Boys and Belles, I sit before you today humble and penitent. I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent individual (I can—with intense concentration—walk and chew gum at the same time), but I get very distressed at my inability to wrap my head around relatively simple concepts. I do so hate to spout trite phrases, but when they apply...well...they apply. What in the great wide world am I talking about?
Two wrongs don’t make a right.
There, I said it. Ta-da!
Wherever one’s spiritual beliefs lie, there is some form of two wrongs ≠ right most anywhere you land. Call it The Golden Rule, Karma or whatever—it’s better to lead by example, act with kindness, eschew vengeance and all that shit. Of course, I make light of the principle, but I do believe in it. I’ve seen way too many examples of the theory in practice to believe otherwise.
As a matter of fact, I would propose to you that the Do Unto Others methodology is all the more important in Southern Society where manners and deportment are so highly prized. React with calm! Don’t show ‘em they got to you! Keep it together at all times! Smile and nod, dammit, smile and nod!
As I’m sure you have already deduced, the contrition and penitence portion of this program alludes to the fact that I occasionally slip when it comes to the use of “Southern Manners Karma.” I’m not proud of it, but the Scottish Lawyer side tramples over the Southern Belle side every once in a blue moon. In the hope of redemption, I metaphorically prostrate myself before you and ask for forgiveness:
Once upon a time, I got married. Right after I got engaged, my parents offered me a sizeable chunk of money to elope somewhere with palm trees and sandy white beaches in lieu of going through the fuss and bother of a big wedding. Well, I was a moron and went for the big poufy dress and the whole nine yards. If nothing else, doing the thing up right did present the opportunity for a continuing education crash course in the opinions of the learned Post & Vanderbilt.
Holy cats. If you’ve never tried to throw a Southern Belle wedding, you can’t possibly begin to grasp the etiquette involved. State visits from Queen Elizabeth would seem like casual drop-ins by comparison. Invitations should be engraved, not printed and no abbreviations are allowed—titles and addresses should be spelled out. Even the RSVP’s are governed: All accepts and declines should be hand printed on white Crane’s card stock paper with black ink—those little pre-stamped cards brides and grooms send with the invites so as to desperately coax out a response and thus get a head-count for the buffet are strictly taboo.
I could go on, but I don’t want you to go into a coma.
Anyway, it probably isn’t news to you that brides can get just a wee bit stressed out with all of the wedding planning. Stupid little things seem like a big deal—especially when you’re a Scottish Lawyer-in-Training and therefore prone to blowing your top.
There I was: The wedding fervor was starting to escalate, the invitations were properly printed and about to be posted and the plans for the service were kicking into high gear. My mother wanted me to ask a gal that I kind of grew up with to take part in the service. When I say “kind of grew up with,” I mean that my family was friends with her family, but she was a lot older than me and didn’t really have the time or the desire to bother with a little squirt nipping at her heels.
Nonetheless, I capitulated to my mother’s request and sent the girl a mannerly letter (as required) asking that she grace my wedding service with her participation. Not only was my letter ignored, she never even replied to the general wedding invitation. Common, huh? I have to admit that I was pretty darned offended. In case you’re dying to know, she didn’t show up. Shocker.
A year or so later, Miss No Manners finds the love of her life and schedules her big day. I got an invitation to her wedding and—here’s where the really shameful part comes in—I reciprocally failed to respond. I even had a little dumbass speech all planned out if she had the nerve to say something about it. Personally, I thought I was being a pretty good sport pitching in to throw her a bridesmaids’ lunch, showing up for her ceremony and giving her a present.
So...during the party that I threw, Miss Mannerless actually did have the nerve to mention my lack of response and my moment had arrived. I inhaled to launch into my “See How It Feels?” tirade when I stopped. What exactly did I hope to gain? Some would say satisfaction. Some would even say that I had a golden opportunity to teach a lesson so that future brides wouldn’t be screwed over by her rudeness. The ugly truth of the matter was that she was too narcissistic to learn a lesson and all I’d done was be just as common and rude as she was.
Two wrongs do not make a right. You can work it any way you want and it still won’t add up.
So what is my new and enlightened approach? Keep my own side of the street clean and stop worrying about everybody else. Don’t stoop to someone’s level—lead by example instead.
Blahblahblah—here’s the thing: Just because I never got a thank you note from Cecily doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t send her a note of gratitude when she gives me a present. Who knows? Maybe she’s never seen one before and my note will serve as a shining example of propriety. Hell, maybe I’ll actually give her a box of thank-you notes for her next birthday present with the hope of planting a seed of inspiration. Nonetheless, I get to go to sleep at night enjoying the fresh breezes of the high road.