I spend a lot of time thinking about social norms, about the fact that the expected behavior in one place is considered unacceptable in another.
Consider the act of taking your shoes off when you enter someone’s home, for example. When I was young, this was done at the front door of the trailer automatically, lest you raise the hackles of my mother, who just finished vacuuming/raking the shag. When I did it at the neighbor’s trailer, however, I was ridiculed for being, and I quote, “La-di-dah”.
After that, they called me “Princess”.
Human behavior fascinates me. While I may be scornful of the folks, say, at the Famous Dave’s in Roseville, out for lunch on Saturday, hair matted and in what was clearly their pajamas, their behavior serves me well: not only do I get to feel good about the fact that this will not happen to me in my lifetime (insert judgmentally shaking head here) but I get to make up little stories about why they couldn’t brush their hair (the directions on the tick-removal shampoo suggested that they not) or get dressed (plans to eat a whole pie in the parking lot following lunch, perhaps, and a quick nap in the back of the van).
But there is one thing I’ve noticed recently, something that tears at the fabric of human commonalities, something that must be nipped in the bud immediately.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but I enjoy a beer now and then. This is something I do while out with friends, a social thing. I don’t care to drink by myself; you’ll never stop in and find me having a beer while watching TV or weeding my garden; but if you’re going up to The Spring later, I’ll have three, thank you very much.
Which brings me to a most important point.
If you’re out, sitting with friends and acquaintances, and someone raises their beer and you raise yours as well, clinking the glasses in recognition that yes, we are in wild agreement, you and I, then the next step to this social dance is the drinking of the contents of said glasses.
You wouldn’t think I’d have to say that, would you? And yet I am surprised, every time it happens, by the number of people who will clink but then do not drink.
How can you clink and then set your drink down?
If you do not drink, following the clink, you have made a mockery of the system; and without the system, we have chaos.
Without the system of clink, then drink, how will we know whether you truly agree that so-and-so is a jolly good fellow or if you are just going through the motions in the hopes that my own repeated and eventually drunken agreement will allow you to, say, swipe onion rings from me later?
You see? It all falls apart.
People, we need a system.
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