Manners and the Women’s March


Copyright Victoria Pratt

I attended the Women’s March in New York on Saturday and was thrilled that despite the enormous crowd and extremely slow movement, New Yorkers were at their absolute best. There was no pushing or rude remarks, people trying to get across the march were allowed to move through easily. I even encountered some tourists trying to get across to Grand Central with several large suitcases. When those suitcases inevitably fell over, people stopped to help them right them and get across to the train station. I had intended to write a whole post about it and then about how you don’t have to be polite to people who actively seek to harm you. But then I started reading a whole lot more about how the March made many groups feel excluded and felt that those discussions were better left to people much more informed than me.

One thing that did really strike me about my experience that also relates to etiquette, is the importance of invitations in life. We would be completely isolated in our lives if we never extended or accepted invitations. And sometimes those of us who are inclined to stay home and binge watch The Crown yet again, can be lured away by a tempting invitation. The same holds true with political action. It’s soooo easy to say to yourself, “I don’t know where to go or what to say to get involved, so I might as well just stay home.”

When all my girlfriends were going to Washington with their mothers to March and I wasn’t extended a particular invitation from them (which is fine! for the record! I love you guys!), I thought to myself that getting to DC by myself was too much trouble and that I would just sit this one out. Then I found out that the New York March was also happening, and I also said to myself “no one else I know mentioned going, so I think I will sit this one out.” But then I realized what a big thing it was going to be and decided I HAD to go. But I still didn’t want to go alone. So I reached out to a bunch of people who were going to be around and asked them to come with me. And they did! And some of them might not have if I hadn’t asked. So, I think, that beyond your own political actions, one of the most important things you can do is do that action, but also bring another person along with you. Now you’ve doubled the number of people! And then that can go on exponentially! Host a get together where everyone sits around and calls their senators. Invite some friends to go to a Town Hall with you. Get a group and go to the NEXT big march.

Jaya reminds me that the one caveat is that if someone doesn’t want to go because they feel that the march marginalizes them or makes them feel excluded, or many of the other very good reasons why they wouldn’t feel comfortable attending, then of course, don’t push them on it. And then see what you can do to make them feel more welcome at similar marches, or just in general.

I know that people are grown ups and should be able to do what’s right on their own. But seriously, people are so incredibly lazy most of the time. There are whole memes about the excitement of cancelling plans. Peer pressure really works! So please, send an invitation to the revolution and hopefully the thanks you receive will be bounteous.

Mindy Kaling’s Views on Wedding Registries

I recently listened to the audiobook of Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? which was delightful. I always recommend, for celebrity memoirs and essay books, if they read the audiobook, you should listen to it rather than read because the words sound SO GOOD coming out of their own mouths. Especially check out Leah Remini’s reading of her book about leaving Scientology. It’s amazing.

Back to the point though, Mindy has this great section about wedding registries that perfectly encapsulates my feelings about honeymoon registries (even though I will begrudgingly admit they are FINE to have. And there ARE certain circumstances like- you live in a completely different country than where your wedding is taking place and where all your guests live…but)

“There are few things that I have more ideological problems with than the concept of the “honeyfund.” Hear me out: I love the idea of giving my newly married friends a meaningful present. But I don’t love being asked to be an investor in a crowd-funded honeymoon. Here is why: it’s not especially emotionally rewarding to know that I paid for three of five nights of a yurt rental in Big Sur. It’s so transactional. Sure, everyone knows all wedding registries are essentially transactional, but at least they are transactional about objects, not about people and experiences. I know you say you have too much stuff in your apartment and what you really want is a killer honeymoon in Thailand. But I feel like, if you have every material good you want, you’re probably doing well enough to plan a honeymoon that is within your means. Because a honeymoon is, after all, a sex vacation you’re giving yourself after a massive party in your honor.”

She just puts it so well, you know? She goes on to talk about how a physical gift feels like a “souvenir of your affection” and is more about your relationship with the bride or groom or both than their relationship with each other. Which I feel like is part of the core of the issue of why many people still dislike honeymoon registries even though they’ve been a pretty common thing for a good ten years now (though, I suppose, there are plenty of people who go more than ten years at a time without attending a wedding.) People really do have sentimental attachment to the THINGS that they give to people. And I think that for people who don’t experience sentimental attachment to gifts given to others, it’s very hard to understand. But like, it definitely gives me a little thrill to see a friend using something I gave them for their wedding in a way that hearing them talk about the honeymoon I chipped in for doesn’t. And I think its equally okay to feel that way and for other to people to feel like they’d rather have a honeymoon than a set of china. But I think when etiquette fights break out, it’s because of a lack of empathy between the two sides.


Unscandalous Bed Manners

I bought a book called Bed Manners: A Very British Guide to Boudoir Etiquette which is a 2014 reprint of a 1936 book and I was dying to find out people could possibly have been printing in the 1930s about bed manners. It turns out that it’s much less salacious than the title implies. Though, thankfully it doesn’t pretend that people don’t share a bed (married people, only, natch): “Your first shock will come from the discovery that even the nicest person…is actually a skeleton most insufficiently padded at the forehead, chine, shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.”

It offers pretty good advice in dealing with common shared-bed problems such as The Encroacher; The Human Caterpillar (aka Blanket Stealers); Readers-, Talkers-, and Eaters-In-Bed. And the sort of things you will have to decide on in a shared bedroom- what kind of bed, how much light, how much fresh air, noise, what/how many pillows, what time to get up, and how cold or warm.

It also recommends a great deal of consideration for your partner- picking up your clothes as you get undressed and putting them away, not blowing your nose on your sheets or putting your dirty shoes on them, wearing nice looking nightclothes, and brushing your teeth.

Of course there are some fun outdated bits about how unappealing hair curlers and face cream are to a new husband who has never seen such a thing before. Or about how much women love hot water bottles (…this may not be SO far outdated as I have one [heart shaped!] that I love, though I will concede that I am sometimes quirkily outdated).

Some other choice chapters:

  • Berth Control in the Railway Sleeping Car
  • Bed Manners in a Country House
  • How to be a Charming Invalid
  • How to make a Hospital Proud of You
  • Simple Rules for Subtle People


Royal Ascot Etiquette

Royal Ascot starts tomorrow and if you don’t know, it’s the premier horse race in Britain. Like the Kentucky Derby, but with royalty in attendance.

The race was founded by Queen Anne in 1711 and is attended every year by Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and other members of the Royal Family. They even open the race by entering the ground in horse drawn carriages! While the general public can buy regular tickets to the races, and almost 300,000 do, but only the crème de la crème can hob nob with the Royals in the Royal Enclosure. Royal Enclosure invitations are harder to get than Hamilton tickets- to be a Royal Enclosure member, you must be sponsored by two existing members who have been members themselves for at least 5 years (and members can only sponsor two new members each year). Members are also allowed to bring up to two guests on the Friday or Saturday of the races, but these guest passes are limited, so even if you do know someone, you might still not get in!

If you do manage to get a membership or invitation, you are going to have to follow the extremely strict dress code:

For Men:

  • Morning dress is required- this means a cut away coat, special pinstripe pants, a waistcoat and tie. In either black or gray.
  • A black or gray top hat (again, this is REQUIRED, you will probably have to rent one)
  • Plain black shoes
  • Or you can wear National Dress (aka you are from another country and have a special formal wear- such as a kimono) or formal Military Dress (if applicable)
  • Boys 10-17 can wear the same, or just wear a plain dark colored suit with a tie.
  • You are not allowed to wear:
    • A cravat instead of a tie
    • A bowtie
    • Any adornment to your hat

For Ladies:

  • Formal daywear. Dresses or skirts must knee length or below. Trouser suits are also appropriate.
  • Dresses and tops must have straps at least one inch wide (no strapless, halter tops, spaghetti straps)
  • Hats with a base of at least 4 inches (aka no fascinators) must be worn.
  • Midriffs must be covered.
  • Girls 10-17 must wear the same, but they can wear fascinators or other small headpieces.

Again, this strict dress code is for the Royal Enclosure only. And honestly, if you are going to be participating in that, this is probably a dress code that you are already familiar with and prepared for anyway. The Queen Anne Enclosure also has a dress code- generally- hats required for ladies, nice dresses and pants suits with no shoulders or midriffs showing, no shorts. For men, they must wear a suit and tie. The super general area doesn’t have a dress code, but from pictures it looks like people mostly make some effort to look nice. You can see more dress code info with fun pictures on their website.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Guide to Etiquette

Did you read the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books growing up? You must have since the first book came out in 1947! They were always one of my favorites, probably because I like obeying rules and it was funny to see what would happen to kids who didn’t obey the rules. I’m probably a monster.

Anyway, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (maybe they should update her name to Ms. Piggle-Wiggle? For all kids books they should do that, to set a good example!) comes up with funny and delightful cures to fix all kinds of bad behaviors in children. And in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic, she comes up with a cure for bad table manners.

This story involves a little boy named Christopher Brown who eats like a wild animal. His parents have tried to teach him better but their instructions fall on deaf ears. His mother is particularly worried that he will soon be invited to dinner at friends’ houses and embarrass her horribly. His bad table manners are defined as:

  • Chewing with his mouth open
  • Smacking his lips
  • Gulping audibly
  • Making piles of food on his fork and then sticking it straight down his throat
  • Buttering whole slices of bread on his hand (!!!! this story is old enough, 1949, that most people still knew that you should tear bread into pieces and butter them individually)
  • Mixing his food up until it looks like dog food
  • Drinking his soup from the bowl
  • Gesturing with his fork until food flies off

So basically, pretty bad! Enter Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.

See, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has a pig named Lester who has beautiful table manners and she lends him to Mrs. Brown to teach Christopher some manners. During the next few days, Lester provides a good example of table manners to Christopher and gently corrects him when he is being boorish. However, Mr. and Mrs. Brown are a bit rude to poor Lester. Mr. Brown throws his bedding into the laundry shoot and makes oink oink noises at him. And Mrs. Brown serves pork for dinner! And then she doesn’t learn ANYTHING and serves bacon for breakfast! I mean, REALLY!

But fortunately, all of Lester’s teachings paid off and Christopher went off to his first dinner party with such polite manners that the hostess called his mother to compliment him the next day.

Now if only we could all have a magical pig to teach manners!