Etiquette in 2008.

I love to read etiquette books, especially very old ones.  The tips are often entertaining because outdated (like how to avoid advances from your boss), or useless (like how to dress for an audience with the Pope).  But they also give me a sense of well-being in knowing that I’m treating others appropriately when I might otherwise feel awkward. 

However, more and more frequently I am finding that even the modern books fall short for regular life.  For example, what was the appropriate remark when a man on the train told me out of the blue that he’d just done 17 years in prison for armed bank robbery, and was “looking to turn over a new leaf?”  I tried a simple, “good for you,” but it just didn’t feel right.

And what about this one? I’m pretty sure the barrist-a at my regular Starbucks is in the advanced stages of becoming a barrist-o.  She has a neutral name, like Jo, though I won’t disclose it because I feel like that would be rude.  She’s been on the masculine side since I met her, in terms of her hairstyle and posture, and her Dickie’s and button-downs.  Not remarkable, really, until I saw her today after her months-long absence.  Her hair was much shorter; her face more square.  “You got your haircut,” I said, “it looks cute!” 

“It was time,” she said.  Not an odd response, except her voice was about 10 octaves deeper.  So I got stuck pondering a follow-up.  Whereas “just in time for summer” might have worked, “just in time for becoming a man” felt a lot more accurate.  But how, exactly, would that play out?  Miss Post, please advise. 


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