on being polite

Spurred by my experience at the soccer game the other day, I got to thinking about what it means to be polite.

When the now infamous swinger soccer dad took our conversation down a particular path, I should have stopped him short: “Excuse me, sir, but I’m trying to focus on my son’s game.” I could have achieved the same result by relocating my seat. I could have told him to shut the fuck up. But I didn’t do any of those things, because I didn’t want to cause a scene.

Nor did I follow my instincts last month when a particular situation made me uncomfortable; I didn’t want to offend my friend and/or her significant other by changing course. And I’ve regretted that decision.

What does all this say about my disposition? I’m not a pushover, but I don’t like to create waves. In fact, I loathe confrontation. I like to keep the peace. And I’ve been doing just that my entire life, starting with my divorced parents, continuing with feuding roommates, and still now when the moment calls for diplomacy.

But there’s a balance to be struck. We teach our kids manners. We tell them to let us know when they seen an injustice being committed. But what if calling out that injustice requires us to temporarily shelve those manners? Frankly, being polite isn’t always the best, or safest, approach. It’s not impolite to protect yourself, be it from jerks sitting in the bleachers or worse.

Does anyone think Creepy Dad is sitting at home thinking, “gosh, I was really impolite to that soccer mom the other day.” Hell, no. He’s probably charting a new course of action to try out at the next game. And I will be prepared with a strongly worded response. If he thinks I’m being rude, then so be it.

 

 

men’s wear wednesday: chivalry

Is there anything hotter than a chivalrous man?

Well, it depends.

Chivalry is only attractive when it comes naturally. It’ shouldn’t feel forced or put on. That is, don’t make a big deal about opening the door for me. Don’t make a sweeping gesture when pulling out my chair or letting me enter the room first. A polite, “after you” is fine, but that’s all that is necessary. Just do these things because they are nice. I promise I won’t be offended and think you think I’m not strong enough to open my own door, adept enough to pull out my own chair or that you want to check out my ass. (Well, I might think the latter, and I might catch you doing it, but you should still let me walk into or out of a room ahead of you.)

These gestures are polite. They don’t make me feel inferior or incapable or like I’m a member of the weaker sex. (After all, it’s clear which gender keeps the world moving.) But I know most of us women have encountered a man who has come across more jerky, less knightly in his chivalrous approach.

As it is, we live in a society where manners seem to fall by the wayside. We text through meetings, averting our eyes from the person we are meeting with. We take phone calls during dinner. And let’s not forget my all time least favorite technological advancement: call waiting. I always waive it as an option for my home phone, and if on my iPhone I have a call coming in while I’m already talking to someone else, I end that call or let the incoming one go to voice mail.

So, when it comes to simple courtesies that are thoughtful, I’m not going to take offense.

In fact, extra points for draping your cape over a puddle so I don’t get my Prada shoes wet.