Category Archives: etiquette

Michigan Goes Mad.


michiganI’m visiting my family in the deepest heart of rural northern Georgia, a place where the wildest action happening is watching the kudzu overtake the pines lining Route 20 to Atlanta – that is, on the extremely rare occasions we load up my sister’s seven children, ranging in age from 18 months to 18 years in the giant grey commercial vehicle her family uses for transport.

There are no chain stores here. No 7-11s, no Outback Steakhouses, no Galleria Malls. The biggest cluster of stores is located at a lonely intersection of country roads only locals travel, consisting of The Rocky Plains Community Store, Nancy’s Cuttin’ Up Salon, The Baptist Church, and while there are two new gas pumps, you can still set yourself up with dyed diesel and dyed kerosene from old-fashioned pumps that look like something out of the 1950s.

No one has yet to be able to explain to me what, exactly, dyed diesel or dyed kerosene is used for, nor why it is dyed, but they are politely apologetic as they forlornly explain to me that they do not know, as if they are announcing the funeral of a long-lost friend, and they ALWAYS call me ma’am when they do so.

This throws me, living as long as I have in New York. I still think of myself as a “miss.”

Nevertheless, as strange as dyed diesel, dyed kerosene, and sheets of relentless zudzu plants as intent on overtaking the entire state as horror movie triffids might seem? Michigan has Georgia beat, hands down.

Here’s the latest news from the Wolverine State – and some insight, perhaps, as to why Michigan acquired that toothy nickname:

According to Associated Press reports, in Muskegon, this week, a man was sentenced to 45 days in jail for biting his girlfriend’s five-year-old son in the face.

In the FACE.

Why did he do it?

Because the little boy bit him first, of course.

Duh – gotcha back.

The boy’s mother defended the boyfriend, explaining that the man was merely trying to discipline the boy – after all, said boyfriend was trying to get the kid to brush his teeth when the kid bit the man in the face.

Perhaps the man was trying to demonstrate the value and strength of a good, healthy set of chompers. Why, I wonder, were their mouths and faces so close together in the first place? Were they sharing toothbrushes?

Interestingly, the mother didn’t turn the guy in – school officials, noticing the bite marks on the child’s face, alerted Child Protective Services.

I don’t know about any of you, but I can NOT think of an excusable reason for ANYONE to bite my kids. Were anyone to attempt such a foolhardy thing, I can honestly say they would begin to know the true meaning of wolverine.

In Mount Clemens, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, a 33-year-old mother was sentenced to six to 20 years in prison. Her crime? She settled her 10-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son down for some soothing hot chocolate – laced with sedatives – then set fire to the house and expected them all to sit quietly with her and, well… die.

The judge basically decided she’d forfeited her status as “mommy” from now on.

Luckily, the kids shook off the wooziness and escaped the house in time.  Mom had taken the kids out of school early, too.

Big disappointment, huh? Usually when mom takes you out of school early, it’s a good thing.

Writing straight-like-that they are “scarred for life,” the kids have my sympathy – but so does the mom, to tell you the truth.

Apparently, she suffers from a mental illness which affects six million Americans – 5,999,999 of whom did NOT attempt to kill ANYONE today, FYI, although thank YOU, “fair and balanced” Fox News, for making darn SURE that’s the first “fair and balanced” item you mention in your “fair and balanced” report on this “fair and balanced” news day.

Way-to-go, perpetuating that old-fashioned “fair and balanced” stigma against mental illness.

Odd, isn’t it, Fox has to keep reminding us that they’re “fair and balanced?” How come The New York Times never has to defensive – I mean, defend – itself all the time like that?

While we’re at it, why do all crime news reports describe men who commit them like this:

Carpenter/Architect/Professor/Janitor Massacres Many….

NEVER ONCE MENTIONING whether or NOT the male of the species has even propagated the species?

But if a WOMAN commits a crime, her status as mother FAR OUTWEIGHS any other accomplishment she might otherwise have earned?

For instance:

Mother of Two Embezzles Funds…

It will only be in the last paragraph that we may or may not learn she’s also received the Pulitzer, a Grammy Award, AND the MacArthur Genius Grant.

Sigh.

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The Girl on the Left.


awkwardEtiquette: Useful. Nice is only a side benefit.

Oldest daughter, exasperated, from backseat, to me: “Mom? MUST you narrate EVERYTHING you see? As if it’s your business in the first place?”

Me, non-plussed by this surly teenaged dismissal: “Why, yes. Yes, I do.”

Oldest: “You’re the only one who can even SEE them.”

Youngest, cheerfully, having had the foresight to pipe up earlier:I call shotgun,” and therefore sitting in the catbird seat, immediately to my right, now pipes up: “I can see FINE.

No words are necessary. The heat alone from the backseat is enough.

Words come, anyway.

Oldest: “Why do you even CARE about them, anyway?”

Me: “Because it SUCKS to be the girl on the left.”

Youngest: “I don’t know what you’re talking about at all.”

Oldest (still furious, about my car-to-car meddling, and the whole shotgun thing in general, since she knows quite well she’d completely understand what I was talking about if SHE COULD JUST SEE FOR HER OWN DAMN SELF): “ohKAY, why does it suck to be the girl on the left?

I grin, happy at last: my chance to give a short lecture on the nature of awkward situations. (It has to be short, the girls know, because we are headed for the bank, which is coming up just a few turns away.)

The car in front of me has three people in the back seat: on the left, there is one brunette ponytail. In the middle, there is a blonde ponytail, who is being bear-hugged, and generally molested by, a burly boy – probably a footballer – on the far right.

This jock is so into his blonde ponytail that he keeps nuzzling his squeeze – and is ending up squeezing the girl on the left ever-over, ever-closer to the left-side passenger door. She doesn’t turn her head, not once, not ever. She is graciously bearing this indignity; why, I do not know.

I myself would have given them a good shove back, and suggested they find a room or something. Well, maybe not “find a room,” since that’s pretty cliché.

Perhaps instead I would “accidentally” drop my purse, lunging forward towards that endlessly annoying hump in the middle, knocking them BOTH toward the RIGHT side passenger door. When they both responded: “HEY!” – as if “how dare you interrupt our foreplay?” I’d smile apologetically, while at the same time planting my ass just a little further to the right, with my big fat backpack/purse/knapsack, or what have you tucked to my left, in between the passenger’s side door and myself.

Cozy but effective strategy for flipping the awkwardness back over onto THEM. My, aren’t we ALL awfully close now? Still want to kiss her, quarterback, now that I’m practically on her lap?

If THAT didn’t send the intended message across, I’d wait till the next big smooch, break out my math homework, and tap the blonde ponytail on the shoulder right in the middle of tonguing it.

Hey, Brittany, did you understand what Mrs. Meyer was talking about when she ran through that binomial theorem today, because I’m TOTALLY lost? Mind taking a look at my notes for a sec, and seeing if they make ANY sense to you, because I’m about to have an EPIC FAIL here.”

Then hold aforementioned binder right up to yon spit-covered face, with innocent smile.

Basically, you get the strategy: incredibly annoying politeness until the people you’re being annoyingly polite to either catch on that they’re being ludicrously rude, and stop, or just stop out of sheer annoyance. Either way, what can they say to you? You’re being incredibly polite.

The beauty of politeness. Don’t let anyone tell you that politeness, etiquette, good manners, is to make other people feel BETTER. That’s just a side benefit.

Etiquette is for one main thing only: So you ALWAYS know what to do in any given situation, without being embarrassed. That’s it. It’s almost as practical as money. Which is why most people who’ve had money for a long time have good manners.

It’s not really snobbery. It’s sensible.

Best of all? YOU can do it, too. Just keep reading this blog, and I’ll learn ya.

My daughter, of course, at 13, could not rest at letting me be right.

What if she didn’t mind?”

Me: “You think the girl on the left ENJOYED being squeezed over while the two of them sucked face?”

Oldest, grasping for straws: “Maybe she’s a lesbian.”

Me:In that case, she’d have to be a pretty CHARITABLE lesbian; don’t you think otherwise she’d be jealous?”

Oldest: “Maybe she IS a charitable lesbian.”

It DOES take all kinds to make a world. My oldest COULD be right. The one thing I DO know? At 13, the one thing Mom isn’t, is right. About anything.

For everyone else? Take my word for it. If you ever find yourself The Girl on the Left? Try etiquette.

Ah, etiquette: the most effective way to be obnoxious and get away with it.

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