NO, YOU DON’T GET TO CRUSH MY DIGNITY.
How #lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic brought out the shadow archetype in those that you least suspected it from.
I have an intelligent, successful ex-friend who is a talented litigator. Self-made, his tenacity allowed him to pull himself from the bootstraps into the practice of law. We had been friends and colleagues for over 15 years, respecting each other in a professional and personal level.
Every time I greeted him over the phone, when I asked how he was doing, he had the bad habit of answering: “Screwed. With a lot of work and little money.”
I consistently replied: “On these days of Pandemic and lockdown, at least you have work and money.”
For the fifteen years I have known him, he has not professionally soared to the successful heights that his intelligence, preparation, experience and talent could have allowed him to compared to what less accomplished attorneys have.
The reason? Lack of talent stack.
In his case, I will discuss only one that applies to so many other attorneys I have come to know: the lack of social graces.
If you haven’t achieved the professional recognition you know you are capable of attaining in the career or craft you have chosen to pursue, perhaps it’s time to carry out some introspection into a part of you that few will have the courage to mention: your need to work on your manners.
Just as when you want to entice a woman you have a crush on, you must be mindful that the development of basic manners are essential to adeptly handle yourself in all types of social situations. I have gone through the embarrassment of having a waiter tell my date he will no longer serve him a drink because he’s had one too many.
Guess what happened the next time he called to ask me out.
The same goes for employers. When they take you out for lunches, it’s not just for networking. It’s to see how you handle yourself in social and elegant settings: how you handle yourself, if you drink too much, if you speak loudly, if you know how to conduct yourself at the table, etc.
Manners also show your respect towards others. They are about basic rules of social behavior and civility.
I don’t expect for a date to live up to Letitia Baldrige’s standards because I certainly don’t have them. I am referring to basic rules of etiquette that come in handy in any social situation.
At the vry least, you should have a command of Brooks Brothers’ “How to Raise A Gentleman”.
In the context of my friend, perhaps the most important factor why I didn’t date him were his atrocious manners. It’s not snobbery; It’s not being able to enjoy a dinner because his rudeness clashes with any good qualities he may portray. For God’s sake, if he can recite the history of the Russian Revolution, he can certainly learn basic manners as to not constitute a mortifying distraction to an otherwise pleasant dinner.
I feel free to write this post because I am certain that he has no clue that I have my little Medium corner where I write stories close to my heart. For those of you that have impeccable manners, you may not realize the difference they make in all the realms you interact with on a daily basis: from the supermarket, to the boardroom, restaurant and dating scene.
To those that say “I don’t care”, remain where you are while you watch the others soar.
BE WARY OF THOSE THAT FEIGN COMPASSION
My first advice from anyone trying to impress his girlfriend’s parents to a person who wants to feel confident in the professional realm, you should get a hold of the short and succinct “How to Raise a Gentleman” available at Brooks Brothers. Written for adolescents but universal in content, it’s short, sweet and to the point. It contains the etiquette essentials for most situations. Not thorough enough for those going to a dinner at the Windsor palace, it is enough to make any man look good on most social milieus.
That little bible of a book contains the habits that my friend never had the benefit of learning. For some, it can make the difference in deciding whether or not to continue dating a person. The conduct it teaches reveals characteristics indicative of considerationand compassion that go beyond the act themselves. To name a few, it teaches about all the atrocious and unacceptable behaviors that this man is clueless he should not engage in.
Some of the precepts included in that little blue book that that will help you impress that elusive date or distinguish yourself from the rest in the office cocktail party include: hold the chair open for the lady at the table; place the napkin on the lap immediately after sitting down at the table; abstain from chewing with an open mouth; don’t chew gum; abstain from talking with a full mouth; stand up when a lady approaches the table and remain standing until she leaves or she instructs otherwise; abstain from eating until everyone starts; abstain from speaking while waving the cutlery in the air; don’t make noise while chewing or with the cutlery on the plate; don’t hold the fork and the knife with your fists closed against the plate; wait for the women to leave the elevator before the last man leaves, holding the door open; open the car door for women and extend your hand to help them out; carry a clean handkerchief; and…
Never, ever, ever take food from anyone’s plate without permission or never, ever, take your friend’s unfinished drink that she has chosen to drink slowly and pour it to your own glass.
And for God’s sake: if you can’t handle drinking, stick to the Perrier.
Finally, never ask a paramour you want to date to trim your nose or ear hair. That is gross.
THE STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL’S BACK
“We men are horrible” is my best friend’s mantra. (He is a man, and includes himself.) I refused to believe him.
As a self-employed professional, I have been unable to earn a living for the past year. The corrupt governor of Puerto Rico deprived many of us of being able to work and of the assistance it generously gave to well-connected “friends”, including to government employees that stayed home receiving paychecks without working and didn’t qualify for it.
I stretched the recommended “six months’ stash” of savings throughout a year and have undergone a dire economic situation since then. The incompetent governor destroyed small merchants and the self-employed economy.
Having lost my partner of 13 years to heart failure on June 6th. That placed an additional and infinite sadness in my heart, making me even more vulnerable to the uncertainty 2020 brought upon me.
WHEN A FRIEND UNEXPECTEDLY TAKES OFF HIS MASK
A few weeks ago, the rough-around-the-edges ‘friend’ showed up to my house. On that day, I had taken a severe blow in a personal civil case.
After pretending to care about my predicament but before I had time to dry out the tears off my face, out of nowhere and without any enticement on my part, he unzipped his pants, pulled down his underwear and proceeded to make sexual advancements. He chased me around the living room.
Appalled, I jumped from the sofa to the ottoman and then back to the other sofa, while I screamed:
APARTATE! (GET AWAY!)
After a couple of minutes, he snapped out of it and left.
No, I didn’t and won’t file charges. Codependent me doesn’t want to hurt him, his profession, his title. Besides, he didn’t get to touch me.
Yes, I am angry, hurt, scared, frustrated and resentful. Nothing like that had ever happened to me.
I no longer wish to engage with him, let alone let him into my gated community. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t tried to call visit me a few times thereafter. Never has he cared about my well-being. I always decline his calls.
I am deeply hurt that his reptilian brain was capable of attempting to take advantage of my fragile emotional weakness and force me into a sexual rendez-vous. There is no disinfectant that succumbing to such an unwanted interaction could scrub off the repulsion such shame would have brought upon me.
I am a single, free, liberal adult woman who does as she pleases with her body within the realm of reason and safety. Determined in my goals, self-respect doesn’t allow anyone to force me into do anything I don’t want to. Not even if necessity called for it.
I won’t even perform work that would otherwise be deemed lawful if I didn’t feel comfortable doing it. Like, for example, killing pigs.
Despite my best friend’s belief that “All men are horrible” (including himself), I want to hold on to the hope that he’s mistaken.
The most revealing indicia that proves your elegance and dignity is your respect towards women, regardless of her life’s circumstances.
I will continue strive each day to find it in every person I encounter.