Friday, May 26, 2017

Social Grace

As a child, the infrequent social gathering, so beloved by my surprisingly sociable parents, has always been a source of much anxiety for me. Incipient bashfulness aside, there are always the endless rules and regulations of proper manners set down by the overanxious parents, seemingly obsessed with constructing the impeccable facade of a perfect family for all to gape over.

Or at least that's what I begrudgingly noted as a child.

Appropriate clothes to wear, polite manners in the company of others etc. - basically Cliff's Notes for the aspiring debutante in a select finishing school. Pretentious little precepts of proper behaviour that my inner rebel found absolutely infuriating - though like the perfect little boy I was, I kept my mouth primly shut following the popular maxim of 'Children should be seen not heard.'

And tried my best to bend the rules whenever possible.

It's only with the benefit of age and hindsight that I find what I learned absolutely educational and extremely advantageous in certain social situations. Though it has also become quite clear that the influential Emily Post Rulebook so well loved by my rigorous parents didn't actually make the rounds amongst the other less conversant members during their PTA meetings.

Such as the indifferent preceptors of a certain Silent Sibyl.

Persuaded by another friend to join one of our usual jovial dinner gatherings, this stonefaced sphinx reluctantly mumbled her unintelligible greetings, nodded almost imperceptibly to no one in particular and then brazenly turned her back to the others for a private conversation with her friend. Henceforth not another word from Sibyl apart from bluntly monosyllabic replies when questioned by the others on the table.

Paul : Gracious, where do you find such lowly impudence!

Just. Plain. Rude.

So much for keeping the conversation light and gracious with your dinner partners on your left and right. Getting information from a hardened spy under torture would have been easier.

Perhaps if she were an ignorant child, I would have been far more forgiving. But the ill-bred wench didn't even have youthful naivete to lend her grace. Really there was little expectation on my part for a gregarious barrel of laughs drowning us all in uproarious hilarity but I would have expected at least a modicum of civil conversation to drip from her precious lips.

As the night wore on with her plainly ignoring everyone else on the table - she might as well have stood facing the wall in a timeout - I started to think Sibyl might well have been brought up by vulgar philistines in the lowliest of barns. The others could plainly see my growing consternation and were all ready to hold me back in case I rashly backhanded the crass lil creature off her dining chair. Even her friend who valiantly tried her best to direct her attention back to the rest of us was starting to feel acutely uneasy with the shocking conversational faux pas.

Friend : Maybe she's shy.
Paul : Maybe she's rude.
Friend : Be nice. 
Paul : Perhaps you should tell her that instead.  

Needless to say, I was less than charmed by her insolence.

Manners maketh man. Or woman as this case may be. Apparently Sibyl still has lots to make up for.

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