I HATE TO ADMIT IT but sometimes I read Miss Manners. (Of course, sometimes I read just about everything, so don't be too shocked.) I will tell you this: Miss Manners does not work. Now I do not mean that the person who goes by the nom de plume of Miss Manners is not diligent in her daily activities. Carefully studying etiquette guides and such, if nothing else, is hard work. No, what I mean is that the newspaper column entitled "Miss Manners" is not effective in accomplishing its purpose of improving the manners of those in the American public who most need their manners improved.
In column after column Miss Manners gives advice for women to women by women, which is of absolutely no value to men. (What women can tell men that is useful is all contained in "Helpful Hints from Heloise," advice that can be succinctly summarized as "use vinegar.")
Here's the problem with Miss Manners: only women with manners actually heed Miss Manners. I don't think there is anything that Miss Manners can do about this. She is who she is. So, I thought, what can I, the Chapel Hill Herald's leading Friday columnist, do to close this gaping manly manners gap?
Thus, I present the first edition of my column manufactured mainly for manly men: Mister Unmannerly's Guide to all Manner of Mannerlessness (which follows the time-honored advice column Q&A format).
Dear Mr. Unmannerly: My wife saw a tee-shirt at MerleFest that read, "Mess with me, you mess with the whole trailer park." She wants one. Would this make a better birthday, anniversary or Christmas present? Where would be the best place to buy one? GG from Orange County
Dear GG. Whichever one comes soonest. The best place to buy one of these fabulous and telling garments would be the Walmart at Hampton Pointe in Hillsborough. If they are out of stock, you can always purchase one off the person in line in front of you at a reasonable price.
Dear Mr. Unmannerly: I pick my nose. My wife picks her banjo. Which is worse? GG from Orange County.
Dear GG. Nose-picking (termed rhinotillexomania when compulsive) is the act of extracting dried nasal mucus and/or foreign bodies from the nose with a finger. A very common habit, nose-picking can or may be used as a body-focused repetitive behavior and, as such, become a medical issue -- though most cases do not meet this pathological threshold.
Ordinary non-clinical, nose-picking, despite its common practice, is a mildly taboo activity in most cultures. Observation of the activity in another person often provokes mixed feelings of disgust and amusement. Banjo picking, on the other hand, is universally greeted with unalloyed expressions of disgust and very little amusement. So, I would say banjo pickin' is worse -- unless you are in a old garage, unused barn or abandoned country store, where such activity is highly valued.
Dear Mr. Unmannerly: My grandmother used to "dip a little snuff." She would spit in a can. My wife is about to become a grandmother, should I be concerned that she will start "dippin' a little snuff"? GG from Orange County
Dear GG. Snuff (ground or pulverized tobacco), as you know, is generally insufflated or "snuffed" through the nose, and has a long history in this hemisphere. (Snuff taking by the native peoples of modern-day Haiti was observed by a monk named Ramon Pane on Columbus' second journey to the Americas during 1493-1496.)
Although currently more common among the grandfatherly and grandmotherly, I would not be concerned as there is little likelihood that your spouse will initiate this habit at her advanced age, unless she also starts playing baseball, or hanging around places where bluegrass music is performed, such as old garages, unused barns or abandoned country stores.
Next week: Etiquette tips for the whole family at the all-you-can-eat buffet.
Gary D. Gaddy, aka Mr. Unmannerly, is not related by birth, marriage or demeanor to Judith Martin (née Perlman), better known as Miss Manners, although both are American journalists, authors, and etiquette authorities.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday June 11, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy