Questions And Etiquette
Let me kick this off by saying that I am sorry for the lack of consistency in my recent posts.
Maybe I’m just out of things to say. I started this blog as a means to express my thoughts, but maybe I’m just too stagnant a thinker for publication.
Most my thoughts these days are either about my novel, usually about how I’m stuck where I am at the moment, which is sort of disheartening, or about how I’m lonely (in a romantic sense), which makes me feel pitiful and obsessive; and that’s even more disheartening. I play a lot of video games and watch a lot of TV shows and movies these days to keep my mind from thinking too much, actually. It’s preferable to depression.
What I am getting at is that I don’t have much to blog about these days, unless I wish to drag the same sorry topics out endlessly.
I apologize that my life is a boring one!
However, I post today because I have questions. Not that I am going to pose them all to you though; they are far too myriad and obscure for that. These are mostly simple questions. I’m usually wondering about something easy to figure out for most people.
Okay, perhaps an example is warranted.
Earlier I was wondering why everyone seems to follow the standards of etiquette and manners, and why people who fail to follow these principles are looked down upon.
To clarify, I’m not saying we should all be going about our day being jerks to each other, insulting everyone we see passing by. I’m saying that some things and statements seem pointless, or even insulting, and yet in certain situations we are expected to utilize them despite objecting to the underlying principle.
See, I’m socially anxious. I’m uncomfortable around most people. So imagine I’m sitting next to you at the dinner table, and I reach across you to grab the salt. Not a intrusive reach; I’m not letting my sleeve fall into your soup or anything, but nonetheless, I AM reaching across you to some extent. Are you insulted by this? Would you give me a strange, “what the hell, man?” look? Was I expected to say, “pass the salt, please” in that situation?
I cannot describe just how many times that used to happen to me when I was younger, usually at a relative or a friend’s house. I never understood it. I didn’t like talking to people! I wasn’t comfortable doing it. Asking “please pass the salt” took all my social energy just to accomplish! It’s an easy task for you perhaps, and you might be rolling your eyes at this, but it was hell for most my life, and it’s still a bit difficult today. I always prefer eating alone anyway, this situation being one of the reasons.
I’m not so sure it’s easy to understand, being socially anxious. That constant feeling of self-consciousness, the sensation that every gaze in the room is directed at you like white hot spotlights causing your skin to burn all the time, even when you clearly know that no one is even paying attention to you. It’s torture, plain and simple. I remember at one of our family Christmas gatherings I was going from room to room in the house, trying to find an unoccupied one so I could have a scarce few moments to myself, when one of my parents (or possibly another relative, this was many years ago so my memory is quite foggy), found me and told me to come and visit, because that was why we were all gathered in that house. It was also a command given to me whenever company came over to our place, back when I was a child. It was a dreaded sentence. I tried to protest, but if I didn’t “come and visit” it would be seen as rude.
So I endured a torment most people never experience, and so few are even aware of. Being forced to be around people and try to converse with them, my face burning up from embarrassment, when all I wanted to do was crawl under my covers and hide from the words “come and visit”.
And thus you have my reasoning for why I could never understand the need for many of the unspoken rules of our social lives, namely etiquette and manners. Me, the socially anxious, self conscious kid, was expected to come to the dinner table, sit down with other people all around me, and if I wanted something from the table in front of me, I had to ask the others, drawing attention to myself, which was the last thing I wanted. It was expected, and to most it wouldn’t be a huge deal; but I was the exception. So why I was I supposed to adhere to such a silly standard? Sure, it was polite and showed an amiable attitude to come sit down and talk at the dinner table while you ate, but would it be THAT distressing for me to take a plate of food to my room, where I could eat comfortably in peace and solitude?
The same applies to saying “please” and “thanks”. I remember often being reminded to say such things when I received something or I wanted something. It never made sense to me. It’s not that I wasn’t thankful for something, but when I was given the thing in question, let’s say a toy as a kid, it would just never cross my mind to say thanks. And then I’d hear my parents tell me, “what do you say?”. It was baffling. Well, I was elated, wasn’t I? Wasn’t that an expression of gratitude? I knew I was expected to say thank you, but I had forgotten. Was I wrong to not have said it, even when my thanks was evident already? It’s not as though that situation was ever a big deal, but I always wondered at it. And what if I wasn’t thankful? Not that I hated the thing I received, but what if I didn’t feel grateful for it? Should I still have said thanks? That would by lying, which I was always told was wrong as well. Where is the line drawn between truth and manners?
I don’t mean anything malicious by any of that. I’m not saying we should do away with simple traditions that we are so used to that they are simply expected of everyone, regardless of ignorance or sincerity. I’m simply curious about how I should apply such things in my life. I used examples from my childhood for all those because children are reprimanded for doing something perceived as bad. Now that I’m an adult, I just get stares of “what the hell?” instead if I don’t say thanks for something, or I reach across the table, and the underlying social mechanics behind what I did “wrong” are less evident.
If you strongly disagree with my opposition to formalities, then at least know this; if I say thanks to you these days, it’s because I am actually grateful to you. If I’m not thankful for whatever reason, I’ll try not to say it. A friend bought me a drink today at Starbucks, and I said thanks to him. It wasn’t because it was expected of me. It was because I knew he spent his money on me voluntarily, and I appreciated the gesture. It was flattering. If I didn’t care that he had purchased something for me, rest assured, I wouldn’t have spoken up.
In my mind at least, that’s how things should work. “Thank you” shouldn’t be expected, it should be given.
Does that make me a terrible person? Am I a jerk for that? Should I just shut up about this and ask for the salt like a polite person would and say thanks to everything?
If that is so, then that’s just not a world I’m comfortable living in. And I’m sorry for being rude, but this is just how I am.
Wow. That was a tangent and a half. My original idea for this post was supposed to be about all the questions I had, and how I felt smothered by all of them, but I guess I just had to get this particular question off my chest.
Oh well, I’ll try again next time I suppose!
Brendon “disrespectfully honest” Regier
P.S. Yes, yes. I fully realize the irony in starting such a long, ranting post with “Maybe I’m just out of things to say”. Even I had to laugh a bit at that.
About BrendonI am a global terrorism warlord, meth kingpin, and hacker extraordinaire who has a moon base, at least fifteen wives, countless armies at my disposal, and a discover card. Oh, I also frequently make things up when I'm bored.
I am a global terrorism warlord, meth kingpin, and hacker extraordinaire who has a moon base, at least fifteen wives, countless armies at my disposal, and a discover card. Oh, I also frequently make things up when I'm bored.