Monday, June 16, 2008

Etiquette, and the Fine Art of Being a Wuss

I am a wuss. I'll admit it. I'm also sure that there's some polite, mannerly way to figure out some of the things that Emily Post hasn't addressed yet, like how to stealthily hide the panties in your cart at Target when you run into your boss, what to do when a burgeoning friendship suddenly turns to complete radio silence, how to get ground-in stains from the elbows of your white jacket, and the best way to tell your roommate to quit purloining your TP just because you buy the good stuff, and not the dollar store six pack. But I'm a wuss in so many ways. I can grill a police chief, get blamed for a mayor's heart attack, send an entrepreneur into hiding, but I can't brazen out panties sitting out in plain sight in front of my boss, explain the stains and their location to the dry cleaner, or ask someone if I've done something to offend. Especially that last one - it sounds so needy. If they're just busy, well, you've just guilted them. If they're avoiding you, well, now they have to tell you or lie. At any rate, it's a train with a likely destination of awkwardness. But then again, if you don't say anything, what if they think you're avoiding them? And my anathema on awkwardness and inconveniencing people is legendary. My family dines out on stories about it. I remember my mom - who was single for many years before marrying my stepdad - once finally had a date. The afternoon of the date, I had my first car wreck. Everything seemed fine at first, but as the evening wore on, my guts just started hurting. Ribcage down, I felt like I had been sucker-punched repeatedly. But I wouldn't say anything. My mom and her date sat on the front porch talking until around midnight - about sharpening scissors and assorted other gawdawfulboring things - and I laid on the couch, waiting for her to finish talking to this guy that - if he had become my stepfather - I would have hated and probably pranked to death. "Oh yes, you can sharpen even the dullest blades if you have a good stone," he said, and I swear it wasn't dirty talk. My mom murmured something affirmative and slightly inquisitive. "On our next date, you should just bring out all your scissors, and I'll bring my stone and sharpen them for you," he said, as I envisioned Visine-ing his sweet tea. "You shouldn't be spending money on new scissors. Sharp scissors are very important. You need sharp scissors for sewing, for cutting hair, for clipping coupons..." "For the love of God," I thought. "I'm going to die of internal injuries, and the last thing I hear will be..." "... scissors are easier than knives, I think. It's the serrated edges on the knives, it's harder. I can sharpen the heck out of a pair of scissors, let me tell you howdy." I open one eye ... and realize I'm not dead, but my mom has managed to get him in his car. She comes back in, and sees me on the couch. After telling her my innards are about to become outtards, she asks me why I didn't tell her I was in pain before. "It was your first date in a long time," I said. "I didn't want to interrupt." "Honey, the man was talking about scissors," she said. "I've been wishing for an interruption for an hour." Three hours and an ER visit later, she had a hilarious story to tell the girls at work that day, while I got to stay home from school in the lovely cocoon of pain medication for my bruised ribs and spleen. So yeah, I'm a wuss. My severe drama allergy precludes me from causing a scene if it's not going under my byline - and then I want the exclusive. So that's enough navel-gazing for tonight. I have to go buy toilet paper now.