The worst thing about being an adult is not being able to speak your mind at all times. There is a certain social etiquette that dictates times when we have to internalize our thoughts. I don’t know who came up this social etiquette, but he or she and all of their relatives should be flogged with wet noodles throughout eternity. Social etiquette sucks. In fact, many aspects of our current society suck. At least to me, and that’s all that really matters. See, we all feel pretty much the same, but we aren’t allowed to say so, because social etiquette dictates that it isn’t proper to say that you only want what’s best for you. We have to think of the good of the whole. Did I mention that social etiquette sucks?
Oh sure, I care about others. I don’t like children suffering around the world, and my heart goes out to the people of Japan. I wish that everyone had a decent job, and I wish poverty and war could be eradicated from the face of our planet. But none of this changes the fact if I want to send out a smart ass email at work, I shouldn’t have to worry about who I offend. I’m a smart ass. Period. When I send an email, having to hide my smart-assness only limits me from being who I really am. But social etiquette dictates that I cannot be a smart ass in business related email… or with coworkers… or with customers. Screw that. Life is too short to have to pretend you are someone you really are not. But, I will continue to be polite and try to hold back on the smart ass comments while at work. We all need a job, right? And social etiquette dictates that we have to behave a certain way in order to perform that job, right? Did I mention that social etiquette sucks?
Part of the training for social etiquette begins when we are young. Schools, at times, seem to like focusing on social etiquette more than teaching things of real value. I have a son in middle school. That son recently fractured his foot in PE. So, he can’t participate in actual PE activities until his foot heals. In order to pass PE, he needs to show up and pay attention. Sounds pretty fair, right? Well, the son recently was docked points in PE. Was he docked because he didn’t show up on time? No, he arrived in a timely manner. Was he docked because he wasn’t paying attention? No, he was paying as much attention as could be expected from someone sitting on the sidelines and not able to participate. He was docked points because he didn’t have his shirt tucked in. Seriously, because he didn’t have his shirt tucked in, he lost participation points for that day. Social etiquette dictates that if your teacher makes a rule, you must follow that rule, even though the rule was put into place so that middle school boys can’t look up the shirts of middle school girls during various middle school PE activities and said rule really doesn’t apply to you… because not only are you not participating because of an injury you received in PE… but because you are not a girl. But, of course, social etiquette dictates that you can’t have a rule for girls that you don’t have for boys; that wouldn’t be fair. Social etiquette is all about fairness for the masses and doesn’t really allow for individuality. The whole incident hasn’t really led me to question why my son didn’t have his shirt tucked in. This incident has got me to thinking about why I had to pay my son’s medical expenses. I mean, if I were hurt at work during a work related activity, my employer would pay my medical expenses. My son was hurt at school during a non-optional school activity, shouldn’t the school pay for it? Just wondering.
Social etiquette is all about learning the rules and learning to do things in a manner so as to not upset someone else. Often, following social etiquette prevents someone else from being upset, but it leaves you really pissed off. In my 41+ years of life, I have usually tried to follow the rules of social etiquette. How has it benefited me? Well, high blood pressure and a constant upset stomach seem to be about the only things I can think of that have been the result of following social etiquette. In other words, social etiquette sucks. I haven’t made a fortune following social etiquette. I don’t have a plethora of adult friends because I have followed the ways of social etiquette. I don’t feel personally or professionally fulfilled because of the wonders of social etiquette. I haven’t gained respect through following the mystical ways of social etiquette.
I desire for my kids to think outside the box… to be independently successful on their own terms… to never have to answer to someone they have no desire to answer to. I want them, if someone is pissing them off, to be able to tell that person to take a flying leap. In my mind, this is the way to true happiness in this life. Selfish? You betcha, and each and every one of us would like to be able to do it. The schools are going to keep right on teaching social etiquette. The schools are going to keep enforcing the same rules that I thought were stupid when I was a kid… and I still, as an adult, don’t see the value in. I guess if we all want the same cookie-cutter society that we have had for the last century, this is fine. But we aren’t given the same promises in life that our parents were offered. My employer doesn’t offer a guaranteed pension, does yours? Social Security isn’t looking like it’s going to play much of a role in my retirement (even though I’ve paid into it every year since I’ve started working). I have a retirement plan, but not much is going in, and it sure isn’t growing too fast. At the current rate, I will not be able to retire (which, as far as I can tell, is when you can tell the whole social etiquette thing to take a hike). I want to be the crotchety old man who always speaks his mind and doesn’t give a crap what anyone else thinks. I may never get to that point, so at least I can wish that for my kids.