Hello, Faithful Readers, and welcome to September’s edition of Gothic Charm School. This month, the Lady of the Manners has something very very important to talk to all of you about, something the Lady of the Manners believes is a basic idea that frequently gets ignored in the gothic communities (and in the “real world,” but she’s not going to try to fix that). “What,” you may be asking yourself, “is she harping on about this time?” Well, it’s very simple, really. Are you ready?
You should strive to be polite to people, even if you don’t like them.
(The Lady of the Manners told you it was a simple idea.)
Now the Lady of the Manners is sure there are swarms of you out there thinking “Why? If I don’t like someone, surely I’m allowed to snipe at them, make hurtful comments, and be cruel to them in general. Especially if they say or do things that I disagree with or think are stupid.”
You aren’t allowed to do that. Well, it isn’t a case of “allowed” so much as “you shouldn’t.” The idea works something like this: if you can manage to be polite to people who you think are blithering idiots, then you will be even better at being nice to people you DO like and get along with.
You see, there are people in the “local scene” of the Lady of the Manners’ hometown whom she would rather not talk to. In fact, if they suddenly moved away to an entirely different planet, the Lady of the Manners would probably dance happily about her living room. But when social situations conspire to throw the Lady of the Manners into contact with those people, does she tell them how annoying she finds them? Does she insult their beliefs, clothes, dancing styles? No she does not. Mind you, the Lady of the Manners doesn’t have a long involved conversation or spend a lot of time with them, but she tries very hard to not roll her eyes at them either. Remember, the Lady of the Manners is asking you to be POLITE to people you don’t like, not to change your distaste for them. There is a wide difference between the two, and the Lady of the Manners suspects that not all of you are clear on it.
Being polite to people you dislike or don’t get along with means that when you interact with them (be it in Real Life or on-line), you don’t immediately snipe at something they say or do just because it’s them saying or doing it. the Lady of the Manners has seen far too many instances of someone flaming another person for a comment, and then turning around and agreeing with the SAME comment from a different person. Sometimes people you dislike have good ideas; you’re just going to have to accept that.
Being polite to people you dislike also means that when you have to interact with them, you don’t “lead” the conversation to a topic you know will end with both of you shrieking at each other. The other person holds opinions that you know are wrong, wrong, wrong? That’s nice, dear, you still don’t get to try and argue with them about the error of their ways. It probably won’t make you feel any better to know they most assuredly feel the same way about you, will it?
Now, the more alert of you will realize that not visiting topics of contention will lead to a whole lot of conversations about nothing. About the weather, or other such boring things. Yep, you’re right. The point here is that you probably shouldn’t be talking to people you despise anyway, so make the conversations short and inoffensive if at all possible.
Of course, sometimes it isn’t possible. There will be times when you are forced to be with people you can’t stand, because you both have mutual friends. This is where you must, must, MUST be polite, the Lady of the Manners can’t stress this enough. What if the mutual friend has no idea that you would rather claw your own eyes out than spend time with their friend so-and-so? A social gathering is NOT the time to demonstrate this by being beastly and unbearable, no matter how entertaining you personally may find it. For one thing, you don’t want to make your friend uncomfortable; while you may think that you’ll be doing them a favor by “showing them” that the other person is a complete twit, what will probably end up happening is your friend will get mad at you for not playing nicely with their OTHER friend. Do not make a scene, do not make snide comments, do not roll your eyes, and do not start an argument. Look at it this way — there is always the chance that the person you dislike didn’t read this column and will be horrible and rude to you. That means that if you’ve managed to behave yourself, you come off looking like the better person. Ahhh, the moral high ground; it’s a lovely place, isn’t it?
Really, the Lady of the Manners is completely serious about this. Some of her dearest friends socialize and spend time with other people that the Lady of the Manners despises. But, those other people are important to the Lady of the Manners’ friends, so she tries to tolerate them.
Oh yes, what is that you’re saying? But that isn’t being honest about your feelings or opinions? Twaddle. Social conventions are NOT for “being honest about your feelings”. Social conventions are about ensuring civilized behavior and people not trying to strangle each other during coffee. Once the person(s) you don’t like have left the area, if you have to, hold whispered conversations with close friends about how much you don’t like that so-and-so, how their views are suspect, how they have stupid shoes. Fine. Just don’t give vent to those feelings PUBLICLY, or start spreading gossip about the person you don’t like.
Some people may think this sounds like the Lady of the Manners is advising you to be two-faced; nothing could be further from the truth. The Lady of the Manners is NOT advising you to be artificially friendly or sweet to people you don’t like. What the Lady of the Manners IS suggesting is that you not be RUDE to people you don’t like. If you choose to adopt a neutral tone of voice and only talk about the weather to people you don’t like, that’s FINE. Just don’t be rude to them.
Ahem. Did you get the idea that the Lady of the Manners feels quite strongly about this? Goodness, she hopes so. Anyway, that wraps up this month’s bit of vehement declaration up for now. Come scurrying around next month for more conversation and ranting, not to mention the yearly exuberance about it being the month of Halloween. And feel free to send any questions for Gothic email@example.com.