Chronic lateness vs. occasional lateness

Friend on Facebook posted a link to this article, in which we are all done with humoring people who cannot be bothered to show up on time:

Why do people, invited for a dinner party at 7.30, think its cool to arrive at 8.30? It’s rude. It’s inconsiderate. And it’s selfish, as I witnessed in a coffee shop near my home one weekend. Three “ladies who lunch” (a species not confined to, but heavily represented on, the lower North Shore of Sydney) were chatting loudly at the table next to me. One inquired what time the ‘drinks do’ was that night. The reply for all the world to hear was ‘Oh 7.30, but we won’t get there till 9 because by then it will have warmed up and all the interesting people will have arrived’. Nice. Imagine if everyone took that view. Cocktail parties would start at 3 am eventually.

Or a dinner at a restaurant where I was meeting two other couples. My wife was away, so I was flying solo. I arrived at two minutes to eight for an eight o’clock booking. At 8.20, I was into my second glass of Pinot and at half-past I got a text saying ‘on the way’. We finally were all seated at 8.45. There were not even attempted excuses from either of the two couples, who seemed oblivious to the fact I might actually have got there at the agreed time. Meanwhile I had put a huge dent in the bottle of Pinot, and was ready to go home.

I’m one of those people who are compulsively punctual, often erring on the side of early, and I try to plan around other people’s lateness, but it would be better if more people simply gave a shit about showing up on time.

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Is the word “Hello” not in your vocabulary?

This here is the sum total of an interaction I had with some dude who is more than old enough to know better. Yes, he opened with THAT.

I consider a 76% match too low. This guy isn’t making me feel differently.

“You will never get a man like that.” Heeee! Funny, how I’ve had plenty of conversations with people who didn’t think it was cute to begin a conversation with, “But do you like sex?” Yes, even on OKC! I’ve been on the site long enough to have found many perfectly decent people using it. This one is far from the worst, but he’s hardly the best it has to offer. I’ve already attracted the notice of a number of people (both men and women!) who have better social skills and more respect for boundaries than Mr. 76% Match. 

Commenting on the supposed ridiculousness of the site doesn’t make your asshattery any more charming.

Oh, and I hear from 22-year-olds who behave more appropriately than this 54-year-old.

“You live in America, SPEAK ENGLISH!”

I just found this little tale of “Guess the ethnicity!” on Microaggressions:

While in a hotel restroom at a teacher conference, a middle aged lady came up to me and said “HI” in Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean, then asked, “Did I get any of those right? Are you one of those?”

When I responded that there are many other Asian countries out there with different languages, she proceeded to gush that “It’s so nice to see one of you people not working in a nail salon and speak good English.” I told her I spoke English well, and it’s a damn shame the future generation has to learn from people like her.

Teacher-lady knows how to say “Hi” in three different Asian languages, but doesn’t know well enough not to be an asshole to a random stranger in the ladies’ room.

Look, folks, just…don’t do that. You don’t need to guess a total stranger’s ethnicity. You don’t need to be clever whenever you see a person who might be from somewhere else. Heck, how do you know I’m not from somewhere else? If you haven’t heard me speak yet, how do you know I’m not German or Swedish? Some people of Asian ethnicity are native-born U.S. citizens, and of those, many don’t even speak any languages outside of English. But it’s only people of color who are assumed, sight unseen, to be newcomers to this country, and who are treated like rare exotic animals for having a solid command of the English language. No one (in this country) comes up to someone who looks like me and says “Hi” in three different Northern European languages, followed by the question of “Are you one of those?” White people can rest assured that our place in American society won’t be challenged.

I see there’s at least one reblogger on Tumblr who calls the original poster a “bitch” and insists that the teacher is “just trying to be friendly.”

How does anyone get the idea in her head that the way to be “friendly” to a total stranger whose path she crosses in the restroom is to spray a bunch of foreign languages at her and then demand to know if she’s “one of those”? How does anyone think this is welcome behavior? Based on her comments about “you people” and “working in a nail salon,” I assume teacher-lady isn’t well-acquainted with any Asian people, but if this is her idea of friendliness, she’s not going to make many new friends outside of her racial group.

Intent is not magic, and even if teacher-lady thought she was “just” being “friendly” to the random Asian woman in the restroom, that doesn’t mean her approach was acceptable. It doesn’t mean the original poster on Microaggressions is obligated to act like this doesn’t bother her. The message behind this type of communication is to tell the possibly-foreign person: “You are a stranger in this land. You don’t belong here. Don’t forget.” I’ve been on that side of the foreign/native line myself. During my Peace Corps assignment, the games of “Guess the Ethnicity!” and “HOLY SHIT I SEE A FOREIGNER” dominated my life basically every time I left the house. I know what it’s like to be treated as the “exotic” one, and let me tell you: it sucks so incredibly hard. It is obnoxious and exhausting as fuck. I, at least, had the advantage of actually being a foreigner, and knowing I was only there for 27 months before I would go home and be treated like a normal human again. This kind of attention in Western countries is regularly directed at people who’ve lived here all their lives, or close enough to it, and have no plans of moving anywhere else. The OP is not a “bitch” for trying to enforce her boundaries. She does not need to “take the stick out of her ass.” She’s not in the wrong.

If you must be friendly to a total stranger in the ladies’ room (and I don’t see what’s so difficult about peeing, washing your hands and getting out of the way), why not just say: “Hi. Are you here with the conference? Where/what do you teach? Oh, what a cute purse!”?


Curiosity is no excuse to behave like an asshole.

I would like to show you this piece by Andromeda Turre: ‘”What are you?” Is Not an Icebreaker’

The ridiculous shit that’s followed her around all her life as a mixed-race person (I just learned a new word: Blendiva!) is now especially thick in the air in her online dating life. And it’s still not cool. Look at this!

I have gotten this question all my life. At school. At the park. At parties. On the subway, a woman once tapped me on the shoulder and had me take out my headphones, interrupting my favorite Mariah Carey song, to ask me, “What are you?” She wasn’t ready for the answer she got that day, because it was just a whole lot of side eye.

“What are you?”

“I’m…going to put my headphones back in, pretend you didn’t just say that, and I will bite your hand off if you touch me again!”

For me, my identity has caused a lot of arguments and pain in my life. So I might not want to answer “What are you?” because I might be apprehensive as to how you, a total stranger, are going to judge me and possibly react to the choice of identity that took me years to accept and understand.

She’s gotten all the layers of horribleness from her peers due to their inability to fit her into their boxes. The white kids objectified her, Latinas marginalized her, and blacks took exception to her identifying as something else.

And then I have to explain why I “talk white.” And that my hair is real. And that my mom was not my babysitter, but in fact my mom. And that my dad did not adopt me. And it all becomes so tedious and exhausting I almost want to walk around covered in blue paint because it might actually be easier. Everyone loves Blue Man Group. No?

That shit is exhausting as fuck. It attaches a ton of complication to the demand to know, very first thing, “what” she is. It’s not a good way to put someone at ease when you’re possibly interested in getting a date with her. Folks, don’t do that.

There’s another interesting point she brings up, early in her article: this shit doesn’t happen to white people, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. Most white Americans are not descended from people of only one country! Most of us are a hybrid of several different European ethnicities. Some have some Central Asian ancestors. Most white Southerners have a little African-American ancestry, too! We don’t have to deal with people asking us, before we’ve even exchanged “Hello” and “What’s your name?” whether we’re English/German/Italian/Irish/French/Swedish/Czech/Polish/Spanish/Greek, and in what combinations and percentages. No, that kind of categorization is only imposed on people who appear to be descended from at least two continents. It’s overwhelmingly on people whose complexions are much darker than mine.

(I had to deal with plenty of people demanding to know whether I was English/German/Swedish/Dutch/whatevs during my Peace Corps assignment, so I’ve gotten enough of that kind of attention to know it’s obnoxious as fuck, but here in the USA we palefaces are just…white. No explanation needed.)

Here’s the thing: it’s not wrong to have this curiosity about someone as you get to know her. Ms. Turre isn’t saying you can’t ever know her racial make-up. It’s okay to ask this sort of question later. Maybe, get acquainted with someone, give her a chance to get comfortable with you, and wait for the issue of heritage to come up in the conversation? Even then, there are much better ways to phrase the question than “What are you?” What is the pronoun we give to an object. Ask about heritage, ask about racial background, ask about ethnicity. We’re supposed to be adults around here, folks. Let’s use our words.

But, seriously, do not pull that shit on the totally unknown person you’ve spotted on the subway. Mind your damn business.

“What ARE you?” Human. Next question?

Kristin Booker would like everyone to stop asking her where her ancestors came from. It gets old when you get the same question every day:

“Where are you from?”

“Charleston, West Virginia.”

“No, I mean where are you FROM? What’s your racial background?”

“I’m black.”

[Insert pause/shock/dismay/disbelief.]

“No, I mean which one of your parents is white/Asian/other? Because you can’t be ALL black.”

This is where the compulsive pedant in me rears its head and says something about how probably a sizable majority of African-Americans have some proportion of European ancestry, so “you can’t be ALL black” is a brainless thing to say. There’s a difference between genetics and cultural identification, and when Booker answers with, “I’m black,” she’s making a cultural identification based on the fact that all of her parents and grandparents make the same identification. I could go on talking about the one-drop rule and what I like to call the “walking down the street test,” which is an important factor in race relations. (For example: when people see me walking down the street, they see a white person without ambiguity. This is simple enough for someone who looks like me, but a person of multiracial heritage could get a more varied reaction, which is where the annoying conversation comes in.)

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Someone is overly enamored of the sound of his own voice

Brian Moylan at Gawker just posted this godawful breakup email, though I disagree that it’s the “most annoying online dating email ever.” I’ve put up with worse than this:

Dear [MissLonelyhearts],

Thanks for an interesting 3 dates. I spent the weekend thinking about you and me and have decided that I’m not interested in pursuing “us” any longer.

I had a great time on our second date. You did a great job in planning that night. Thank you again! I really enjoyed meeting your friends on Friday night and they were great to talk to.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of when people just disappear, fall off the map or suddenly stop calling without a reason, so I figured I’d say a few things.

I don’t think we’re a good match and after looking at us on Cupid again, neither does Cupid. We’re a 35% match on ethics questions and 52% on lifestyle questions. And I think the lifestyle issue is the bigger one. I think Cupid’s matching system works best if the user answers more questions. I noticed you only answered 92 questions—so I’d recommend answering more. Cupid was founded by Harvard math majors, so I have confidence in their match algorithm.

I feel like I’m adaptable to almost any situation and get along with all kinds of people. You have told me multiple times that there are people you flat out don’t think you have anything in common with nor want to talk to—like the people at my friend’s party. I can’t date someone who doesn’t feel comfortable navigating through and thriving in the diverse social environments that I always find myself in. I feel like especially in a city like New York EVERYONE has something in common just by virtue of living in the biggest city in the US. Also most people aren’t from here, so that’s always something to talk about. My profile says it all when I talk about the various music and situations that I love. I also love crowds.

I also seem to have a lot more energy than you. I think I work longer hours, party much more, go out more, sleep less and probably exercise more than you. Plus I’m older. I love spending time relaxing on the couch, but I also love to dance every week. It would be ideal to find a partner to share these things with.

Lastly, on our first date you told me that I talk a lot but that you didn’t feel like I talked enough about the “real me.” You asked me if I ever open up to girls on dates. On our third date I told you all about my parents and I feel like instead of just listening to me and/or trying to see things from a different perspective, you basically just told me what “I should be doing” and essentially what I was doing was “wrong.” As in I should be calling my mom every day and not speaking poorly of my father. How are you going to ask someone to open up and then chastise them for doing so? I didn’t think that was very cool at all.

I highly recommend that you move to San Francisco once you are done with New York. It’s got a large tech culture which is great for design. The cafe culture in SF is much more European style than New York—thus there are more cafes and more people working from cafes. I think SF may be better suited for your pace of life.

Montauk is the place that I recommended that you take your father. I know you mentioned that he likes to take the train, but I highly recommend not taking the train there if not spending a lot of money is important to you. Montauk is pretty rural and small town (but spread out) thus there is not much public transportation. Taxis there are very expensive and not very convenient if you want to go to more than 1 beach or location. It’s not very walkable from the train station. Thus I recommend driving. The drive out there is beautiful. I took a date there last year and she loved it. I would definitely bring a change of clothes. It’s super casual during the day (surf/beach attire) and it gets fancy at night at the restaurants and bars.

I wish you the best in your dating and other pursuits and it’s a small world, so I imagine I’ll run into you again somewhere on this planet.



So then Moylan asks:

But where does the blame lie? Sure, OompaLoompa’s “I think I work longer hours, party much more, go out more, sleep less and probably exercise more than you. Plus I’m older,” shtick is totally obnoxious. But if what he says is true about that she criticized the way he treats his parents on date three, then maybe it makes sense why he’s dumping her.

And boy is he dumping her! But at least he’s nice and courteous enough to help her plan a visit with her father, no? So, who do you think is wrong in this situation? Is it OompaLoompa for being a type-A jackass or MissLonelyhearts for being lazy, judgmental, and mean?

I disagree. I don’t think MissLonelyhearts is lazy, judgmental or mean; she may very well all those things and worse, but that is not evident from OompaLoompa’s email. What’s is apparent from his criticisms of her is that she’s an introvert, while he’s an extrovert who doesn’t know what it means to be an introvert.

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The etiquette of respecting boundaries

There is a shitstorm going on, and it might be sort of winding down, but there’s no time like the present. The sheer willful ignorance and hostility is so pervasive, and so repetitive that I almost don’t have the energy to wade in. Since pretty much every possible angle of the matter has already been discussed and explained, at length, hundreds of times, and some people still don’t see what the problem is, I can’t very well expect them to listen to me. If they didn’t hear it the first 3000 times, I’d be frankly the most arrogant piece of work on the Internet to think they’ll finally get it the 3001st time if it happens to be coming from my keyboard.

In truth, though, I do have something to add to the discussion, which I’m not sure has already been addressed in the extant arguments. It has to do with a general point of good manners which has been sorely neglected on more than one level.

Since the purpose of good manners is essentially to make everyone feel comfortable to the greatest extent possible, personal boundaries should be respected in terms of unnecessary, consciously decided behavior towards other individuals. This sounds awfully generalized and unhelpful, does it? I’ll be more specific.

If you’re unsure of how to act towards a person, and that person establishes a boundary, the polite thing to do—in fact, the only decent thing to do—is to respect that boundary, and not make decisions on that individual that would violate the stated boundary. See what I’m getting at? You want to know how a given person likes to be treated, and that person gives you an example of a boundary which she holds, by telling you about a recent experience in which that boundary was violated, and concludes with the advice of, “and it made me really uncomfortable, so please don’t do that”?

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Demanding handwritten thank-you notes in a world of viral emails

About yesterday’s post?

Oh, it’s real, all right. This is not a hoax.

Shine tells us:

When Withers received the email (Bourne sent it three times to be sure) she did what anyone would do: she forwarded it to a few friends to share in the shock. What was the alternative —respond with a ‘frowny’ face? But instead of simply offering advice, some anonymous friend got pro-active and forwarded Bourne’s e-attack, launching a viral sensation in a matter of hours. Now everyone in the Western Hemisphere has laid eyes on Bourne’s email.

In a way, it’s the ultimate revenge on a mother-in-law who needed to be put in her place after such power-mongering. But it’s not going to make for smooth wedding. Bourne has been labeled the mother-in-law from hell by media outlets and Withers’ father Alan has fueled the fire  by publicly calling Bourne “Miss fancy pants.” Now parents on both sides of the couple are feuding and nobody’s manners are in check. Suggestion for Heidi and Freddie, her groom: elope.

I think calling her “Miss fancy pants” is way too gentle, personally.

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Classist, hostile control freak lectures stepson’s fiance on good manners.

As much as I lecture here on etiquette, I think it’s important to remember that behind every rule of good manners there should be some connection to the real world, and when the times change enough that those connections no longer apply, then the etiquette point in question needs to be reconsidered. The purpose of good manners is ultimately to make other people comfortable. If you’re using “manners” to make someone feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, then you’re doing it wrong.

There’s a post on Jezebel today about an email (which may or may not be real) that a British woman received from her fiance’s step-mother, and, assuming it’s real, it is a fascinating display of how proper etiquette is so easily abused. There are a lot of comments on the article saying, “Well, her tone is out of line, but it’s good advice she’s giving and the daughter-in-law-to-be is obviously very rude and needs to learn some things.” This is assuming that the recipient really is as obnoxious and ill-intentioned as the letter makes her out to be, and I would argue that the letter writer exhibits an attitude that begs a critical view.

Now, maybe this is just a culture that I don’t sufficiently understand. After all, I’m a metropolitan mid-Atlantic American; we’re not sufficiently concerned with manners for the South, and not sufficiently concerned with gentility for the North, and we’ve long since lost our British ancestors’ sense of propriety. Meanwhile I’ve been spoiled by the Albanian sense of hospitality, and I will tell you what, there are parts of that culture that make me tear my hair out, but they make a genuine effort to make their guests feel welcome and comfortable. I guess that’s a gene that’s been repeatedly reinforced in the Albanian population but conspicuously absent from some parts of the British upper crust.

So, let’s go over this sucker point by point. Weapons-grade sarcasm ahead!

It is high time someone explained to you about good manners. Yours are obvious by their absence and I feel sorry for you.

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Etiquette of the Day: There are better places to jaw with your friends

What is it about the grocery store that causes otherwise responsible citizens to act like morons?

Attention, four 60ish white people chewing the fat in the aisle after the cash registers at the supermarket: what makes you think this is a good place to have your conversation? You’re taking up the whole freaking aisle, blocking foot traffic, and for no good reason. There’s a whole pedestrian-enabled square just outside the store, so what in the shit are you still doing inside? Are you the same people who think it’s cute to stand in matched pairs on the escalators at Fort Totten Metro like there’s no one behind you?

Shit, it’s like there’s a gene in some people that makes them seek out high-volume pedestrian junctions to block up when they want to stand still and do nothing. Can’t stand around in wide-open area with plenty of room to get around, can’t move off to the side where no one’s trying to walk, nope! Got to park the whole crowd where everyone else is trying to get by!