue entirely.  The point is that we aren’t the only ones.

Dave and I had the pleasure of a few friends visiting us this weekend, one of whom was a baby boomer and came with his iEverything in tow.   Within the course of three hours, I witnessed him walk around my house scanning the barcodes off of random products in order to demonstrate an app’s ability to find the lowest price available in the local market for that item.  He also used his iPhone to google something and end a slightly charged debate about the date of Leslie Nielsen’s death.

And when we were at dinner, he couldn’t resist scanning the barcode on his beer bottle.  You know, just to see.

So stop blaming us.  Because as much as cell phones may be a product of our generation, we are not solely responsible for bearing the social and safety foibles that result from it.  We all are.  And for every kid who thinks they can eat fast food, drive stick shift, and text their buddy at the same time, there is an old fart attempting to read a text from her best friend while running through an intersection with a van full of kids.

And don’t get me started on the inappropriate things that old people post on their children’s walls.

So hey – I’m not solely blaming old people.  I’m just blaming them enough to balance out the blame that has been thrown onto young people’s shoulders all these years.    All of us are very excited about the cool things we can do with mind-bogglingly tiny gadgets.  And we are all very excited to explore their possibilities at all hours of the day regardless of whether it is a social faux pas or a safety hazard to those around us.

So let’s just stop pointing fingers and start spending our time updating our rules of etiquette.  Because I think we could all benefit from agreeing on a few things.  Let’s start with agreeing on how we’re all to blame.

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