In a world torn apart by incivility, polite behavior may be the sole separation between man and animal. As the only advice columnist with an advanced degree in etiquette, Dr. Manners stands at the ready to elucidate, clarify, and educate.
Dear Dr. Manners: I was recently furloughed as part of the partial government shutdown. The timing was horrible because one of my good friends is getting married this weekend. I was fortunate enough that I bought a plane ticket well in advance, but I was going to get a gift with my paycheck after Christmas. I ended up using savings for rent and food, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to buy a gift because I’m worried they’ll shut down again. Is there such a thing as buying a wedding present after the wedding?
Genteel Reader: Dr. Manners can only imagine the difficulty this Washington power struggle has caused you. Having heard one of your own government adviser’s recent suggestions that you are enjoying a “free vacation,” Dr. Manners finds such declarations distasteful. While of course it is expected—and even fashionable—to have a low opinion of the help, it is so very déclassé to share that opinion with the lower classes. Being expected to shoulder and understand the opinions of the ruling class is a tremendous burden; Dr. Manners apologizes that you have been so inconvenienced.
Please forgive the digression; as to the point in question there is a generally-accepted timeframe of roughly three months after a ceremony to celebrate the couple with a gift. This simple rule-of-thumb, along with 37 other handy notes for modern etiquette, may be found in my forthcoming book, Aspiring to Greatness: A Primer for the Not-Yet-Polite. The book will excel as a guide for your own societal development, dear Reader, and would be a handsome gift for the newlyweds as well. The publication date is several months from now, at which time your back pay will have been hopefully restored.
Dear Dr. Manners: The kids have off from school today but the weather is horrible. Ordinarily we’d go run around outside in the park but that’s a no-go with the rain. If I don’t get my kids out of the house they’re going to drive us mad. It’s OK to bring them to Costco for them to run around, right? The wife says that’s inconveniencing everyone there but they’ll understand: Kids are kids, right?
Genteel Reader: Dr. Manners is not an expert on child-rearing. One might expect that this is because he was not, of course, “reared” as a child in the normal sense of the word. As was the custom at the time, when he was younger Dr. Manners was tended mainly by the nanny and saw his mother only on holiday. His father, of course, he met only several times in his life (and even then, primarily through written correspondence).
However, Dr. Manners does not need to be a parent to understand the outcomes of such a decision you raise here.
Dr. Manners hesitates to assume that your children have grown up ignorant of the maxim that “children should be seen instead of heard;” assumption, of course, is a vulgar activity akin to gossip and horse-gambling. However, your question itself suggests that your children spend much of their free time in loud physical activity rather than practicing their letters or cross-stitch.
You are in critical danger of failing them in their education, dear Reader, and Dr. Manners is heartened to hear that your wife appears to be the only properly moderating influence in your and your children’s lives. Do not bring your children to the local greengrocer for them to shriek and cause disturbance. Leave them with your wife to get sorted out while you accomplish your sundry errands. Everyone will be better off in the end: your fellow patrons will be spared, your wife will not want for time spent with her children, and you will be relieved of the responsibility for taking ownership of your offspring. (The children’s opinions, dear Reader, should always be considered moot.)
Dear Dr. Manners: On winter break I met a girl at the bar, we hooked up a few times, and kept it low-key before classes started up and I went back to school across the country. I never reached out to her but suddenly she’s texting me and watching all my Snap stories even when it was pretty clear we weren’t going anywhere after break. How do I get her to take the hint?
Genteel Reader: Such scenarios as these are often a result of poor communication. Traditionally, the courtship ritual has been long and drawn out—its intention to fully familiarize oneself with the person to whom one eventually wishes to, as they say, “get intimate.” As a suitor, leaving one’s card and needing to wait for the appropriate day to visit gives one time to properly appreciate the opportunity of time spent with one’s presumptive partner. While there is nothing inherently wrong with avoiding this intentional build-up, to forge immediately ahead for the sake of sexual fulfillment is usually going to create problems.
To both disentangle yourself now, and to avoid these issues in the future, Dr. Manners suggests being explicitly clear at the outset of your romantic encounters. Firmly grasp the woman by the shoulders with both hands (to ensure eye contact) and simply tell her, “I am not interested in the concept of you as a separate human being, but merely an outlet for my carnal desire.” Reactions may vary, but you can be assured that any future dalliances will at least proceed with a clear understanding of your intent.