“If I wanted anything, I’d take it… I can’t be bothered resisting things I want.”
-Gloria, The Beautiful and Damned
We love to love those 85 year old sophisticated, sharp shooting women who break with convention and start giving us something to talk about. But is that why we love them? Because they finally got the gall to cut the bullshit? Or is it because, in doing so, they surprised us? Just like Taylor Swift unexpectedly does exactly what we conventionally expect of a 16 year old Southern Belle in the media (yeah I know she’s “feelin’ 22” – that was a pointed statement).
My gut says the latter explanation. What would make me a Swift fan is her getting up on her soap box and being a real person for a second. Or maybe naming the dudes she trashes in her cowardly music. I digress.
Yesterday’s Man Repeller post touched on social etiquette, specifically, “saying ‘HI.'” Amelia Diamond explains how age, and presumably confidence, has finally allowed her to do away with the polite acknowledgement of an aquaintance that often inconveniences us as we try to cut out of a party or get to a date we’re already late for. It raises the question whether to make conversation with an ex or a frenemy, even if there’s nothing to say. And for this reason, Diamond eliminated this formality from her internal battle list.
I still feel most comfortable at the kid’s table, but travel has taught me the severe insignificance of social normalcy. Consider ordering in a restaurant, for example. In Spanish, I struggled for months to say, “Quiero ______” or “Me da ______” (I want ___, or give me ____ ). That’s how things are ordered in Spanish, but in my English mind, I wanted to say, “Excuse me, can I please have the _______?” “Is it possible to get some _______?” Bat eyelashes. Smile unassumingly. Enhance pitch to appear unaggressive and patient. Jesus, are we asking for sustenance or gun powder? And it’s all a big sham. Every morning, the receptionist in my office walks to each doorway (three in my corner alone) and says, “Good Morning,” with a short “good,” emphasis on the “morn-.” Every. Single. Day. And if I respond, change it up with a “Morning, how are you?” Without fail, a monosyllabic “finethankyouandyou?” emphasis on the “fine-” and second “-you.” Like a child’s rhyme. andtheDISHranawaywiththeSPOON. duh duh DUH duh duh DUH duh duh DUH.
Thank you, Amelia, for your article. In recent years, befriending people older than myself and from other countries has encouraged me to do the same as you in many ways. I quit my job and moved to Europe, for instance. I spend nearly every Friday night at the gym, instead of binge drinking calories I don’t want or need, and sleeping away my final free day of the week. As a result, when I do go out, I think I enjoy myself more. And I’ve spent the last few Saturdays doing awesome things like volunteering with an outreach program, and going horseback riding and wine tasting upstate.
It’s possible that same maturity providing the confidence to “say no to social etiquette,” is the same developed force that wakes us up at 8 am on a weekend to go to a charity event, or to desire a night in reading David Sedaris without defaulting to Netflix. Maybe social etiquette is a necessary evil that guides us while we aren’t yet able to guide ourselves. The fact that, running into a former flame means having to make conversation, prevents young minds from really flying off the handle at the break up. “Don’t say something you’ll regret,” wouldn’t matter if it was socially acceptable to dismiss everything regrettable from our entire purview.
Seeking acceptance for not doing things you hate is as ironic as understanding why you should do things you love. Both come with an equally cautionary custom of moderation, bolstered by niceties and sacrifices, a see-saw struggle illustrated in classics like The Beautiful and Damned, Fountainhead or War and Peace. Conclusions? Well, we’re still dissecting those tales 150 years later, so what does that tell you?