Having manners, being polite, is something that I hold to a high esteem. It is not the glue of social fabric but more like the padding that makes things have less static, less friction. I possibly have an old fashion sense of manners; I think they should be constant, consistent and with little fanfare and should create the least amount of embarrassment and attention.
Manners are a dance. The partnering and the balance of their exchange is what makes them have meaning. The failure, by choice or otherwise, to meet that exchange is painful to both watch and endure. I want to discuss manners because frankly I think that many people (especially in the art world) lack them. I am no Emily Post and have certainly breeched my fair share of good behavior but in the past few days I have bore witness and been told about certain incidents that leaves me tisking at the state of things. Because of this and because I literally have zero time in my day to do anything else, I will give a few judgmental quips on these slips of manners.
Be Actually Nice – Everyone knows everyone in the art world and one day that intern might become your boss so make sure to be nice and be actually nice, like care about what they are saying and doing, versus just patting them on the head.
Don’t Lie – If you say you have jet-lag and you aren’t going out and then you go out to an opening in which literally everyone is there you will get caught. Why lie when you can easily just admit how busy you are and that if you bump into each other just say hello. When someone is lied to, especially someone with access and power, they will not forget. It will bite you in the ass one-way or another even if it’s months/years from now.
Pay Your Part and More if You Need – When people go to a dinner and they leave early and drop a $20 it is just the most obnoxious thing. Everyone knows that if you have a group of over 4 people the bill somehow comes 3x more then what you expect. I hate settling the check, all that money exchanging hands is so tacky, but if you want to be at group dinners and you know it’s going to be split bill at least have the class to stay and see what is due. That is unless you can pay for the whole thing -then you can leave whenever you damn please.
Gossip – There are certain people that you know have the dish on others and that is juicy to hear and mostly harmless but then there are others who seem to make it a form of self identity to be in other people’s business. As soon as some like that that starts mentioning people by name eject yourself asap from that zone. Even if you don’t stoke the gossip just being audience to it makes you complicit.
Respond Back – We are all little Pavlov dogs drooling on ourselves waiting for a ding or buzz of affirmation. There are degrees of timeliness in responding to someone. Text ~3 hours, email ~2 days, direct message FB ~5 hours, direct message Instagram ~2 days. This of course changes in regards to content, context and if it is a friend/professional/or romantic relationship but for the love of god respond! The ability to communicate and to do it in a timely way is essential to having balanced relationships. Most of the time this is easy and fun but sometimes you just don’t know what to say or don’t want to keep playing the ping-pong social relay. Even if you don’t want to it’s always less cruel to respond then to just drop/ghost on someone. It’s sometimes harder but it is nicer and more adult.
Shit Talking – Shit talking is different then gossiping because this is not about something someone did or is going through but a general attack on another’s character. There are some who really enjoy shit-talking. They relish in it and when you call them out on it they defensively say something stupid like, ‘I’m just joking, you know I love them,’ or some other asinine thing. Shit-talkers are someone you should be wary of because if they shit talk their, “close friends” then god knows what they must be saying about you. Beware and keep a tight lip around them because they will the first to drop your name into their shit-talking mix.
Be Gentlemanly/Womanly – We do not live in the Victorian times but a good dose of formality in manners, especially when it comes to romantic interactions, is so appreciated. Holding hands, opening doors, just kissing, touching knees, optimal seating, being prompt, saying how nice a time you had, all these are such little things but they are so lovely and sweet.
Say Thank You – This is literally the simplest most obvious thing in the world but there are so many times when people really just don’t get that this is what one should say in exchange for a favor or deed. Like if you stay at someone’s place as a guest for multiple days you should say thank you in some way. A note, an email, a chocolate bar, a text. Whatever! Your boyfriend saying that you say thanks in passing is not sufficient. It’s so simple and because of that, when it is not done it leaves a bigger check against you.