That Is All There Is About It.

I found a 1937 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette for $3 at an estate sale today. This is the first passage I flipped to when checking the condition of the book.

One inexorable rule of etiquette is that you must talk to your next-door neighbor at the dinner table. You must, that is all there is about it!

Even if you are placed next to some one with whom you have had a bitter quarrel, consideration for your hostess who would be distressed if she knew you had been put in a disagreeable place, and further consideration for the rest of the table which is otherwise “blocked,” exacts that you give no outward sign of your repugnance and that you make a pretense, at least for a little while, of talking together.

In other words, your host/ess minds their own business, doesn’t play into your various dramas with mutual friends or acquaintances, and expects you to behave like a well-bred adult when attending their function. No so hard, right?

Yet several times over the years I’ve shrugged – or more likely rolled my eyes into the back of my head – when someone has said they “can’t possibly attend [insert event] because [insert name’s] going to be there.”

I’ve been to birthday parties, weddings, funerals, and a host of other functions with former friends, various haters, exes with whom the divorce wasn’t final, and in one case someone I was actively suing in court at the time. But I’ve known the rule since I was a kid, thanks to L. Frank Baum, Emily Post, and a mother who insisted on good behavior: An event is about the person or people throwing it.

Didja hear that? Let me put it in more current terms:


Got it?

How does expressing your feelings about [insert name] come across as “all about you?” Well, you’d only say it in the hope a host/ess would cater to your whim. You want assurance [insert name] won’t be invited or worse, you say you won’t attend if they are there. That’s selfish, needy, and pathetic. Not your event = not your choice. Their event, their expense, their time, their energy, and their guest list. And all a good host/ess thinks when you make such a demanding statement is they are better off without you there.

Civility and decorum. Diplomacy and etiquette. It all just really boils down to “Don’t be a dick,” don’t it?

Okay now, all this said, my next big birthday bash will be in spring of 2016. Leave your baggage at the door.

When I said “bury the hatchet,” I didn’t mean in his skull.

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