Etiquette: 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.