Where I grew up, etiquette was not exactly something that was ingrained into my everyday life. I’m not saying my parents never taught me manners, because they certainly did – and so did seven years in Catholic school. But the first time I became aware that I was still missing something was when a boyfriend in high school was horrified when I picked up my soup bowl to drink the remaining broth from the bowl at the dinner table. 😮
Fast-forward 15 years and I’m living in a part of the world where social etiquette is not only practiced, it’s assumed, and even with 6 years of living in it there are things I’m still learning. Take, for instance, the courtesy of an RSVP. My family – all of them, including cousins – is notorious for waiting until the very last minute to send an RSVP back. I’m not really sure why. I was this way, too, until I lived in the land of “RSVP immediately, with a little note and maybe a phone call.” This land is also the land of, “Display gifts people have given you, even if it’s not your taste,” and “Always offer to bring something when visiting someone’s house, and if they say not to bring anything, you still bring a host/hostess gift.” Some rules are easier to grasp than others.
But now I’m learning a whole new world of etiquette – the etiquette of pregnancy response. Apparently I wasn’t born with this gene, either, and it’s making me feel like a lousy friend to all of my previously pregnant friends. While not everyone knows yet, a few close friends and family members do. If someone happens to find out from one of those family members (say, a close neighbor finds out from my mom; or an aunt finding out from an uncle), we’ve gotten phone calls immediately to congratulate us. Our close friends have sent us congratulations cards – I really shouldn’t be surprised that card companies would have a card for every occasion, even “So you’re going to be parents…” – but I’m relatively surprised at “young people’s” grasp of politeness. And one friend gave me two gifts – one bag full of her old pregnancy books, and one bag full of Bert’s Bees shower products. ::kick, kick:: It’s so nice to get things, why don’t I ever think to give them – and immediately? Just when I had gotten used to sending handwritten thank you cards… (I should also add that I am not on Facebook and have not announced my pregnancy on any personal social media sites – except for this blog, of course. Keeping it old fashioned.)
So why all the fuss in the first place? Isn’t it excessive and feeding further into our capitalist society? Well, I can only make this statement from my own perspective and as we’ve already established I’m not exactly Martha Stewart or Emily Post. There are people out there (family) who know and who didn’t find out from me but from another family member, which is fine given that I live several hours away. And I haven’t heard one peep from them – not that I expect to, but contrasted with the generous responses I’ve had here, the silence feels like a variety of things: indifference; happy but just another part of life therefore not requiring special treatment (which is the approach I am guilty of); a lack of emotional intelligence; or the family standby, procrastination.
I’m really not asking for anything and I don’t expect anything, either. And it might even be karma because I never immediately responded to the news when they were pregnant. But a text message would be nice.