Lee Pitts: Mind Your Manners

Many people celebrated the hundredth anniversary last year of Emily Post’s book called Etiquette, but not me. The book was published in 1922, and it laid down a set of rules that we are expected to live by today, despite the fact she never even mentioned proper cell phone etiquette. There have been 19 editions of the book subtitled, The Blue Book of Social Usage, and it seems the first rule is that every house should have one, thereby enriching Emily. I don’t know who gave Emily the right to make the rules, other than she was a snobbish socialite. 

In our house we have the 9th edition and on a lark I read the 671 page book and have never laughed so hard in my life as she addressed such burning issues as how to talk to your servants; how to enter a restaurant; how many servants should there be in a well appointed house; how high a man should lift his hat to other members of the privileged class; and how to “take leave” from a bridge party. 

First of all, I’ve never “taken leave” from anyplace that I know of, nor do I play bridge. I’ve never attended a formal dinner party that had more than one fork and one spoon per table setting and I’ve never packed for a picnic, dressed in tails to attend the opera or received an invitation to a ball of any kind. Nor have I ever employed a butler, parlor maid, private secretary or footman. (Whatever that is.) I don’t know how to bow or curtsy, never dated a debutante, nor have I gone anywhere with a chaperone, other than my wife. 

It’s obvious that we need a new rulebook because Emily’s book doesn’t even address proper cowboy etiquette. Who better to write this new rulebook than a man who has lived his life surrounded by cowboys, truck drivers, roustabouts and roughnecks? 

Yes, that’s right, I nominate myself to be the next Emily Post for the 21st century.

A lot of our rules were written centuries ago when men shook hands merely to show they didn’t have a gun or sword in their hand. They rose from their seat when a stranger entered the room because they couldn’t draw their sword from a sitting position. So why are we still doing these things when most of us don’t own a sword, nor do we usually bring a gun to the dinner table? After COVID no one shakes hands anymore anyway and we’ve replaced the handshake with the fist or elbow bump. I suppose I reluctantly approve but I simply cannot abide the use of all these secret handshakes that ballplayers do after a touchdown, three point shot or home run because they are hard to remember and one could easily throw their shoulder out of place performing them.

The only idea I liked in Emily’s book was when she talked about calling cards, which were  credit card-sized pieces of expensive stationery with one’s name on it that you presented to people of the same caste upon seeing them. In the Age of Alzheimers I think they’d be a great idea because while I can remember names okay I don’t always pair them up with the right person.

Seeing the profit potential in becoming high society’s next Emily Post I’ve started a list of proper cowboy manners such as, never take a beer cooler to church; don’t put your spurs on the host’s sofa; never ride your horse on a busy sidewalk; after you’re married it’s not necessary to open the door for your wife anymore; always drink your beer directly from the bottle to show you’re not drinking Bud Lite®; if you’re a close relative who expects to be mentioned prominently in the will don’t drive a U Haul to the funeral just to rub it in; never talk about the condition of your bowels at the dinner table; don’t eat chicken with a knife and fork, in fact, never eat chicken at all; and finally, never take your cowboy hat off except for the American flag, unless a utility company wants to lease your chrome dome for use as a solar panel, or at the funeral of an honest to God cowboy or cowgirl.