In doing research on etiquette for an article I’m writing, I found myself growing ever more frustrated by the blatant hypocrisy most people in this society seem to demonstrate when it comes to matters of manners. Mainly, people (women, especially) nearly give themselves ulcers when preparing for weddings–Is it acceptable to wear white if it’s my second wedding? How do I ask guests to not bring children without offending them? How do I seat my guests for dinner?–but such concerns don’t translate to other areas of their lives. I started off in a huff over the excessive cell phone use that borders on boasting of how many friends one has, and this expanded into other areas.
In reading some tried-and-true advice books, I found an author suggesting that one must never say disparaging things about an area to a person. Here it is, in black-and-white, something that’s been pissing me off for some time, and even the manners books thought to include it: It is unforgivably rude to insult a place that another person lives. That’s not to say we should ignore the problems that may exist there, but that we should be mindful that no one wants to be insulted. I don’t go into your backyard and point to your crabgrass or where the neighbor’s dog left his mark…you don’t need to tell me about graffiti and litter.
These kinds of remarks are hurtful; they also dismiss other realities, such as where the beauty of an area exists. I spent a bit of time this past weekend down at Riverside Park, writing under the trees. There were dozens of people using the boat launch. On Saturday, there seemed to be a family reunion and a wedding going on by the boat house. Kids were using the playground. Some of my friends were there to play beach volleyball. On both days, there was some kind of soccer tournament that brought in hundreds of kids.
Last weekend, I’d walked from my house down to Riverside Park, taking the bike path through several other parks by the Connecticut River. Whenever I hear someone remark how dirty or dangerous Hartford is, I work very hard to hold back a double lecture on manners and stereotypes based on ignorance.