Now that we have a new year with all the same old problems, Darling let’s do a quick reminder that etiquette has been created to help (not torture!) you and that following the How to Behave edicts makes everything in your life more wonderful: rosy glow on your cheeks, straighter teeth, thicker hair and a higher rate on your certificates of deposit.
The notion you need to lose (along with any moisturizer that has been opened for more than ten months, washed-until-grey t-shirts or socks, expired sunscreen, flavored olive oils that you will never use and anything you are keeping because ‘you might need it someday’) is the idea that etiquette hurts. It does not hurt. Nor is it difficult.
Etiquette is the guide-rails to keep you from careening off the road – yes, you may ignore it, but if your Alfa Romeo ends up in a pond, let’s not look at Darling Auntie who told you so, without ever saying “I told you so.”
Of course it is not as easy as “treat others as you would like to be treated.” That’s a nice thought but not realistic as it does not take into account different cultures and tastes. I have several relatives who would love to treat me as they do themselves and force-feed me kale, orthopedic shoes, beige interiors, oatmeal and goat’s milk soap. No. Absolutely not.
Etiquette says, treat people kindly taking into account you and your charming personality and them and their charming personality, especially if they are lacking a charming personality. Or charm. Or any kind of a personality whatsoever.
Allow me to demonstrate. Some people (idiots) think that etiquette means saying nice things. So they walked around all December saying “Merry Christmas” to people they hated in icy, emotionless tones thinking this would earn them brownie points. It does not. Saying kind things in a cold voice is not effective, nor is it proper etiquette. Say the nice things in a nice way or duck into nearby cleaning closets to avoid those you hate.
Second, some people (idiots) think that etiquette is difficult and time-consuming. No. Never. Shall we look at the bête noire of so many trolls (and such an important topic this time of year) thank-you cards? Etiquette says: write thank-you cards. But etiquette central does not say: toil over your thank-you cards for hours to the exclusion of all fun. We have thought-through dozens of scenarios and have all the correct responses for all circumstances. See how benevolent, compassionate, generous and sympathetic we are?
In general, the closer you are to the person and the more the gift was given with love – the less effort you need. Darling friends who give you yachts only need a “you are so kind!” and an invitation to sail.
The more distant or frosty the relationship, the longer and more elaborate the thank-you card. Buy a card with gilt and embroidery and write out 24 heart-felt sentences of gratitude to the evil twit who gave you a stained sweater with a used tissue in the pocket.
A gift from someone who was abusive to you? No need to send a thank-you card. Nor do you need to send anything in return for a gift that reminds you of an addiction or is an (unasked for) self-help anything.
You don’t have stamps or want to go to the post office? EC says you can write out a lovely card using different colored pens, take a photo and use e-mail/ social media to deliver.
The best gifts are the malevolent ones like pots and pans for a person who doesn’t cook, an (unasked for) scale, something to soothe the giver’s conscious (like a donation to a charity you hate) or something antithetical to your beliefs (like a book by a person with repugnant political opinions). These are the most fun because you get to 1) not write a thank-you card and 2) smash them to pieces! Quelle adorableness! Heave those gifts out of windows, lob them into compost heaps, chuck them into recycling containers, toss them into charity bins. There are so many things in life that you need to handle with care (from glass mason jars to teenagers’ feelings) it’s wonderful to have something that you can break, burn, and stomp on so use this gift to vent your frustrations about any and all annoying situations. Punch, kick, crush, chop and slam-dunk that thingy to oblivion, then get out there, tiger, and have a great year!