Well, folks, the gods must have been in good humor today, because I stumbled upon a literary gem that would surely entice even the most indifferent of readers. There it was, on the dusty Malanaphy family library shelf, circa 1963, The Seventeen Book of Etiquette and Entertaining.
In the few hours I spent perusing this cornucopia of cultural insights it became clear to me that it was my duty to pass on some of this book’s wisdom to you, my fair reader.
Before I divulge the book’s secrets, a brief thanks to the book’s perspicacious author, Enid A. Haupt.
On the Inner Fold (modern translation in parenthesis):
The teen who has everything
… can keep a beau (gets laid)
… is nice to have around (doesn’t pick fights)
… has comfortable manners (I have no idea what this means)
… can write a good letter (is literate, understands the complicated workings of postal service)
… wears the right clothes (shops at a combo of Urban Outfitters and H&M)
… can say “no” nicely (doesn’t cuss when rejecting someone)
… knows how to travel (has ridden public transportation)
… has good manners on the road (bikes single file)
… is charming on the telephone (understands text-message flirting)
… is a good hostess (has a bathroom with toilet paper)
… is a better guest (doesn’t puke or destroy anything of significant value)
… understands boys (does a working knowledge of whiskey count?)
… gets along with grown-ups (this is no longer necessary)
… is popular at school (is popular at school)
… does her share for other people (shares her booze)
… knows the right present to give (tips 20%+)
… will get engaged and be able to plan a perfect wedding! (oh brother)
*Please note that I’ve judiciously selected some of the most pertinent tips (I’d be happy to lend you the work if you’re interested in further elaboration)
Chapter 1: NICE PEOPLE: THE HABITS THEY HAVE
Once launched, most conversations will run on cheerily if you remember to
- discuss, analyze, dissect a subject, if you will—enthusiastically, determinedly, heatedly, but never in anger. And end the discussion on a friendly note: “I realize I may be wrong, you know…” ( Since when does “I may be wrong, you know” equate to “friendly”?)
- turn a conversation that’s becoming bitter, using any number of softening devices. The shock element: “Oh, my word—I forgot my brother’s birthday. Excuse me for changing the subject, but what can I get him right now?” (are you supposed to leave immediately after this and purchase a gift?) The hold-out-a-lollipop switch of subject (what is this?!): “I’m starved; wouldn’t anyone like a vanilla frosted?” The temporary peace: “Well, we can’t solve the problem today. Let’s eat/dance/get home for all that homework…” or the classic tension-breaker: “Oh… has anyone read any good books lately?”
Taboos for Talkers
- never ask personal questions. These include asking why your family doesn’t belong to the club (but I do wonder—it’s such a PITY!), what’s the matter with your little sister who has to repeat the second grade, is your mother a real blonde, is your brother ever going to marry Anne, how much insurance your father has (again, I just really wanted to know!), or why you don’t go on a diet?
For my next installment I will be relaying the highlights of the chapter entitled “BOYS, BOYS, BOYS” (Are you dating a “man’s man”, a “she type”, a “very handsome” man, a “great brain”, or the “life of the party”?)