After 10 years of etiquette advice, my thanks to you
Another year, another birthday — only this one is ending in a 5, which warrants a little something special.
I’ve organized a weekend getaway to our mile-high city to the north, Denver, to celebrate with family. My mum, 2-year-old daughter and I are taking in museums and delectable restaurants with local relatives.
As is typical when I go away, I was writing on deadline for this very column. One would think that after this many years, I’d manage to get ahead by submitting two columns at a time, but that will have to be next year’s resolution (as has often been the case).
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the Etiquette Rules! column in The New Mexican. It accompanies me wherever I happen to be, every other week of the year. There isn’t a nursing child, head cold, airplane or hotel room that hasn’t been part of the journey. And as a result, there is not a close friend or relative who has not been directly impacted by the stress its deadline brings. To you, I say thank you for providing me the time to honor my commitment — and for the inopportune times when you’ve driven me around during a road trip to find Wi-Fi in a parking lot so I could submit it.
I want to express my gratitude to the publishers and editors for inviting me to share my interpretations and advice a decade ago. It touches me that you thought the topic of etiquette relevant enough to be shared in this broad forum. It has been an honor to be entrusted with this platform.
To my copy editor, I bow down to your creative thinking and eye for detail when my sleepy eyes could not in the wee hours.
To the readers, I thank you for your participation, commentary and constructive criticism. A week does not go by without one of you stopping me at the grocery store or sending an email sharing your observations of etiquette in action or seeking a solution to a social conundrum. Almost all of my 200-plus columns have been a direct result of our communication. You have expanded my mind and shown that etiquette is present in all reaches of life. There is no column without you.
And then there is the advice that does not make the paper. Much of my work is behind the scenes, answering correspondence on sensitive topics specific to a family event, workplace disagreement or unique dilemma. It warms my heart that you trust me enough to reach out and ask for my feedback. I love the challenge of answering your call to make life a little softer and more kind.
I touched on my reasons for getting into etiquette in my previous column. I felt a calling to facilitate understanding and respect for those with whom we don’t share a commonality. By simply existing in the world, we share space with all those who inhabit it. By respecting one another, we move forward together.
As I have sought to grow and share the topic, the column has defined how I live and strive to be for over a decade. I aspire to follow and commit to its advice and to set the bar higher every time.
Ten years is not a long time in an adult life, but the rapid changes in etiquette over this past decade are tremendous. Social media was in its infancy when the column began and was not even a secondary forum for publishing.
Now, social movements and campaigns for awareness are driven by online networks and hashtags. Our current presidency exists via Twitter, not the Oval Office. An entire generation of toddlers swipes with ease and know-how.
For better or worse, tech is here to stay, and its presence has defined a decade and created a new chapter of etiquette.
Alarmingly, disregard for the environment, discrimination and World War II-type campaigns singling out ethnicities at our borders have come full circle. The movement of time does not always equate to progress.
Looking back at my first column, published in February of 2009, I wrote, “Think of etiquette as the invisible framework of all communication. It informs all that we do and gives us the potential to function better and achieve more. … While many elements of etiquette seem like common sense, I’ve learned that common sense is not so common. It’s something that must be nurtured and practiced, daily. … The good news is that etiquette is alive and well — every time we thank the dry cleaner, wear black to a funeral and tip the waiter, we ensure its relevance.”
In this next decade, may we move forward together inspired by the Golden Rule and expressions of gratitude.
Bizia Greene is an etiquette expert and owns the Etiquette School of Santa Fe. Send your comments and conundrums to email@example.com or 505-988-2070.