It’s hard, I know. The crowds in airports and shopping malls, the extended family time, and the children hopped up on candy and screaming for presents are all enough to turn even the calmest and politest people into raving bitches. But fear not: Celia Rivenbark has got you covered. Rivenbark is a nationally syndicated humor columnist and New York Times bestselling author. Plus, she’s from the South (where we all know only polite people live), so she clearly knows what she’s talking about when it comes to manners. Read on to learn some tips for handling the holidays from Rivenbark’s seventh book, Rude Bitches Make Me Tired (St. Martin’s Griffin, October).
Someone’s invited you to a party. Now what do you do?
For God’s sake, RSVP. This is an easy thing to do, and it lets your hosts know that you are not completely oblivious to the time and effort it takes to plan and execute a holiday party.
Having RSVP’d, you should then go to the party. Bring something with you. If you bring a bottle of wine (or anything else to eat or drink), do not be offended if the host doesn’t serve it. The bottle is a gift, and the host can choose to either serve it at the party, or keep it for later.
Don’t, however, bring something to the party that you don’t really want to drink. Even if you think you’re being discreet, people will notice if you show up with a 6-pack of Bud Lite and then drink all the fancy microbrews.
Finally, as the party winds down, make sure you don’t overstay your welcome. A dinner invitation is a dinner invitation. If you hang around more than half an hour after dessert has been served, and/or the other guests have gone home, your hosts are probably regretting that they ever asked you over in the first place.
Attending parties usually involves driving your car. And you’re not the only one.
Rivenbark’s essential message throughout the book, which applies particularly well with driving is: Do unto others. This means, think about that car behind you, also trying to make it through the busy intersection, and try not to creep through the green light at ten miles an hour. Use your turn signal. Don’t cut people off. When you encounter other drivers doing these things, remain calm.
Sure, you could flip them off and scream out your car window, but where does that get you? As Rivenbark points out, you have no idea whether that rude driver is mentally unstable with a gun under their front seat. So just take a deep breath instead, and go back to your model driving.
Adventures in grocery shopping, or, “Give me my f***ing turkey!”
Not surprisingly, the etiquette advice for managing the grocery store sounds a lot like Rivenbark’s advice for driving. Think of the people around you, and try not to drive them insane. This means, among other things:
Don’t let you children lick the produce and then put it back in the case.
Don’t meander slowly down aisles, or park your cart smack in the middle of an aisle.
Don’t monopolize too much time at the register. If you’re bringing an envelope of 1,000 coupons with you, shop during off-hours, when the store will be less crowded.
Don’t leave your cart marooned in the parking lot when you’re done. This is both considerate to other drivers hunting desperately for free parking spaces, and the grocery store employees who need to run around the parking lot retrieving these carts.
Flight 666 is now boarding!
Flying is never fun, but it’s especially stressful over the holidays. While there’s nothing you can do about cramped seats or delayed flights, Rivenbark offers a few tips for being a polite traveler.
Move quickly to your seat and don’t spend more than a few seconds putting things into the overhead compartment. Anything that can fit under your own seat—like your coat or small bag—should be placed at your feet.
If you have to stand up during the flight, use your own armrests for leverage, rather than pulling down on the headrest in front of you. While we’re on the subject of armrests, don’t take up more than your fair share.
According to Rivenbark, whoever sits in the middle is entitled to both those inside armrests, as compensation for getting the crappiest seat.
Isn’t it nice to have the whole family under one roof?
Sometimes we at our rudest with the people we know the best. That is perhaps why it is particularly difficult to be a good houseguest during the holidays. Rivenbark’s advice, though, should make this time enjoyable—or at least tolerable—for all.
Remember that hosting can be stressful, and that it’s up to you to be a thoughtful guest. If you are flying in from out of town, offer to take a cab from the airport, especially if your flight arrives very late at night or early in the morning. During your stay, clean up after yourself (and your kids), and think of something nice to do for your hosts, like taking them out to dinner or offering to babysit.
Don’t have sex in the guest room (even if it’s your parents’ house and you’re just feeling like a teenager again). If you desperately need to “enjoy” your vacation in that way, splurge for a night at a hotel. If you can’t escape and really can’t help yourself, keep it quiet, and discreetly wash the sheets before you leave.
On giving and receiving.
Rivenbark offers some particular advice for enjoying the season of giving. First, there is no way to politely tell someone that the gifts they give you each year are crappy. Smile and say thank you, and then maybe go buy yourself a new sweater that you actually like.
There is, likewise, no polite way to tell family members that you spent a ton of money on their Christmas presents. Leaving the price tag on is of course a big no-no. So buy for the joy of giving, and not to show how much money you have or to make other people feel like they owe you one.
Finally, while the holidays are a particularly challenging time for even well-mannered people, there never really is an acceptable time to be a rude bitch. Rivenbark’s book offers “slightly profane and entirely logical answers” to all manner of modern etiquette questions. So if you’re wondering whether you can un-friend someone on Facebook, or how to make it through a wedding (yours or someone else’s) without offending anyone, check out the book.
Christmas Gifts, MissMessie, http://www.flickr.com/photos/97335141@N00/
Crowded Airport, Gary Lerude, http://www.flickr.com/photos/garylerude/
Holiday Table, TwoGuysOnPotts, http://www.flickr.com/photos/71003655@N00/