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.

To love, to cherish, and to obey?

In pretty much every movie for my whole life, when a couple is getting married, the bride makes a BIG DEAL out of not wanting to say “obey” as part of the marriage vows. Which, yeah, duh. But is it really as big an issue as Hollywood makes it seem? Not really…

For the record, I am going to focus on Christian marriage vows because as far as I know, other religions don’t have a tradition of using it.

Firstly, to my great surprise, the Catholic church has NEVER had the word “obey” as part of their vows of marriage. Their wording goes like this:

I, ____, take you, ____, to be my (husband/wife). I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honour you all the days of my life.

The usage of “obey” actually comes from the Anglican church, as the vows included “obey” in the very first Book of Common Prayer written in 1549:

Wilt thou have this man to thy wedded houseband, to live together after Goddes ordeinaunce, in the holy estate of matrimonie? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honor, and kepe him in sickenes and in health? And forsaking al other kepe thee onely to him, so long as you bothe shall live?

Which eventually became:

Bride: I,_____, take thee,_____, to be my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.

Many other Protestant denominations, such as Lutherans, cribbed from this in America as immigrants came over and changed their services over from their native tongues.

HOWEVER, the Anglican and Episcopal churches voted in 1922 to remove “obey” from the vows, so honestly, at least 4-5 generations of women have not been instructed to use “obey” in their vows, making much of our cultural rage about the subject a bit of a tempest in a tea pot. And especially now when people are increasingly having civil wedding ceremonies and writing their own vows, there is significantly less pressure to even use traditional vows, let alone obsolete ones that include “obey.” Of course, this excludes the ultra religious nutters who have started to ADD obey into wedding vows that normally wouldn’t include them just so they can show that they are going be a submissive wife…but that’s a whole other situation.

What about your experiences? Did you, your mother, or grandmother say “obey” at her wedding? Did you even use traditional vow wording or did you write your own?

How To Announce You Aren’t Changing Your Name

Your DJ works for you and should follow whatever script you give them. [Via ]

Your DJ works for you and should follow whatever script you give them. [Via]

Recently, A Practical Wedding had a question for a reader about how to let her vendors know she wasn’t changing her name and how she and her husband should be announced at the reception. And like so many etiquette and wedding questions, the solution felt obvious to me. For the vendors, you simply tell them (although, most of them won’t really need to know as they are doing most of the work prior to the wedding?). They are people you have hired and should therefore address you as you prefer.

For the wedding and reception itself, during the ceremony, you can always skip the “I now present Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName” part. And as for the reception, personally I find the big boxing match style introduction with much clapping of hands and stomping of feet to be tacky (especially when you pair up the bridal party and announce them as couples when they are not and make them run in doing some stupid dance or cheer…), but that is a personal preference and it certainly not wrong by etiquette, so you can skip it if you want to skip the whole issue. If you DO want to do a big entrance to the reception, you can have the MC say something like “the happy couple!” or “the Bride and Groom!” or just your first names. It’s your wedding, everyone knows who you are, so no need to get formal with last names!

Of course, none of these options are informing your guests that you are keeping your last name. You don’t HAVE to make an announcement, simply just keep using your name they way you like it. You can give strong hints by using a return address sticker or stamp with your full names on it. Or perhaps include a little card with your thank you notes that says something like “our marital address” with both your full names and your address (this is especially good if you weren’t living together before the wedding or if you are moving shortly after.) You can also just correct people as things come. Like, getting a check addressed to Jane HisLastName when you are Jane YourLastName- call them back and be like, oh, by the way, I’m keeping my last name, luckily the bank was very understanding about depositing the check.” Or just be a little abrasive and say, “Hi Grandma, I’m soooo sorry, but since my last name is Jones not Smith, the bank won’t take the check you sent…”

Now, the be perfectly honest, you are probably going to have to fight assumptions for a few years unless you happen to have really awesome friends and family. Just be firm and consistent with correcting your name and they should get it down eventually. (And you will definitely still get junk mail addressed to the wrong name, but just throw it in the trash and get your anger out!) Or not- my grandma still calls my mom by her childhood nickname that she hates even though she has been going by another name for 30+ years, so.

Etiquette And Equality Don’t Always Benefit You, And That’s Okay

I’ll start out by saying that feminism and equal rights are not the realm of “etiquette.” It is “good manners” to treat people with respect on a one-on-one basis, but systemic disenfranchisement is something far bigger than these rules and guidelines tackle. But you wouldn’t know that after reading Sheryl Sandberg’s and Adam Grant’s New York Times piece, “How Men Can Succeed In The Boardroom And The Bedroom.”

It starts innocuously enough by attempting to debunk the myth that gender equality is a zero-sum game, which I understand some people still need to be told. However, it quickly devolves into explaining to men how including women in business decisions, doing housework, and being nice to them can benefit them personally. Apparently men who do chores are happier, live longer, and have better sex with their partners. If we can convince men that they can get something out of it, they argue, equality will happen. “We need to go further and articulate why equality is not just the right thing to do for women but the desirable thing for us all,” they write.

Except we don’t.

What we need to do is teach everyone that sometimes you do things because they’re the right thing to do, regardless of how this benefits you. This is a common tenet of etiquette. You give up your seat for an old man even though now you have to stand. You don’t cut in line even though it’d get you out of the store faster. You learn that not everything directly benefits you, and you are okay with that because you’re an adult. Needing to be told personal benefits or rewards for actions is how a child’s mind works. The article explains that both the Women’s Suffrage movement and the 1960s Civil Rights movement found success after they proved how their causes would benefit everyone. They use this as proof that modern equal rights movements must do the same. However, we should have moved past this by now.

That’s not to say you’re doomed to put up with “bad” things happening to you just for the betterment of society, though if that were the case, it still wouldn’t be a problem. There’s an episode of Friends where Phoebe attempts to find a completely selfless act. Throughout the episode she does things for other people, only to realize that she benefited from the interaction in some tangible way as well. Eventually she donates money to PBS, an organization she hates, in an attempt to be completely selfless, but it unintentionally gets Joey (who’s manning the pledge drive phones) on TV. She’s still out of money, and she still gave it to a place she doesn’t actually support, but she feels good because she helped someone. If anything, that is what manners are for. We learn to feel good not because something good happened to us, but because we contributed to the ease and comfort of all the lives around us. That should be motivation enough.

How to Read Social Cues

This is not the way to behave.

So by now I hope everyone has had a chance to see this excellent street harassment video which shows how many catcalls and looks a woman gets walking around New York City for 10 hours. While there has been much *ahem* debate over whether these were catcalls or just guys “being polite” (um no this is not polite), an interesting thing that cropped up (in my mind) was the complaint by many men that “what, we aren’t ever allowed to talk to a women in public?!?!?!?!” Congratulations, but no, of course you can talk to women (and men and whoever) in public, but only as long as you get social cues that they are also interested in talking to YOU!

The thing about people is that your desire to talk to me does not trump my desire to NOT talk to you (or anyone else). And okay, I get it, maybe that girl who is running to catch the train is clearly your soulmate, but honestly, that is just too bad and you really need to let it go. So here is a nice handy, fun primer on how to read social cues to tell if someone is interested in talking to you (also most people do this intuitively, by what? age 15? It’s not that hard).

Signs Someone is Not Interested in Talking to You:

  • They are reading (caveat, if they keep looking up over their book and making eye contact with you and only you and smiling, etc).
  • Walking fast- clearly on their way somewhere in a hurry.
  • It’s the morning commute (personally I think morning subways should be absolute quiet zones, but I certainly do not want to chat)
  • Sunglasses on, earbuds in.
  • They are actively avoiding making eye contact with you.
  • If you do speak to them and they give one word answers or mmhmms.
  • They shake their head at you (okay this is more for sidewalk canvassers than people wanting to make small talk, but hey, it applies)
  • They are crying (being able to cry in public without anyone questioning it is a New Yorker’s right)

Signs Someone is Interested in Talking to You:

  • They keep trying to make eye contact with you.
  • They smile at you a lot.
  • You say something benign and friendly (see below) and they are pretty chatty in their answers.

Things You Can Say to A Stranger in Public:

  • The train hasn’t come for 15 minutes= “The G train, amirite?”
  • “Excuse me, you dropped this.”
  • “Does this train stop at Canal street?” (I actually had a great chat on a subway with a guy once where the conductor was saying the wrong station name and we were trying to reassure each other that we were in fact on the right train.)
  • Compliments…cautiously- if they really are wearing a stunning dress or whatever, then that’s probably okay? As long as they aren’t exhibiting any of the “seriously, do NOT talk to me signs.”
  • “Hi” “Hello” “Good Morning” BUT and this is seriously important, if you are the friendly type of person who likes to say hi to people, make sure you say it to a WIDE range of people and not JUST people you are attacted to, that makes it more predatory than friendly. Suffice to say, “heeeeeey baby” is not the same thing as a chipper “hi.” And again, don’t do it if it’s pretty clear they aren’t interested in human interaction at the moment.

Things You Cannot Say to A Stranger in Public:

  • Honestly, it’s too long to list.

It’s also really important, especially if you are a man talking to a woman to not use words or talk in a tone that you wouldn’t use to speak to a man.

And please, just be realistic. If you are a kind of average slumpy joe, and you really, really want to talk to that amazing supermodel looking girl who is a good 10 years younger than you, do you REALLY think she is going to be that interested in talking to you? I mean, sure, maybe, but statistically it’s just not that likely