"Robyn, you may want to revisit the text on your site to actually include the word 'etiquette'."
So, I did it. I did what my talented and oh-so-smart designer friend told me to do, and added THAT WORD. Why, you might ask, would an etiquette teacher and trainer find it so difficult to add the word *ETIQUETTE* to her website. Well…
First of all, I’m really not all that well-mannered. I mean I know what to do and when to do it, but sometimes it just happens. I laugh too loudly, interrupt a little too often, and occasionally shoot red wine out through my nose. (The latter is always by accident; it’s not a party trick.)
Secondly, people usually don’t like to be around etiquette teachers. Once they find out that I teach etiquette (no matter how I describe it), new acquaintances tend to stand up way too straight, measure their words, and eat as if I have a ruler in my hand (and might just use it.)
Third, how dare I? How dare I purport to teach things already taught by one’s mother, grandmother, great-aunt, or kindly third-grade teacher? The word *etiquette* has a moral undertone to it. It puts us on the defensive. Add to that the natural inclination to be protective of one’s upbringing, and you often end up with a tacit (and polite :)) “no thank you”.
Fourthly, North American etiquette instruction has traditionally been quite *precious* and absolute in nature. There are the salt and pepper shakers dressed up like bride and groom, the elaborate attention given to western silverware that one is likely to never see, and the I’m-not-kidding-numerous-rules about how to wear a Phi Beta Kappa pin. Then, there’s the abundant use of *never* and *always*. It’s little wonder that the etiquette lady doesn’t win many popularity contests.
Finally, etiquette instruction is simply a means to an end. This end–CIVILITY–is much more crucial to our world than being thought of as a lady or a gentleman. Civility requires etiquette, but only if taught as a field that evolves and changes, depending upon culture, circumstance, and empathetic intention. Treating etiquette as some contrived theatrical production (whose tickets are only available to the well-to-do) takes away its power. So, let’s keep the word, but change its meaning.