Remembering our manners

By: Joe Weaver - Contributing Columnist

My wife and I have this friend who is quite beautiful. No, really. She’s one of those women who people see and say out loud, “You know, she’s really pretty,” and they mean it. One guy, apparently stupefied by her appearance, struggled to mutter something and simply said, “Stay pretty,” and nothing else. I guess it was complementary, but it was awkward and weird and has become a punchline within our social circle.

Like most women of a certain age, she sports some personal adornments beyond traditional jewelry. She sports 13 tattoos and some ear piercings. She also has her septum pierced. I mention this because it has become a source of attention of late. She has become the center of some unwanted attention and a lot of unsolicited comments. In mine and my wife’s opinion, this particular piercing does not make her any less or more attractive anymore than a necktie would make someone more or less attractive.

What has become common practice these days is the notion that folks can say anything to anyone at anytime. Basic manners and tact have been thrown out the window with such force that the likes of them may not be seen again for generations. The very idea of personal space does not really exist.

There is not one of us who would walk up to a woman on the beach, a woman wearing a bikini, and comment on how toned her abdominal muscles are and reach out and touch them. Of course not, that would be rude and very personal. However, a lot of folks would not think twice about putting their hands on a pregnant woman’s belly and comment on how far along the woman is. What people fail to realize is the act is the same, regardless of the condition of the woman. It’s a blatant invasion of personal space. I would not walk up to a guy at the corner bar, put my hands on his beer belly and ask how many six-packs it took him to get that way. I imagine I would be sweeping my teeth up from the floor with a brush and dustpan in no time at all.

In our local Walmart a few months ago, a cashier decided to make a comment about my teeth while my wife and I were checking out. Two of my teeth are pointed and I already know they are pointed, but I did not appreciate this person saying so out loud and making references to vampires and calling me Dracula and looking at my wife to see if she was laughing along as well. My wife was not. I was not. We happen to know the customer service manager in the store and we spoke with her not long after. My wife and I received a very heartfelt apology from the cashier, who turned out to be a very nice woman who did not realize she had overstepped a boundary and embarrassed a customer in front of others. What concerned me then, and still concerns me now, is the woman did not realize what she was doing was wrong.

There seems to be a disconnect between right and wrong when it comes to social graces. I have touched on it before in previous columns and it will probably be part of future ones as well. Subjects which were taboo just a few years ago are not fodder for luncheon conversation in public places. Bodily functions and intimate encounters are discussed with little regard as to who is listening. Don’t get me wrong, I am far from a prude, but there is a time and a place for everything. I just don’t like being questioned about the more personal parts of my life by strangers.

People whom I know who are tattooed and pierced are more than happy to answer polite questions. We have a friend who is a professional tattoo model. She’s more than happy to discuss her tattoos in a respectful manner, but does not take to folks making snap judgments about her character. I cannot repeat some of the questions she has been asked or some of the comments made to her because this is a family newspaper and I am not sure I’ll have a column next week if I print some of them.

Our parents used to tell us if we couldn’t say anything nice, we should not say anything at all. That also goes for personal questions. Personal space, as well. Sometimes, we have to take a moment and remember our manners.


Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.

Joe Weaver

Contributing Columnist