Oh my. The overwhelming response to my last post was to simply address my save the dates to “George and Louise Guestenbaum” so I don’t have to worry about if Louise’s a doctor or if she prefers “Mrs.” to “Ms.”
Oh, readers. Oh, sensible, practical, living-in-the-now readers.
I suppose none of you had a stern, terrifying grandmother who despite her childhood Catholicism was such a WASP that the High Order of Terrifying WASPs considered reworking the acronym to accommodate her, before she saved them the trouble by switching churches.
Well, I did. My grandma started sending me etiquette guides before I left kindergarten. By the time I could tie my shoes, I had seen more than one illustration depicting how to use a finger bowl (even though I have to this day never seen an actual finger bowl.) Most of my memories of my grandmother involve her handing me napkins or giving me money on the condition I would buy “some blouses that are not so low-cut.” She once forwarded to my father a thank you card my sister sent her, attaching a note reading, “Please instruct your children to date all correspondence.” She was, in short, insanely proper. And although she is no longer with us, I am still scared of her.
I think she might faint if she received an issue of Reader’s Digest that didn’t address her as “Mrs.” Receiving correspondence regarding a wedding with just her first and last name would probably have resulted in some kind of global cataclysm with Wilmington, Delaware as its epicenter.
“But Robin,” you say, “You don’t have to invite your dead grandmother to your wedding. All your living invitees will be chill. And if they aren’t, illegitimi non carborundum.”
Oh, Reader. Kind, gentle, level-headed Reader. That kind of sensible thinking isn’t going to work for me. You see, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe that any etiquette transgression on my part runs the risk of my grandmother rising from the dead, hunting me down, and stabbing me in the neck with an oyster fork.
Yes, I’m saying that I am worried that my bad manners may pierce the veil and revive the dead. I know you think I’m crazy, but deep down you’re worried I’m right.
It’s hard, because rules of etiquette are arcane, rife with inconsistencies, and frequently incompatible with my feminism, my laziness, and even my sense of right and wrong. Ultimately we all have to make these decisions about which rules to follow, which rules to bend, and which rules to ignore completely in a way that feels true to ourselves. And part of me comes from my grandmother. I have an inner etiquette snob. There are many times in wedding planning I wish I could distract her with a tea party and make sane choices instead of striving for “excruciatingly correct,” but that old dame will not be quieted.