I've been curled up on the couch all day reading Peg Bracken's 1960 gem, "I Try to Behave Myself", which pretty much has been my own personal mantra for the last 20+ years.
I try to behave myself, I do.
"Try" being the operative word here.
I love, love love Peg Bracken's books. Think of her as Martha Stewart meets Emily Post meets Lucille Bluth meets Kathy Griffin. She was sort of the "anti-housewife" housewife of the 60's & 70's, and she wrote a bunch of books, all still funny 30-40+ years later. Her "I Hate to Cook Book" is priceless, but we'll cover that another day. She's also Matt Groening's (creator of "The Simpsons") mom, which is all sorts of awesome.
Her brand of etiquette is one I can hitch my discount, one-eyed pony to. Try to be good. Try to do the right thing. Try to not make an ass of yourself every day.
A few of Peg's gems:
"...it is unwise of Victoria Goodhost to try a new recipe on guests, or to try any faintly out-of-the-way operation she's not wholly sure of. If she serves the Old English Pudding with Flaming Currants, but the currants won't flame, or Cherries Jubilee, and the cherries won't jube, the guests will be very embarrassed, as though they were watching their child flunk a piano recital, and they will wish they were elsewhere."
- I once (and only once) had a sit-down dinner for 22 people at my house. Not having Ms. Bracken's advice firmly implanted in my head, I decided to "improvise" the menu. Not my best effort. Nope. But the eleventy-hundred bottles of wine strewn down the table made it all a bit more palatable, I hope. And, even though none of the invitees had gone to "finishing school", if it all sucked balls, they were very, very polite about it to my face.
- This makes me wonder- how does the "cut of my jib" look on a bar stool? Know your ass, ladies. Know. Your. Ass.
"Once, on being introduced for the fourth time in five weeks to the same woman, I did this: "Look at me," I said. "Find some identifying trademarks. I wear my hair like this, you see. My ears are pierced, and I usually wear gold button earrings. My name is_______" and I pronounced it with great clarity. "I'm pointing this all out," I said, "in the hope that we'll never have to be introduced again." And we never were."
- I've been introduced to one of the higher-ups at work probably 4-5 times, and they see me in the halls at work 2-3 times a week. Each time I encounter them they look at me with a blank face and no recognition whatsoever. I've even said "hi!" and they just walked faster and ignored me. I'm debating wearing clown shoes and a cowboy hat, or deeply picking my nose the NEXT time we're introduced in the hope of being more "memorable".
"They (couples with children) are, unfortunately prone to ask, 'Why don't you have any?' Now, there are, of course, many possible reasons- physiological, financial, professional, and just plain personal. (some childless couples regard the lives of childful couples as being dull beyond belief, bounded on three sides by Pablum, plastic pants, and Whinnie-the-Pooh, and on the south by Disneyland.) But childless people are more polite and don't say these things, nor do they ask questions like, 'Why in the word did you bother to produce a little creature like that?' which would be just as courteous."
- Lord, how many times have I wanted to counter the "Why don't you have kids?" question with "because seeing how horribly yours behave and what they have turned you into made my ovaries shrivel up into raisins- thanks for asking!" Seriously- it's like asking someone how much they make or how often they have loose stools- you just don't do it, people.
"What to Do if Someone Gets Slugged (schnockered) Anyway: Actually, the Goodhosts should have seen this. After all, they've known Chuck for a long time. Unfortunately, though, the traits that get you into a situation usually prevent your solving it. The Goodhosts' warm hearts were responsible for including Chuck in the first place, and now these same warm hearts keep them from calling the cops."
- I'm pretty sure there have been a few times where it would have been easier to just call the cops to get someone to leave, especially at some of my friend's and my more notorious parties in the early 90's. Hell, just a few years ago at my friend Waffle's yearly Christmas debacle, a guy we've known forever not only got so wasted he was talking about blowing up her house, but he passed out and got teabagged (and not in the Earl Grey sense of the word), peed his pants on her couch, then ignored his pee-pants in the morning and hung out for a few hours before he finally decided to go home. Good times.
Peg gives me hope. Hope that I too can be more thoughtful when it comes to the ways of manners and such. I don't forsee a Cotillion in my future, but maybe, just maybe I can learn to resist the urge to laugh at inopportune moments, not address people I barely know as "twatmonkeys", send thank-you cards where I don't use the word "douche" in an affectionate manner, and maybe, just maybe, I'll remember which gloves to wear to the ladies luncheon at the country club.
Um, yeah. My money is on the twatmonkey, if we're betting here.
Happy Sunday, my polite little cherries jubilee ponies. Happy Sunday.