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Small Town Advice and Issues Make Me Question Big City Reality

August 9, 2010

I’m a trained anthropologist. And the thing about anthropology, is that it’s a science of aggregates. You learn about what the norms are, and the averages.  You don’t get a good look at the individual, because you never know how well the individual represents the whole cohort. And then – you have advice columns.

Dear Abby is quintessential Americana, right? She (and her team) have been giving out advice on etiquette, pamphlets on manners for ages. She’s a household name. So, I have to assume that she chooses letters that have wide appeal, or that she sees often, or that most of America would be interested in hearing about. And I know – I’m different. I’m a hardcore NYC-bred liberal atheist Jew.  So, I get I’m not the cross-section of all of America (and really, who is?) but a recent Abby column just … blew me away. In  just one column, we had these two questions:

When I went to visit my mother, I found her lying on the kitchen floor. I asked her what she was doing there, and she said the floor feels cold and hard and soothes her back.

Abby, my mother has two very expensive beds in her home, and there is no reason for her to lie on the floor. It could be embarrassing if a friend or neighbor should pop in and find her there. How do I get her off the floor?

And, when you are done pondering that one:

We have an ongoing discussion in our office. What color ink is proper for signing birthday cards, sympathy cards, farewell cards, etc.?

One co-worker continues to use colors other than blue or black. An older co-worker says it’s inappropriate to use any other colors. I have searched for an answer to this question with no luck. Can you help?

Seriously. To her credit, “Abby” was similarly thrown a curve by these two idiots. But I just have to wonder – am I so far removed from … everyone else that my first thought was “Wait! People just walk into this woman’s house!?” and then “Seriously? She’s worried about being embarrassed? Who raised this woman? The mom on the floor? Who cares?”

Where are these tiny towns that gossip about Ethel lying on the floor for her bad back? Is Daughter Dearest worried that the neighbors will think mom is nuts, or that her daughter isn’t buying her mom proper back support tools? Do any of you out there on the internet live in one of these towns?

And the color pen? Seriously? That’s what people think etiquette and manners is all about? Bickering over pen color? I am hoping against hope that this is one of those silly office arguments and some goofball says “Let’s ask Dear Abby.” But … after hearing some horror stories about where people work,  I just. don’t. know. This beyond being a yenta, right?

Tell me, do you live in a town like this? Work in an office like this? Am I that out of touch?

(Before the hate mail rolls in – I am in no way saying that all small towns are like this. I like small towns. I can’t even believe any small towns are like this. That is the fundamental question. )

  1. Alana permalink
    August 10, 2010 2:16 am

    My small town is not like this. But, and this is a large “but” my small town is populated by rich CA liberal hippies active in Berkeley in the 60s combined with people whose families have owned dairies for 7 generations and either way if they walked in on somebody lying on the floor they’d probably just ask how stoned they are and if they can have some drugs too. This might not be typical.

  2. August 10, 2010 2:27 am

    I like lying on the floor too. If someone “walked in” on me, I would call 911.

    But then I’m in a city.

  3. August 10, 2010 10:07 am

    Who cares what color pen you use in a card? I mean, it’s a card for crying out loud. And people understand that not everyone has the same pen.

    Some people…

  4. August 10, 2010 1:15 pm

    I think manners that really matter have been so pushed to the back burner that it’s just easier to focus on situations that are petty or may never occur in real lives. I don’t know anyone who’s internally battled over what color pen to use for a sympathy card. At least I hope I don’t.

  5. August 10, 2010 4:20 pm

    Ok, I’m laughing now … not just because this post is funny (and it is) but also because I lie on the floor when my back hurts! (Usually my kitchen floor, and usually on Thanksgiving when I have a house full of people and I’ve been cooking for hours!) No one thinks its weird and I’ve never stopped to care if they do. That question is beyond strange.

    Happily, I can also say that I’ve never once discussed proper greeting card ink with my office mates.

    So nice to meet you at BlogHer this weekend, btw, let’s keep in touch!

  6. August 12, 2010 10:38 pm

    i think it’s nice when everyone uses a DIFFERENT pen. and my assistant always writes upside down, just because.

    good to meet you this weekend.

    • August 12, 2010 10:47 pm

      You as well!

      Admittedly, I tend to use stickers and smiley-faces. But I don’t think it’s a requirement. Just awesome.

  7. MsPolyTheist permalink
    August 14, 2010 10:44 am

    Oh, dear. Is that a watermark on the “busybody” image at the head of this post? It’s awfully ironic for a blog about etiquette to be using an unlicensed/unpaid for piece of clip art — which, as a designer, I find rude. (If I’m incorrect and that is not a watermark, I apologize. But it sure looks like a watermark.)

    • August 14, 2010 10:49 am

      Oh my gosh! It totally is. I found this in the creative commons, but apparently – it was mistagged. I am removing now and replacing. Thank you for letting me know!

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