Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Generally speaking, etiquette books have a bad rap for being full of arcane information that real people are never going to use (not that I don't frequently attend formal dinners where I use fish forks and finger bowls). But that ain't necessarily so, and Peggy Post's new book - Excuse me, but I was next: how to handle the top 100 manners dilemmas - is a prime example of an etiquette book that is geared for 21st century living. Cubicle manners, internet dating, and cell-phone etiquette (for instance, don't carry on conversations in the stall of a public restroom) are all touched on, as are the age-old standards of wedding invitations, dinner table topics, and saying thank you. How do you tell a coworker they have terrible body odor? What do you say to someone who has just had a miscarriage? How do you introduce your ex-sister-in-law without going into a 10 minute history of your marital woes? Everyone bemoans the loss of manners and civility in society today, but I think people are still concerned about offending others or appearing rude. There are always letters in the Dear Abby column asking about the right and wrong way to deal with situations, and it's heartening that most people are genuinely concerned about the answer (and not just looking for justification for their own rude behavior). Hopefully, civility is not dead, it's just resting in a dark room with it's eyes closed for a little while.

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