Weed Your Social Garden

Delete Person

The basic measure of defensive manners is: weed your social garden. The world is full of people and there is no reason to endure those who are more trouble than they are worth. Instead of surrounding yourself with tiresome people – be they boors or bores – keep the revolving door revolving.

Nearly all of the people who write in to Miss Manners (in her syndicated column) do so because they wish to complain about someone’s rude behavior and want advice on how to rebuke him. It’s a waste of time: don’t try to change your guest’s behavior – if they aren’t up to scratch, don’t ask them back. Life is too short to be spent in a constant struggle separating the good from the bad; there is barely enough time to separate the excellent from the merely good.

If one is constantly frustrated and defeated by the social environment in which one lives, good manners will remain an abstract subject rather than an embodied idea. John Keats once wrote: ‘That which is creative must first create itself.’ So it is with manners – we must first of all seek out those people and situations most conducive to bring out the best in us, and keep to a minimum our contacts with people who merely drain our energy.

Once a person has treated you badly (I mean really badly, not merely being late for the theatre or getting drunk and pressing your knee), chances are that your forgiveness will only make him incorrigible. He will sin and beg forgiveness, then sin again and beg for more forgiveness, and then sin again…Take my advice, pack your bags and leave. Let the unlovable cook their own dinners, wash and iron their own clothes and stew alone in their goulash of bile and spleen.

Quentin Crisp
Manners from Heaven (1984)

Graphic by onecrazydiamond: Delete person

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