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January 1

We miss manners

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 7:54 am

Classic LetterRinging out the old on January 5, 1998

Dear Breakup Girl,

After several weeks of dating, she called and said that I didn’t give her the “click” that she was looking for. At that time, she felt it would be better to end the relationship and say goodbye. Now, after three weeks, she calls me and asks me to a New Year’s outing. As I had no plans for the evening, I accepted. It’s her birthday on January 1 — do I get her anything?

— Dwight

Dear Dwight,

According to the Breakup Girl Supercomputer, your letter was sent to me on December 31 at 10:21:35 AM. I realize that you got this invitation at the last minute, but unfortunately, this did not leave me with enough time to get back to you before the stores closed on Wednesday.

Still, I am going to use your inquiry as an excuse to have a small tirade. The answer to your question — which, by the way, is yes — is not a matter of Advanced Breakup Theory; it is a matter of manners. You know it’s someone’s birthday; you get them something. Nothing big or special, or even thoughtful (especially in the case of Miss Clickless!) but something: a fancy chocolate bar, a teeny bar of smelly soap, even just a card. In my book, you just do.

By “manners” I don’t mean complicated fork systems and all the other stilted stuff they do in “Titanic.” I mean bottom-line respect, graciousness, civility. See, Hillary Clinton consults Eleanor Roosevelt; Breakup Girl consults Miss Manners (who, she hastens to add, is very much alive and well). Although the increasing popularity of yoga seems to have made New Yorkers a tad less snappish, I do agree with the divine Miss M. that the decline of polite, dignified behavior has contributed to the decline of human relationships and society at large.

Reminds me — no, I’m not finished yet — of a passage from the showstopping book Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Patricia Wells. The daughter complains to her mom that she “doesn’t know how to love,” and her mom says: “Good God, child! … Do you think any of us know how to love? … Do you think anybody would ever do anything if they waited until they knew how to love? … Forget love. Try good manners.

See? It’s a start.
Thank you.

Breakup Girl


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