Sunday, February 1, 2009

For February (and the other months)

I am almost embarrassed to ask this question. I expect you won't like it. It's just that a friend called me up yesterday to complain about it, and it's fresh on my mind.

Occasionally, when one is an adult single person in the big city, one has a, ah, liaison with a member of the opposite sex whom one does not know very well. It's customary in such things to exchange telephone numbers afterward, and it is here that the problem arises. My friend and I agree that it is the proper, well-brought-up thing to do to call the other person afterward, merely to inquire idly after their well-being and tie things up, as it were. A postcard would serve the same purpose. However, she has recently had a series of brief relationships where the gentlemen in question never called again, and in at least one case, never returned her call after she left a message.

Is my friend being totally unrealistic to expect these men to call her? Are they being boorish cads to give her a peck on the cheek in the morning and never show their faces (or voices) again? If one has a pleasant and enjoyable time at dinner, or some similar social function, a telephone call thanking the hostess is taken for granted. Why do so many people ignore it when the hospitality extends overnight? Or is this merely an antiquated convention, another way of expecting unrealistic behavior from innocent acquaintances? I am not asking for pronouncements on the morality of such interpersonal engagements, since I'm afraid they must be taken for granted in modern life, but rather for your opinion of proper conduct afterward.

The social event to which you refer is, Miss Manners believes, a one-night stand. By its very nature, the night stand, whether it is of the one-, two-, or three- variety, does not require social continuity. You are confusing it with an entirely different tradition called courtship. Miss Manners cannot find your young men remiss, provided that they met the basic requirements of the night-stand act, which apparently they did.
One is only left to hope that an absence of social continuity includes a social responsibility of sorts with regards to consent, protection and contraception. Additionally, one may wonder if the Gentle Reader's friend might substitute for the social event -- and find more satisfying -- its corresponding costume. (If she does, more power to her.) This reminds us that we are compelled to continue celebrating President Obama's decision to lift the global gag rule and we can urge that family planning be put back into the stimulus package. Such action is the kind we all need.

From: Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior. By Judith Martin. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2005.


Ben Connor Barrie said...

I know this will brand me as a liberal for evermore, but it really gets my goat how anti-abortion rights people tend to be anti-comprehensive sex education people too. Seems like if people not having abortions is the most important thing to you, you would want to do whatever you could to prevent unplanned pregnancies...

Dan Blustein said...

BCB, I think several dozen of your previous posts have already branded you as a liberal.

While bipartisanship is nice, I'm not sure it's realistic or necessary at this juncture. Maybe if the Republicans continue to not cooperate with bipartisan efforts then the Dems can just start ignoring them and stop making concessions.

bridget.s said...
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