Every now and then I find myself in a social situation that, quite frankly, I do not know how to handle. When that happens, my first instinct is to turn to my tattered copy of Emily Post's "Blue Book of Social Usage", but increasingly it seems that I've been unable to find solutions to the problems I face, especially when it comes to things like social networking and digital communication. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that that her etiquette book is rather out of date. After all, the old gal kicked the bucket more than fifty years ago, long before any of this high tech stuff came on the scene.
Still, I'm a firm believer that good manners are good manners, regardless of the era. That's why, as of late I've taken to consulting my own version of the grand dame of propriety and decorum, Emily Past, who has a remarkable gift for applying the impeccable standards of yesterday's etiquette to the issues we face in our modern society, even if at times she may be somewhat confused about the issues. Here are a few samples from her advice column.
Dear Miss Past: My Facebook friend from high school updates her status every fifteen minutes, and it's drives me crazy. I for one do not care to know that she's waiting on a dishwasher repairman, or that her spinning class has been canceled until Thursday. I don't want to hurt her feelings but is it okay to hide her? Signed, Fed Up.
Dear Fed Up: Over the years I too have encountered my fair share of status-seekers, although admittedly they aspired to something a bit loftier than a dishwasher repairman. However, I do believe that your friend is to be commended for taking spinning classes, as textile crafts have become something of a lost art and it's nice to know someone is interested in reviving them. I suppose it would be alright to hide her, although for the life of me I can't imagine where. I guess it depends upon how ample she is and how much excess storage space you have in your attic.
Dear Miss Past: I keep getting annoying Twitters on my iPad. What can I do about them? Signed, Nervous Nellie.
Dear Nellie: Believe me I sympathize, having suffered from a similar malady myself upon occasion. When this occurs I find that placing a slice of chilled cucumber just beneath the pad is usually an effective way to relax the muscles and stop that annoying twittering. Good luck.
Dear Miss Past: My new Smart Phone has a feature called "Face Time” which allows me to be visible to the person on the other end of the line. My friends all seem to be so put together on these calls, leaving me to wonder – what is the proper attire for such an occasion? Signed, Perpetually Underdressed
Dear Underdressed: If you are the recipient of the call, you are already at a clear disadvantage. Nevertheless, a lady should always look her best, even when caught off guard. Granted, you only have a few seconds after the first ring of the phone to make yourself presentable, but it can be done. To avoid looking like you're in the throes of a three-day virus, I suggest that you keep a tube of lipstick by the phone, along with a large cape-like scarf that can hastily be draped across the shoulders in a chic manner to hide your grungy lasagna-stained t-shirt. Pay close attention to the angle at which you hold the receiver, lest you inadvertently find yourself engaged in a conversation with someone who is gazing straight up into your nostrils. Similarly, you should be mindful of your background surroundings. If you don't want your mother-in-law to see nine loads of unfolded laundry on the sofa behind you, then by all means don't point the phone where she can see it over your shoulder. Usually this can be managed simply by moving the receiver in a little closer to you. However, please be aware that while holding the phone just inches from your face does successfully block the view of dirty dishes and unmade beds in the background, it also greatly exaggerates unsightly pores and crows' feet on your face. The choice is yours.
If you have any more questions on social issues, please don't hesitate to contact me. Unless, of course, you have a phone with Face Time, in which case – don't call me…I'll call you. Regards, Miss Emily Past.