Manners Matter

Manners Matter


Etiquette is a set of rules dealing with exterior form, whereas manners express inner character and matter more when building healthy relationships.

Manners Matter

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This week, my dear Singularians, we deal with MANNERS. You know, that thing mom ‘n pop drilled into us while they were squeezing the bagels on the buffet line?

Is there a difference between etiquette and manners? I once attended a dinner party thrown by a nouveau riche lady who had at least 13 utensils by each plate. That’s etiquette. But, when a guest used the wrong fish fork, she whined, hollered, and made the guest feel like a barnacle under her antique Bradford. The first and only rule of “manners” is to make those around us feel comfortable in our company — in other words, manners matter.


Marnie: A native New Yorker here, single female, age 32, whose company recently transplanted me in style to a great condo in Los Angeles with a roof-top pool. The minute winter arrives, there’s an exodus to my door that keeps up until spring! I now regularly entertain family, friends, even acquaintances! I love seeing them. What I don’t love is the cleanup, food service, and driving. How do I set some ground rules without sounding witchy? —Not-So-Sunny

MARNIE SAYS: As of this instant, you are no longer running the Patsy Palms. You’re to think of your home as the Bellagio, and run it like a rabid, witty, Steve Wynn.

Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:

* Prep: Go to an art supply store and pick up the following:

1) medium-weight, colored, legal-sized construction paper
2) simple yet elegant legal–sized wood frames

* Design: In bold lettering, print the following:


I love you to visit, but due to high volume

Here are my rules, so we don’t feel like fools;

Follow them to the lettah, we’ll get along bettah;

Then after you pack, you’ll be asked back.

On the bottom, in HUGE RED FONT, add:

MY MAID LEFT SCREAMING: Please leave rooms and bathrooms sparkling with no weird wet stuff.  

– I LOST THE LIMO: Unless otherwise agreed, do hire a car to get you from the airport, to Disneyland, back to the airport. (I’ve been to Disneyland.)

– THIS IS NOT A LONG-TERM FACILITY: Unless otherwise invited, four days are like fish, guests start to go “off.”


I assure you the combo of pith and wit will protect your boundaries with just the popgun force you require. They’ll hee and haw, but will heed. Especially if you hang it in the guest room (across from the bed is nice) so they’re forced to see it more often than the Gideon Bible.


Marnie: I have a sensitive business-etiquette question. I want to contact a very influential businessman regarding a venture I’m involved with. I have an established presence in my field, but nowhere near his status. We’re both from a small town in West Virginia, and we both now live in Los Angeles. Our parents, all of whom are now deceased, knew each other casually. I’d like to use the “hey there … we’re both from the same home town isn’t that wild” approach, but I’m unsure how to broach it without seeming crass. —Small Town Success

MARNIE SAYS: “Hey Home Towner! Give a leg up to a fellow boonie?” Ewww! In matters of networking, I believe in speeding to the point. But realize this: Mr. Big Shot may not give a rat’s gnat if your families shared a pup tent in them thar hills. Or he’s the type who has tried to bury his roots in faux Oxbridge fudge. You need to find out so you don’t “rube” him the wrong way.

Getting It!  Your Personal Strategy:

* Fish and Hunt. Surely there are old pals in your small town who can tell you if he shows up for your hometown’s annual “Coal Festival.” Does he stay current with small town news? Does he go to his high school reunions? Visit his family there on the odd holiday? Do you?

* Assuming he doesn’t retch when he hears the strains of “I’m Just a Country Boy,” sure, write to him and mention your shared roots. But don’t be cute and watch out for overkill. Either one can sound like con.

* Use strands of any personal connections you can muster sparingly.  Your folks knew his folks? Go there, simply.


Dear Mr.Big Shot:   I’m _____________. As a fellow HomeTowner, you may know my work ______________. Our paths haven’t crossed but our folks planned the 80th Coal Festival together.

I’m taking the liberty of writing to you about _________. I would appreciate meeting with you at your convenience.”

* The Marnie “Manners Matter” Point: When your connection is looser than Jell-O, don’t automatically assume or obligate him to give “a fellow HomeTowner” a leg up. But you’ll increase your odds if you do your research, whet whatever hometown pride you uncover, keep it simple, and keep him reading — which means making your work the centerpiece of your request. This is a biz requirement whether Mr. Big hails from the Big City, the Boonies … or cowshed in Bishkek.


Marnie: Please settle an argument. The man I’m dating, who is quite affluent, thinks taking a “doggie bag” from fine restaurants is improper. We dine out a lot and I’m always forced to leave perfectly good food behind! It’s become a “thing” between us. Now when we go out and there’s something left over, before I open my mouth, he warns, “Don’t you dare ask for a doggie bag!”  I find this a ridiculous waste and very annoying!  What’s the verdict? —Waste-Hater in L.A.

MARNIE SAYS: This you’re asking of a woman who will wrap up three French fries in a napkin, then ask the waiter to add a little steak for garnish? Given my propensity to walk out with the relish tray, I consulted with the famed Andre’s French Restaurant in Las Vegas.

Getting It!  Your Personal Strategy:

* The Rules: You pay the check, you own the chow. “Feel free to take it. Everybody does it,” says Mary Jane, a former owner. Her best customer took a doggie bag and she was flattered.  Indeed some fine restaurants are creating aluminum art deco masterpieces for your half-eaten white truffle risotto. (You could un-wrap King Tut faster.)

* The No-Baggers: In my experience, those who eschew doggie bags do so because:

a) They can’t be bothered. They care little for food, hate waiting, hate mess, hate leftovers (and I usually hate these people).

b) They have issues. I had a dear friend who struggled for years and declared that once he made it, “As God is my witness I’m never going to carry a doggie bag again!”  He left lobster … bagless. This group doesn’t want to feel, or be seen as “cheap” or needy. Which of the above is this guy? Pick one. It’s important.

* Beyond the Etiquette: Sit honey. My hunch is it’s more than “leftovers” that’s getting to you. Do you view the world very differently in-between meals? Find out because when two adults reach boiling points over doggie bags, I wonder if this has less to do with wrapping old food than covering new baggage.


Marnie: Last week I was in my dermatologist’s waiting room. Some VIPPY woman, probably on her “Botox” break, was blah blahing non-stop on her Smartphone at the top of her voice until I wanted to scream! This sort of thing happens constantly! —In Cell Hell

MARNIE SAYS: Personally, I’d love to yell “Shut the #@*#ing thing off already!” But since manners matter, I shall precede with … finesse.

Getting It!  Your Personal Strategy:

* Assume the Basic Look. (Pretend you smell something and he/she is it.) Stare. The offender will turn away to avoid your rudeness.

* Talk non-stop and loud, to yourself. Not only will your target be unable to hear her cell-mate, you’ll scare her into getting outta there.

* I love this. Buy a nifty device called the Box Turkey Call. For $22.95 this little darlin’ can chirp, gobble, yelp, and reproduce turkey lingo. The next time some cell-nut clucks “gobble” them out. That’ll cook the offender’s goose, and may even attract dinner.

Copyright © Marnie Macauley / 2013 Singular Communications, LLC

Marnie MacauleyAdvice guru Marnie Winston-Macauley — therapist, author, speaker — has been a radio, TV, and syndicated advice columnist and counselor for over 20 years. Witty, wise and totally irreverent with a self-professed loathing for psychobabble, she’s written over 20 books and calendars, along with  hundreds of relationship columns and features for prominent publications.  She has her MS degree from the Columbia University School of Social Work.  In media, her work has garnered her Emmy and Writer’s Guild Best Writing nominations. She is widowed and now living single. For personal advice, you can also find Marnie Macauley on or on Presto Experts. She invites you to join her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 
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3 thoughts on “Manners Matter

  1. Thanks guys, and Bettina… love the TB … terminally bewildered. I’m bagging it:) Love Marnie

  2. Listen to this woman. Riotously candid. Networking at a coal miner’s convention. How to shout down cell phone screamers. The turkey call box. A dude who is pro abortion yet anti-doggie bags. Every one with taste buds knows everything tastes better the next day. Truffle risotto is great for breakfast, and like revenge, best served cold. Ditto meatloaf, spaghetti…Marnie fields the questions and remember, you asked. Brava, kudos, whatevah. She’s the real deal. Kosher. Chicken soup for the terminally bewildered.

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