The Etiquette of Weed Pt. 3: A Rebuttal

I'm sorry this is your neighbor

I’m sorry this is your neighbor

Last week, author Jennifer Garam’s XO Jane article, I Don’t Want to Smell Your Pot Smoke and I Don’t Think It Should Be Legalized, was picked up by Time Magazine. Obviously the title is a bit sensational, but I expected to be a bit more sympathetic than your average Millennial. As someone who doesn’t smoke pot, I can relate to a lot of Garam’s complaints: the constant pressure to do it because it’s “cool,” the frustration of being the only not-high person in a room, and most of all the smell. The smell of pot is something that’s always bothered me, and the prospect of legalization and the increase in that smell being acceptable gives me a minor panic attack.

However, the crux of Garam’s complaints is really an issue of etiquette, not of legalization.

Garam illustrates her complaint with her downstairs neighbor, an apparently avid pot smoker.  She explains, “I live in an old building with cracks and crevices so there were a lot of places for the smoke to seep through. It smelled like it was coming up through the radiator, through the crack between the floorboards and the wall at the head of my bed, by the kitchen, and in the closet. Also, I live on the top floor, so the smoke would float up to my apartment and get trapped there with nowhere further to go.” She complained to her landlord (though seemingly not to her neighbor) to middling success, and received no relief until her neighbor moved out.

We’ve discussed both pot smoking etiquette and apartment etiquette here, and this issue lives at that intersection. I’ve lived in apartment buildings my whole life, and I’ve been subject to pot smoking neighbors, but also cigarette and cigar smoking neighbors, and none of these are pleasant.  For two years my pantry (which shared a wall with another apartment) smelled like cigarettes, and when I was a kid my neighbor down the hall smoked so many cigars I swear the lobby was hazy. I’ve never particularly minded cooking smells, but if someone hasn’t taken out their garbage for weeks, believe me the whole building knows. Even if you’re a smoker (of anything), it’s not a stretch to understand that not everybody is okay with, or can handle, the smell of your smoke.

This is all to say that if you live in an apartment building, you have to come to terms with your space not being entirely your own, and that goes both ways. If you’re going to smoke pot, you have to do everything in your power to contain the smell to your own apartment (smoke through a vaporizer, with lots of windows open, or with one of those things with a dryer sheet tied to the end of a paper towel roll). If you are bothered by the smell or smoke from your neighbors, ask them yourself first instead of running through your landlord. Make it clear that their actions are directly affecting you. It’s easy enough to shut the door to our apartments and forget that the outside world exists, and yes I’m all for having sex as loudly as you want, but if you’re going to live in an apartment, you have to remember there are people on the other side of that wall.

Issues like these are good reminders that we are never entirely alone. Whether you lived in a crowded apartment building or in an open field, miles from your neighbor, your actions and decisions affect others. It seems inevitable that pot will be legalized in the US, and despite the issues that will arise (can we talk about how black people bore the brunt of pot arrests and white people are most likely to reap the benefits of legalization?), it will probably be a good thing. We still deal with the issues of alcohol being legal, but you’d be hard pressed to find many advocating for a complete return to prohibition. So no, having an annoying pothead neighbor does not mean pot shouldn’t be legal. I’m sure this woman has had many a pothead neighbor who’ve been able to keep their habits to themselves, and thus she’s never known about it. What it does mean is that we’ll all need to rethink our habits and adjust them accordingly, so that nobody is forcing their hobby on an unsuspecting tenant.

Is Staying Up Late Rude?

Maybe people are afraid they will find their guests hiding under the bed while they sleep. Via

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

So my dad kept getting in trouble for staying up late at my grandmother’s house and reading at night. Nana would see him, just reading and get angry and start yelling at him.

Tonight my other Nana mentioned that she hates being awake in a house that everyone’s sleeping in. That it is rude- people will think you’ve been nosing around.

So! Is this a generational thing? Are you not supposed to stay up while others are sleeping? Not even, like, staying up making noise, but just staying up in general? My parents hadn’t heard of it- but this was an apparent learned thing for my grandparents.


Wide Awake

Official Etiquette

There is no official etiquette because this is nonsense.

Our Take

Jaya: What on earth is Nana talking about?

Victoria: Made up nonsense! So basically, shes saying that its rude to stay up later than everyone else in the house even if you are just in your room and being quiet because it seems like you are being sneaky?

Jaya: Yeah, which, I don’t understand how you practically apply this if you’re not the only person in your house. Even if you’re in your room, some people like to stay up and read! Or are just not tired yet! The first searches for this on Google bring up like, hostel etiquette.

Victoria: Seriously. Although, I do find it weird when I am the only person awake and I feel like I am in some kind of post apocalyptic world where I am the last human on earth…but maybe that’s just me.

Jaya: No I totally get that.

Victoria: I do think that if you are a guest in someone’s home, you should retire to your room or couch or something when the hosts go to bed. Though you don’t necessarily have to sleep- as long as you are ready to wake up whenever you need to be awake for the next days activities. I also think, as a house guest, you should try not to sleep in toooooo much longer than the hosts- unless the host knows they get up ridiculously early and tells you to sleep til whenever.

Jaya: Yeah, and obviously that depends on your relationship to the hosts. This sort of addresses it. It is sort of awkward if I wake up way earlier than everyone and am wandering around.

Victoria: And yeah, obviously depending on your relationship. I mean, in your parents house, even if you are visiting, you are still family and can do what you want.

Jaya: But I cannot imagine freaking out if I had a guest, said I was going to bed, and they were like “ok I’m gonna stay up and read a bit.”

Victoria: Hahah yeah! For sure, that’s kind of rude. You want to make your guests comfortable!

Jaya: Also, if you as the host are asleep, how would you even know others are awake and nosing around? You’re sleeping!

Victoria: Yeah! Although, my mom claims she could tell when me and my sister were home or not when she was asleep.

Jaya: Unless you’re pretending to sleep to see if your guests also sleep and then surprise them when they don’t sleep, which is just creepy.

Victoria: Yeah, although, if you live in a small place, it’s conceivable that you can see a tiny bit of the light or sense movement, but still, who cares?

Jaya: True. And obviously you shouldn’t be up partying or watching TV loudly or whatever. Man, most etiquette things I can see where they come from, and this one I really can’t. Unless you live in a mansion and have strangers as guests all the time. It’s another case of like, weird etiquette rules when, generally, you know and like the people you have at your house. Your son is not trying to steal your silver.

Victoria: I mean, it probably comes from a time when people had more house guests or some weird derivation from the English country house party. I mean, Emily Post is full of etiquette for visiting people in the country, who you don’t really know super well. But yeah, still even there, there’s not really anything about this.

Musings On Religion, Holidays, and the In Laws

Family Saying Grace, 1585

Family Saying Grace, 1585 [Via]

We’ve spoken a bit about etiquette in places of worship already, though the idea is pretty simple. Be respectful, dress conservatively to be on the safe side, and ask if there’s anything you’re unsure about. However, most of us aren’t just popping into random religious services all the time. What’s more likely is that you’re invited to participate in a service or tradition by your close friends and family, especially your In Laws, and with 45% of marriages in the US between people of different faiths, this probably happens a lot!

While my relationship is not interfaith, our families are. My husband’s family is Jewish, and mine is a combination of vaguely Christian, Hindu, and “have you read the new Sam Harris book?” As such, there are occasions where we’ll be asked to participate in services and traditions we don’t believe in, which can be difficult depending on your view of religion.

Here’s my thing: I have a hard time participating in a religious ceremony or tradition if I know I don’t believe it, no matter how welcome my hosts have made me feel. To me, it feels dishonest to fake it while everyone around me earnestly believes what’s being said. I’ve been told many times throughout my life that I just need to go with the flow, and there are times where I have been able to ignore it  and have a good time. But usually I feel like it’s not my place to be there and participate, even if I’ve been explicitly invited. I am a crazy person and maybe you shouldn’t be turning to me for etiquette advice. Oops.

There’s also a difference between a ceremony taking place in a place of worship, or in a more private setting. In a church I can stand and sit along with everyone else, and no on will notice if I don’t say “amen.” However, there are certain rituals that take place in the home, and it’s a lot more obvious if I’m not participating.

Okay, so what does this mean in terms of practical etiquette? Well, if you get the sense that someone is not comfortable practicing your religion, do not ask them to “go with the flow.” That’s like telling an anxious person to “just calm down,” like really, you don’t think they tried that already? Also, be up front about what’s expected, and be gracious if they cannot meet those expectations, even if they seem minimal to you. If you’re the one being asked to participate, ask questions and participate where you can, and if anyone asks why you’re not participating in a certain ritual, explain that you don’t feel comfortable doing so. If they try to pressure you, they’re the rude ones. Also, see if there are other places you can help out, such as cooking some of a meal or helping set things up. It’ll show you’re grateful for being invited and included, even if you don’t feel like fully participating.

The Cut Direct: The Fiercest Etiquette Punishment

Go watch Charlie the Unicorn if you never have.

Did you guys know that there is something that you can do when someone is so unspeakably rude that you can no longer bear to be in their presence? It is only to be used in the most dire of etiquette circumstances because it is a very cruel thing to do someone who doesn’t deserve it. You can cut someone (not with a knife!). Basically you completely ignore them to their face. A version of the silent treatment, as it were. If you look straight at someone, especially at their greeting, and do not acknowledge them in any way, then you are cutting them.

The cut direct goes back a long time- it developed during the Regency period (Jane Austen times) and could be much more socially devastating than just one person ignoring another. There were also a lot of rules that went along with it:

  • To be a true cut, the cutter had to be so deliberate and obvious about it that the cuttee could have no doubt about what was happening.
  • A gentleman was never to cut a lady, no matter what she had done.
  • Gentlemen had to be particularly careful about cutting other gentlemen, as the snub could lead to the challenge of a duel.
  • Unmarried ladies were not to cut married ladies.
  • Hosts could not cut their guests (why had they invited them in the first place?)
  • Social leaders had to be very cautious in using it, as their use of it could very well destroy a person socially (if you are completely ostracized from Society, then you ruin all of your marriage prospects and/or your children’s marriage prospects, and since at the time, marriage was a consolidation of wealth and power- then you would have none. Not to mention having no friends and basically no where to go and nothing to do.) Famously, the Prince of Wales cut Beau Brummel publicly and it actually backfired on him because Beau hadn’t really done anything dreadful and everyone felt that the Prince was abusing his power shamefully.

A cut direct must be employed only when someone has done something truly horrible and everyone in your social circle knows it. Otherwise it will make you look petty and cruel.