Would you please pass the grain of salt?

manners6Does the NYT publish stories, such as this one about providing “etiquette” lessons for upper-middle-class children, purely to provide fodder for the eye-rolling among us? It’s hard to come to any other conclusion, given the highly mockable content.

Obviously as a cranky and childless old queen, I have no experience with and therefore plenty of insight into the raising of children (to quote Fran Lebowitz, I am “familiar with reproduction only insofar as it applies to a too-recently-fabricated Louis XV armoire…”) – and I will say this: I have no issue with the idea of etiquette lessons for children. While the larger purpose of etiquette (or more precisely, good manners) is to be respectful of others and to do what you can to put others at ease, there are certainly a variety of helpful rules surrounding the use of eating utensils  or the writing of thank-you notes, for example, that go a long way to rounding out the education of any child.

But what is apparently being taught to these children (and for a pretty penny, I might add) is simply how to behave themselves with a bare minimum of restraint – which is far different than “etiquette.” Now, I could go on and on about what the hell do these parents expect when they keep the TV on during dinner. And  think that it’s AOK to ignore those around them in favor of texting some inconsequential message composed of indecipherable acronyms and emoticons. And that paying a few hundred bucks to some self-professed (and, I’m guessing here, not especially qualified) “expert” with a penchant for groan-inducing wordplay (“Etiquette Manor”? Just no.) to spend a couple of hours teaching your kids that it’s impolite to scream and yell in the middle of a restaurant. And that none of this is a substitute for a parent teaching through both instruction and example that different situations require different behavior. And I guess to some extent I already have.

Instead, I’d just like to call out a couple of the gems served up by these “experts.”

“These days, you have to teach kids about return on investment,” said Robin Wells, the founder of Etiquette Manor in Coral Gables, Fla [ed.: Florida. Of course]… So, even as she imparts lessons about using forks and the importance of looking the waiter in the eye, she does so by framing the lessons in a constructively selfish way for the children.

Yes, that’s perfect. Don’t be polite or respectful or gracious because it’s appropriate or kind or a way of making others feel at ease. Do it for the “return on investment.” Seriously, parents, please steer clear of any expert who talks about ROI to your kids – they are not helping. And I guess “constructively selfish” is better than plain old “selfish”? Yeah, I’m not buying that either.

When it comes to children, she said, long gone are the days when you could tell them that they have to behave a certain way “just because.”

Incorrect. I have verified this very fact with people who are actually raising children. And by “verified”, I mean I have speculated about the responses of my friends who are parents.

“Say the words ‘manners’ or ‘etiquette’ to kids these days, and they run the other direction,” (Faye de Muyshondt, the founder of Socialsklz) said. She prefers teaching the children that they are “building the brand called ‘you.’ ”

No. NO. N-O.  Do not ever teach children that they are “building the brand called ‘you’” – the likely result will be your very own little Patrick (or Patricia) Bateman. Or, even worse, a child who grows up and willingly chooses to pursue a career in marketing.

Also? If someone names their etiquette learnin’ company “Socialsklz,” that should tell you just about everything you need to know about this person’s actual grasp of the subject matter.

The only person in the article who comes off reasonably well is one Joseph Kowal, owner of Chenery Park restaurant here in SF, where there is a weekly “family night” and children are expected to comport themselves with some civility.

He recalled one child who wouldn’t settle down, and he threatened to tape the child’s mouth. The child told him to go ahead and try.

“I went to my office, got some blue painter’s tape, came back and ripped a piece off,” he said. The kid piped down.

Now that is a teachable moment.

Yep, Pretty Much

Certainly, receiving my annual performance review at work is not my most favorite part of my job – but since it determines whether I get a raise and/or a bonus, it has its charms (i.e. #getmoneybitch).

Happily, my reaction to this year’s review was somewhat like this:

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Oh for Fuck’s Sake

So, I came across this on Facebook recently, shared by one of my friends.

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And, in the true spirit of the holidays, it really made me want to find the original poster and those who shared it and give them a huge “BAH HUMBUG!”

I know it will come as huge shock to those who know me, but I am one of those people who does not particularly care for this, the least wonderful time of the year. A too-busy schedule of social obligations that feel exactly like obligations. Commercials, billboards and storefronts constantly reminding all that if you’re not giving or getting a Lexus with a big red bow in the driveway and/or something jewel-encrusted for Christmas, well, then – you’re not really a very good person and no one will ever love you, because, as we all know, “expensive gifts = love.” The end of another year, a stark reminder of the inexorable march to the grave and the sad refrain of “is that all there is?” Having to listen, yet again, to the worst Christmas song of all time, bar none, “Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney. Mindlessly stuffing one’s face with the surfeit of Harry & David Moose Munch and cheese logs delivered to the office.

So, yes – not my favorite time of year. But I certainly realize that many folks, such as those described in the Facebook post, are having a much less happy holiday than I. And, having been unceremoniously dumped (does anyone ever get ceremoniously dumped – maybe royalty? “We, your sovereign and significant other do declare that we shan’t live with you anymore and have filled our royal coach with our half of the royal CD collection and that plant that I brought to the relationship. I shall depart presently for the Royal Efficiency Apartment behind the strip mall adjacent to the Winter Palace.” But I digress…) on the Sunday before Thanksgiving three years ago, I have a bit of experience with extraordinarily shitty holidays. I can therefore tell you with absolute assurance that copying and pasting a mindless bit of drivel about “caring thoughts and loving prayers” and “moral support” to your Facebook timeline will do not one whit to ameliorate the suffering of another person.

If you are, in fact, genuinely concerned about someone you know who’s lonely this holiday, call them up! Take them to a movie! Show up at their house on Christmas morning with a large bottle of bourbon and a stack of non-holiday-themed DVDs! Bring them a casserole! Worried about someone in poor health or coping with the illness of a family member? Clean their bathroom! Do a couple of loads of their laundry! Walk their dog! Bring them a casserole! Your jobless friend? Invite them for dinner – on you! Slip a C-note into their Christmas Card! Get ’em a Safeway gift card! Bring them a casserole!

But don’t post ridiculous b.s. on Facebook and then pat yourself on the back for being so thoughtful. Because, in addition to being useless and smacking of self-congratulatory smugness, it really brings out the worst in Grinch-types such as myself – who will then be forced to blog disparagingly about your annoying FB post.

So, happy holidays! And just fucking bring those casseroles.

For Unto Us a Child Is Born

I don’t get much into the “holiday spirit” beyond emulating the demeanor of one Ebenezer Scrooge before those infernal ghosts somehow altered his completely realistic and appealing view of the season. But, being a big ol’ gay, I do like to decorate – and several years ago, I crafted a truly glorious scene of the Nativity.

Behold!

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OMG, CALL 911! Oh, wait – never mind…

This is the Post-it I make sure to put up in the bathroom when appropriate, just so I don’t inadvertently rush myself to the hospital the next day.

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Notes on Swine Flu

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  • It is highly unpleasant. I don’t recommend it.
  • I did not actually contract it through close contact with swine. I haven’t spent any time with swine in more than three years.
  • People think it’s hilarious to make oinking sounds, pig calls and other porcine references to you while you suffer. They are incorrect.
  • It was not accompanied, in my case, by any symptoms such as vomiting, nausea or anorexia – which is good, insofar as those are horrible symptoms. Though it does mean a lack of fashionable thinness upon recovery.
  • The application of warm feline compresses to the body seems to improve feelings of well-being.
  • If you have any Percocet lying around the house from recent oral surgery, this relieves pain much better than ibuprofen or aspirin. Or so I’ve heard.
  • When the cold, clammy embrace of death begins to seem like an appealing alternative to lying motionless and moaning in bed in the dark at 4AM, it may be time to visit the emergency room.
  • Going to the emergency room isn’t much fun.
  • Especially by yourself.
  • That being said, the nursing staff at Davies were super and took really great care of me.
  • And I was still better off than the young gay who’d apparently been overserved the previous evening and was “sleeping” on a gurney, clutching an emesis bag and missing a shoe.
  • Hypoxia may sound glamorous, but really, it’s not.
  • Those IVs will make you pee a lot.
  • No, those weirdos sitting next to you at Walgreens while you wait for your prescription are not going to shut up.
  • Tamiflu can give you the shits. Or so I hear. From a friend.
  • Lunch time naps are a critical component of recovery. Same goes for post-afternoon-reruns-of-Judge-Judy naps.
  • Daytime TV commercials are comprised exclusively of personal injury law firms portraying law suits as a reasonable and guaranteed path to personal wealth; trade schools and universities that specialize in wringing every available cent of financial aid out of students, leaving them in debt and with questionably marketable skills and certification; and walk-in bathtubs for the infirm.
  • The commercials are still better than the shows, which are simultaneously horrifying and banal and can’t even be enjoyed ironically. I suspect they are sponsored by the nation’s employers to encourage their sick employees to return to work as quickly as possible, if only to avoid being aware that both Trisha Goddard and Steve Wilkos have shows on the air.
  • All 14 seasons of Law & Order: SVU are available on Hulu+. THANK ZEUS. But for some reason, no Law & Order (OG) which is kind of a fucking outrage, since sometimes those SVU detectives get a little too personally involved in their cases  – something that the police, who investigate crime and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders, on L&O seldom do and always with less eye-roll-inducing sensitivity and self-righteousness.
  • If you plug that extra charger into the extension cord behind the sofa, you can charge your phone without having to get up and walk the two feet to the desk where the other charger is plugged in.
  • You’ll probably survive. Probably.