Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On the Death of Manners

You will all be thrilled to know that Pretty Lady has Submitted her Application, and thus may disentangle her brain from the sort of verbiage which torments her soul, and renders her unfit for human companionship.

(Actually, Pretty Lady's normal verbal self may render her unfit for most human companionship, but she appears to have attracted a quorum of masochistic freaks, and for this she is humbly grateful.)

Having decided to celebrate the pressing of the "Send" button with a shot of tequila, or two, or the rest of the bottle, Pretty Lady has now recklessly decided to be Indiscreet. She shall now offer her Deep Insight of the Week, hang the consequences. To wit: How to Fend Off --well, Pretty Lady can't be that indiscreet. She has the familial integrity of a friend to consider.

The fact is, Pretty Lady was a tad bit too well brought-up. She was trained to be Respectful to her Seniors; she was taught to be Trusting, Polite, and to Smile Gracefully at Inane Platitudes, particularly when these platitudes were declaimed from On High by a senior member of the Patriarchy.

This training has gotten her into endless amounts of trouble. For the scurrilous truth is, that not every Older Man is as morally upright and unblemished as Pretty Lady's Daddy, and Granddaddy, and on upwards into ever-expanding latitudes of Great Granddaddy-ness. Pretty Lady comes from a pretty exceptional family, it seems; sometimes, indeed, it seems as though Pretty Lady's forbears were a different species of animal from the seniors, biologically unrelated to Pretty Lady, who infest the modern landscape.

For Pretty Lady has had a way with her of attracting a certain sort of paternal attention from grey-haired Patriarchs, ever since she turned eighteen, and entered the Larger World with clear-eyed naïveté and optimism. These fellows--professors, shopkeepers, carpenters, parents of college friends--have approached her with Idealistic and Caring rhetoric. They evince concern for Pretty Lady, all alone in the Terrible World. They wish only to Protect her Innocence.

Then they pounce.

Pretty Lady, every single time, is shocked. She cannot believe that such an upright, upstanding, married older gentleman could stoop to such base maneuvers. She is certain there has been Some Mistake. She is certain that her signals have been grossly misinterpreted; she is sure the gentleman forgets himself. But after a time, she begins to notice a pattern, no matter how much she wishes to notice otherwise.

The pattern is this: when a gentleman begins to subject her earnest ears to a torrent of inane platitudes, such as 'such Deep Blue Eyes you have, my dear;' 'ah! you are a Fighter;' 'we are all, within us, the Same;' Pretty Lady begins to smell a rat.

For surely the gentleman is boring himself with such twaddle. He is certainly boring Pretty Lady. Trained, as she was, to smile and nod agreeably, Pretty Lady finds it increasingly difficult to maintain the appropriate standard of courtesy. Strangely, the boring gentleman in question seems inattentive to the increasingly strained and perfunctory nature of Pretty Lady's polite responses; indeed, on the occasions when she is goaded into a Sharp Retort, he seems positively encouraged. It comes to appear as though any possible response on Pretty Lady's part will be received with overflowing, over-the-top enthusiasm.

For indeed, the gentleman has worked himself into such a pitch of protective idealism as to be utterly deaf to the sense of any mere rational language, issuing from Pretty Lady's captivating lips. Such phrases as 'this situation is wholly inappropriate' seem to pass as so much wind in the eaves. Forceful language such as 'I'm not particularly comfortable with this, as I am sure you can imagine' may as well not have been communicated.

No, after decades of regrettable Life Experience, Pretty Lady has come to the conclusion that in such extreme conditions, only one bald word will penetrate the consciousness of such a self-forgetting, inappropriately besotted patriarch. That word is, NO.

Even when the utterance of this word appears to be horrifically Rude. Especially so. Once Pretty Lady has smelled such a rat as that, even such an innocent request as "Will you attend the symphony with me next week?" must be responded to with a resounding, unequivocal, unadorned NO. No explanations, no lectures, no thanks, no excuses. NO. No, no, no, no, no.

Pretty Lady is feeling pretty desperate, to consider passing this information along. Ordinarily, she is a staunch champion of Manners, as the only reliable method of Saving the World. But in this circumstance, the necessity of complete clarity transcends all other considerations. It is a terrible pity, but a measure of her deep certitude, that it has taken her twenty years to come to this conclusion.


Anonymous said...


I feel better now...

There has been no torrent of inane platitudes from this old gas bag.

I just enjoy your blog--simple as that--and take a gentle poke once in awhile, as in the "you know what" lives! wisecrack.

After all, blogs are meant to be fun. That's my theory anyway...

Any venom I have coursing thrugh my viens is flusheed out on my own blog... that's what it's for, so I can be civil eveywhere else.

Anonymous said...

I also feel better since my leer always gives me away and I never push my advances once you tell me to stop.

On a side note, you're quite striking and what man wouldn't want to have you. Deal with it!

Desert Cat said...

Is it the wanting, or the failure to garner a clue?

Pretty Lady said...

Good heavens, boys, none of you were meant to take Pretty Lady's tequila-laced diatribe personally. None of you are her college friend's father-in-law, still very much married to her very much living mother-in-law. None of you have invited her to dinner, then lunch, then called the next day to invite her to the symphony. None of you have laced your lunchtime conversation with broad hints about 'extra-marital liberalism.' You are all in the clear.

And yes, DC, such behavior would seem to indicate a certain clue-free level of consciousness, would it not.

Anonymous said...

It's the lady's beauty. Clues are undermined by desire.

Pretty Lady said...

Oh, EN, you schmooze. I doubt beauty has as much to do with it as Misguided Politesse, quite honestly. One radiates an aura that says 'could be a pushover.'

I am working on acquiring a teflon shield, however.

Anonymous said...

teflon shield huh? Ummm.. Would that make you slippery?!

You have been in a strange mood lately. Is it because of the previous thread thingy you were talking about? Or are you just in a cinical mood?

Pretty Lady said...

Perhaps, dear Starbuck, I am merely Integrating. The other shoe is beginning to slip...

Anonymous said...

Good grief, can this gentleman not see very clearly from your blogroll that you are already engaged in Adultery Most Vile, and that your heart is irrevocably entrenched in that sordid affair?

Given my recent tendency to wax contentious I would offer that perhaps your article would be better titled "On The Dearth of Manners." It's not that manners have died, or that you have contributed to the decay of courtesy by resorting to flat refusal. I know I still hold doors for women, and I have had a few sneer as they walk through. However, most women are surprised and genuinely pleased when a man holds the door or rises to his feet when she stands up at table.

In fact, you can learn much about a woman based on her responses to common courtesy. I have always brought a small gift of flowers on a first date, nothing fancy or threatening - and if she is delighted by them or at least fakes it convincingly I take it as a good sign. A gentleman always pays during a date, and utterly ignores any protests or offers to contribute as background noise. She does not want to split the check, fool - she is being polite. If a long-term relationship is established, it is ok for the man to allow the woman to insist on paying occasionally since a good woman is practical and does not want to bankrupt her man. However, until you are comfortable enough together that you have seen her without makeup consider yourself on deck for the bill.

To stray even further off topic, gift giving is also an art form, it must be done randomly, and sparingly at the beginning of a relationship. Never be predictable, and unusual gifts are always best. Avoid expensive jewelry outside of holidays and birthdays at all costs, unless it's something like an inexpensive hammered silver bracelet you find together in a junk/antique shop that she adored but would not buy due to practicality. Again, the emphasis should always be on originality instead of quantity or cost. I once got a woman to date me who had refused all my other advances by messengering over an ancient copy of the libretto from Catalani's La Wally after hearing snippets of the aria playing in the background during a phone call.

Given that most people have embraced vulgarity and conformity as virtues it is getting harder and harder to find individuality in the world, you should never apologize for having manners or be surprised when no one else around you understands them.

Anonymous said...

I have opened the car door, front door, store door, back door, whatever door for my wife since day one. (sometime back in 1971)

I walk on the streetside of the sidewalk. I carry her packages. I have never abused, mistreated or embarrased her in public. (private either)

Oops, got carried away there...

I'm pretty sure I've embarrased her in public by saying or doing someting stupid... can't be helped.

Anyway, people who see me treat her with these courtesies generally smile and nod approvingly, except for a number of the younger set, the ones dressed like street bums with attitudes to match.

But they don't count... not at all.

PL, I sure hope some truly nice guy walks through your door someday, you deserve it.

Anonymous said...


Was that an inane platitude?

Anonymous said...

prettylady said...
Perhaps, dear Starbuck, I am merely Integrating. The other shoe is beginning to slip...

8:37 AM

PL, Your idea of integrating and my idea of integrating are probably two different things.

Integrating in my world takes the small errors out of something that is being controlled. i.e. PID control.

So as to what you meant, I am probably clueless. heh.

Pretty Lady said...

can this gentleman not see very clearly from your blogroll that you are already engaged in Adultery Most Vile

Indeed, the number of persons on this planet who are tone-deaf to irony never ceases to amaze Pretty Lady. The number of people who go to her website for the purposes of finding out all about her, and nevertheless utterly fail to notice that she even HAS a blog, not so much.

if she is delighted by them or at least fakes it convincingly

Pretty Lady is always sincerely delighted by flowers, under all circumstances. She inherited this tendency from her mother, whose father was a florist. Flowers mean that All is Right with the World, in Pretty Lady's lexicon.

However, I must point out that most of the behaviors to which you are referring come under the blanket heading of courting behaviors. Which is lovely.

But when the process of courtship is passive-aggressively undertaken by a person who has no business being in the market for any such thing, the niceties of one's knee-jerk responses must be modified a bit.

Pretty Lady is, she repeats, always delighted by flowers, and lunch at tony French restaurants, and symphonies. But in the interests of maintaining the integrity of her personal life, occasionally she must feign otherwise.

Pretty Lady said...

Was that an inane platitude?

You bring up an interesting question, Bobert. What is that makes some platitudes inane, and others not?

For Pretty Lady does not get that grinding sensation in her stomach, when gentlemen such as you, Bobert, wish her well. She takes it at face value, and is pleased and grateful.

The grinding sensation seems to arise when the platitude is being used in some way. As in, perhaps, stating the overwhelmingly, uncontradictably obvious, as a way of attempting to induce an untoward degree of apparent mutual harmony.

Hm. Pretty Lady feels another post coming on. Or not. The studio calls.

Anonymous said...

I'm courteous and flattering to all women, regardless of my intentions, which on occasion are not entirely honorable. It would be very hard to tell what I'm up to from my manners. It comes from my father who was very "well loved" and "active" in the community.

Being well mannered, complimentary (Not lying. One always tells the truth), and discreet, is one of my great pleasures. The important thing to me is always giving the lady (or not) a chance to decide. My goal is to make the decision easy, one way or another. Angst is for teenagers.

Pretty Lady said...

Oh, and Crom, one of the wisest gifts that Pretty Lady ever received was from a young man who happened to ask her out for their initial date on her twentieth birthday. He appeared with a gift in hand; an absurdly ugly rubber ball in the shape of a knome head.

This was perfect. It acknowledged the fact of the birthday, but was not remotely serious enough to place any sort of emotional pressure upon the lady at all. He got Full Marks.

Unfortunately, there still wasn't any chemistry. But given the level of friendly casualness and intelligence in his demeanor, nobody suffered any frustrating humiliations.

Pretty Lady said...

Yes, indeed, EN, you are both direct and detached, which is key. There is no Covert Manipulation going on, which is the despicable thing.

Anonymous said...

You remind me more and more of myself PL....

I too have had to deal with this particular problem, for many years.

When I was quite young, I was the "friend" of the males. I was the smart girl in class, who wore glasses and who (I was told decades later by the same boys) intimidated them all badly. So I learned first hand how boys thought and how they acted. And I loved them because they were direct and less likely to stab me in my back. They taught me that most men, if they think they have even a 1% shot at it, will try to hook a catch (pretty female) at least just long enough to decide whether to keep her or throw her back in the pond. And any smart "fish" knows not to bite on such bait.

In my junior year of highschool I took off the glasses. I got the leads in all the school plays. I went to college on several scholarships. I began to shine and drink and party. I had fun and I got lots of male attention. I enjoyed being female. But I did not hide my wit, act nor was I unfaithful to my chosen bf. I did enjoy the flirting and thought nothing of it. I accepted the admiration as my due. But I did not appreciate or tolerate rude or pushy overtures, by men of any age.

I still do not. Nor should you.

Flirting is fun. Men and women do it for a number of reasons. Those who are really good at it are almost artists. Those who are merely flirting, without any ill intent, just want to make sure people notice them still.

But hurting other people and/or being unfaithful is never cute or admirable behaviors. Nor is the presumption by any male that just because he buys a woman a ticket, meal, or drink he is entitled to anything but a polite thank you.

Covert manipulation is indeed dastardly. But no gender has a monopoly on that particular behavior!

Anonymous said...

P.S. I pity women married to men of the sort you describe. However, all too often, they know. Even when/if they do not admit it.

Anonymous said...

Ohhhhhh if only women knew just how common this was they wouldn't feel so appalled and alone. It's just that we pretty ladies are SO appalled, and feel SO guilty about it (was it something we did/said?) that we keep it a secret, lest the public hold us personally responsible for every Bad Man's behavior. This fear is not entirely unfounded.

My personal tactic for dealing with the hordes of married men: I become friendly with their wives. Despite some of these wives' outwardly dull or even unpretty demeanors they tend to reveal a certain fabulousity once I get to know them. Certainly they are more interesting than their husbands, who run scared at my squeal "Oh dinner sounds splendid! I'll call your Kiki and ask her what she's wearing!"

Pretty Lady said...

Yes, indeed, Hedo, the men hate it when you do that. It is one of the ways I divine whether a man's 'friendship' is an honorable one or not; if he becomes sulky and irascible when I display a warm, friendly interest in his wife, I know that he is not to be trusted.