04 December 2008

The Odd Couple, in a Manner of Speaking

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.
If you have that awareness, you have good manners,
no matter which fork you use.
~ Emily Post

T
his past Tuesday evening, I got together with a few close girlfriends ~ over tea and Trader Joe’s chocolates, of course. The talk turned to friends and acquaintances married in the past year. One of the ladies present mentioned an odd phenomenon she has encountered: the reluctance of some married people to converse with single people. Time and again her experience has been to try to engage married people she knows in conversation, asking them questions about the children, extended family, etc. And time and again she has been given the cold shoulder; people have avoided looking her in the eye; have ended the conversation as quickly as possible and showed no interest in asking after her life, etc. Note that this has occurred with both colleagues at work and with friends ~ not strangers on a train.

She made an excuse for them half-heartedly: “I guess once you’re married, you have nothing in common with your single friends anymore and there’s nothing to talk about. Or perhaps they feel slightly jealous that I am able to do things with more freedom then they are.”

Two guesses as to what my reaction was. Oh yes, my dears ~ that Southern belle dander “got up” and went to town! My first question to her was as to the location of her colleagues’ and friends’ place of “raising.” Under a rock? Perhaps in an Amazonian jungle, I politely inquired. It certainly seems perplexing to me, to put it mildly, that in our so-called Information Age, one can encounter those strange creatures called the Impolite, or colloquially: The Rude.

In our house growing up we did such crazy things as write thank you notes within a week of receiving a gift or help. We called adults Mister or Missus and their last name, never by their first name. And when we were spoken to, or asked questions, we were taught, that no matter the station, status, education, or tax bracket, you answered politely, looked the conversationalist in the eye and returned the favor by inquiring after them and their families, etc. It really is not rocket science, people!

Perhaps there are slues of married people will rise up and say that their single friends do not talk on the phone for very long anymore or who are constantly scanning the room while talking to them at a party, etc. Well, of course, there are no boundaries or restrictions on Rudeness and who may engage in such atrocious behaviour. I make no apologies for The Rude, whomever they may be. However, I am single and at this point in time, that is one of the lenses through which I observe the world and all its oddities. And I have never had a problem engaging a conversation with anyone who ~ GASP! ~ did not think like me. Or ~ THE HORROR! ~ I did not have anything remotely in common with. Or who ~ NO! ~ was not JUST LIKE ME!

To which you may reply, if you have nothing in common, why talk? Look, even if you are bored, charity demands, at the very least, that you refrain from yawning, or looking around the room, or asking what time it is. There are more polite ways of ending the conversation. But if you are bored, there is one thing I know about you: YOU are boring. So the person is different from you. That is exciting, not boring! Only a clod socializes exclusively with people who think exactly like they do. God forbid you learn something or get a new perspective on an issue or have your eyes opened to beauty you had not seen before! How will you ever grow as a person unless you stretch your mind and your heart a little and talk to ~ ACK! ~ people!? And did it ever occur to you, O Rude One, that someone else out there might ~ O! The thought makes my heart flutter! ~ just might learn something from you?

Which brings me back to the, if you will, particular shade of Rude: Married vs. Single. But this post has become quite long already, so I shall pick this up again tomorrow and leave off for now on my diatribe on Rudeness (I really do like that word ~ reminds me of the Ood. And if you do not know who they are, then we obviously have nothing in common and I cannot bear to speak with you anymore).

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
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