Rules are at the very least for the bending. Following instructions to the T will probably make you one big bore, IKEA furniture being the only exception. Your desk might fall apart if you don’t. You probably shouldn’t touch pieces of art either. Really though, where would we be without the rule breakers? Without those who did not want to be caged within convention? Non-critical people are the biggest source of frustration for my husband. He does not get them. At all. Does that make us cynical and unhappy? Probably at times. It’s easy to be happy. It’s harder to view the world with playfulness and an adventurous heart.
But you know where regulations gain more importance? Manners. I’m not saying that we return to the sitting rooms of Victorian England, but a little bit of civility goes a long way. Etiquette can regulate our behaviour positively through kindness and allow us to play the social game more effectively.
Compassion and appreciation are at the core of certain practices. For example, you write those thank you cards because you recognize people’s efforts and thoughtfulness. I also don’t care if the Queen of England has to wait, you don’t start eating till all of your guests have arrived. You don’t look down on others because you’re secure in your positioning, and perhaps recognize that dumb luck is one of factors that placed you at an advantage. That does not mean that you’re not critical of how people operate. You just have enough sense to leave it alone and choose your battles, because really, at the end of the day it’s probably none of your business. I’m pretty sure that Prince William would be the most polite person you’ll ever meet. He has nothing to lose with treating others with reverence precisely because of his privilege. It’s the insecure people who are making it difficult for everyone.
Knowing the rules also allows you to play the game more effectively. The winners circle is formed by those who can read the social signifiers and strategize where they would like to go. It’s strange because a lack of manners comes in so many different forms: racism, sexism, ableism and other types of discrimination. I’ve felt more sorry than anything else for ignorant people. I feel sad that their perspectives are so narrow and small. I hope that these viewpoints are transformed with time and experience. I always try to correct when my own intolerance is expressed. But in your daily life, even if these practices cause hurt and scars, it’s best not to engage. When Lainey describes how the comedian Chelsea Handler has publicly made so many heinous comments against Angelina Jolie, she praises the Jolie’s tactics: “Radio silence. Chelsea doesn’t exist in heaven. That’s how it’s done.” I like it. Ignorance cannot exist on the high road, on our higher ground.