A Modern Guide to Basic Good Manners
Last Mother’s Day did not go as I expected.
For one, my 91 year-old mother was still recuperating at a rehabilitation center in Florida and I could not be there for her, which saddened me. But to my delight, my sister invited me to join her and her family for Sunday brunch at a charming, little bistro in Greenwich Village to celebrate her special day,
Unfortunately, the meal did not go as I had hoped it would despite knowing the unpredictable behaviors of my niece and nephew in their propensity toward being moody and sometimes, oppositional; especially in regard to their interactions with their mother.
So, as no surprise to myself or anyone else at the table, at the conclusion of the meal my nephew became verbally abusive and disrespectful toward his mother. What astonished me most was that all his mother was doing was expressing her justifiable concerns to me of my nephew’s latest antics at his college that landed him in jail for public intoxication and holding a false identification card.
To make matters worse, he was arrested following a drunken brawl with ten other men with whom he decided to fight despite the overwhelming odds against him. What a guy! In fact, he had the entire brawl videotaped and sent out on YouTube for all to see, which his father quickly showed me on his smart phone. (Why do they call it a "smart phone" when it shows dumb behavior)?
As the meal came to a close, my nephew’s tirade toward my sister became increasingly inflamed whereupon he told her several times to, "Shut the fuck up!" Having heard enough of his verbal abuse of his mother I reminded him of the day and that he was dishonoring his mother on her special day and, if his grandfather was still alive, he would have slapped him across the face for disrespecting his daughter.
Instead, I chose to defend my sister. After reprimanding my nephew, I then walked out of the restaurant stating that I refused to listen to any more abuse of my beloved sister and headed home.
Upon exiting the subway, I was inundated with text messages from my nephew; not with apologies for his rude behavior, but to call me a "fag" and to also "Shut the fuck up and mind my own business." I was shocked and saddened by this vitriolic assault on me not only as his uncle but, as a gay man as well.
Those hateful words spewed forth by my nephew quickly brought me back to all the times those despicable words were screamed at me by others who clearly did not only disrespected me as a man but disrespected all of us in the GLBT community.
As of today, my sister has expressed her gratitude to me for standing up for her but was unwilling to discipline my nephew other than to threaten to "cut up his credit cards." She also stated that my nephew is adamant that he will never apologize to me and is perfectly willing to not have a relationship with me as well, since he is well aware that I refuse to interact with him in the future until he offers me the apology for his cruel and disrespectful words both to myself and his mother.
But if I unable to help direct my own nephew in choosing a more correct life path, I can, as both a professor of communication and a therapist, help others from following the same destructive road that my nephew is creating for himself.
Therefore as a result of this most painful incident, I have created a "Guideline for Social Etiquette and Civility" for everyone, not just for the younger generation.
GUIDELINE FOR SOCIAL ETIQUETTE AND CIVILITY FOR THE MODERN AGE
1 Never choose to insult and verbally abuse your parent, sibling, relative, or friend in a public place for all to hear. Instead, if you have an issue, talk to them privately as soon as the opportunity to do so presents itself.
2 Do not be so quick to choose to physically fight with someone who has upset you but instead, make the conscious effort to talk it out as gentlemen first.
3 Always hold open a door or chair for a lady, especially an older woman, then wait until she is seated before you do the same.
4 Never raise your voice in public to a woman or older adult.
5 When you notice yourself becoming publicly intoxicated, choose to drink a soft drink or water instead.
6 Above all, do not choose to drive a motor vehicle if you know you are intoxicated, or a trusted friend or family member intervenes to stop you from getting behind the wheel of a car.
7 When driving your car, endeavor to signal your intention of changing lanes as a common courtesy to the other drivers, otherwise, it communicates a complete disregard for others.
8 Apologize when you know you are wrong and don’t continue to defend your actions when others clearly tell you that you are in error; it only makes matters worse by being stubborn and cruel.
9 Unless there is no relationship with your family, always choose to love and respect your family, even if you do not always agree with one another because they will most always be there for you in times of need.
10 If you do not have a child, then buy or adopt a pet and take care of it with love because they will teach you how to love unconditionally in return.
I hope that these guidelines will help others who are unaware of the effect their cruel and disrespectful behavior can have on themselves and others, and I pray that one day my nephew will make amends for his actions. As his loving uncle, that is all I can currently ask for.
As Voltaire said, "Love is for all passions the strongest, because it attacks simultaneously, the head, heart, and the senses."
Dr. Vince Pellegrino has PhDs in educational theater and drama therapy from New York University and is a board-certified psychotherapist in New York City and Connecticut. He teaches communications at Hofstra University. He is currently working on a book, "Gay Communication Game," about "Gayspeak"; an interactive TV program featuring real-time therapy sessions in development. Go to Dr. Vince TV for more information.