I was raised in very, strict “proper-like” southern values fashion. We don’t cut more than one bite of our meat at a time, always offer refreshments to visitors (sweet tea y’all?), never swear in public or mixed company (if one simply must swear at all), and always follow up every even mildly unkind remark with, well bless his/her heart. I’m typically a die-hard for values and manners; these were literally ingrained in the very fiber of my being. My first “grown-up” book was even Amy Vanderbilt’s (oh so antiquated even then) Complete Book of Manners. No, I’m not kidding either. In my home growing up, we behaved every day like it was a genteel dinner party of sorts. There simply was no appropriate time to relax on manners….and no excuse for poor manners. In hind sight, it was all rather ridiculous. However, Momma did an effective job of pounding them in. I’ll tell you, the first time a boyfriend in college passed gas in front of me and actually laughed, I was appalled and broke up with him very shortly thereafter.
While I don’t enforce these strict and archaic rules in my home today with my children..at least not the horribly ridiculous ones… I definitely still abide for the most part by the “rules” and have taught my daughters accordingly. As a parent, I realized one very challenging concept to effectively demonstrate is the importance of maintaining good manners while also maintaining our moral obligation to be honest. As in, “yes, it’s okay that you don’t like Sally’s new haircut, but you don’t so much need to be totally honest about that even if she asks you”. Or, “At dinner tonight, I don’t care how much you dislike carrots in your spaghetti or whatever, don’t you dare say that, even if Mrs. Smith asks you!” As toddlers, manners and honesty were a challenging balance to teach my children. It’s a slippery slope teaching the delicate balance among etiquette, morals and TMI!
And I now, with my recent re-entrance into the dating world, find myself in a similar conundrum. Stars alive, I don’t know appropriate dating etiquette…or how to balance my commitment to honesty along with Amy V.’s 1950 or 60’s-something complete etiquette guide (which is otherwise Cliff-Noted in bold type directly in the deep recesses of my brain). I’ve already told one little white lie to my father-figure date and he was so gracious and flattering to me in return for my “honesty” that I felt like a real POS.
As I realize yesterday that I’ve double-committed myself with Word-Man and M, I’m wishing I had Ms. Vanderbilt’s great-great-granddaughter’s number in my phone, so I could have a reference for this type of situation. Yes, Word-Man’s accent annoyed the living bejeezus outta me, but I’ve committed to meeting him in person and I feel compelled to keep that commitment, even if I get a splitting headache a half hour into it and have to exit early. And M…I like him…and I agreed on Monday to give him my one free night this week upon his return from Paris. My mind starts racing with excuses the moment I realize my inconsiderate error. Technically, I made the date with Word first, so he gets first consideration.
I text M that I’ve made a mistake, forgotten something, and I won’t be able to meet him Thursday or Friday..to be straight, I don’t know why I included both days in there. Actually, it gets a tad confusing… At any rate, my stumbling about to balance this error politely and with consideration (I opted for mere vagueness) got a little more challenging when after some text-servation, he politely asks me why I’m not available Thursday or Friday as I previously agreed.
I know I don’t owe him an explanation. However, I would probably want to know too if the situation were reversed, so NUNYA isn’t appropriate. I want to balance the fact that I like him (by far the best at this point) without inflating his ego, want to be honest (that’s my policy) and yet don’t want to come across as some kind of serial dater, as in implying “Hey Mr. M, no matter how much I like you, I’m going to continue to go on 4-5 dates per week and work getting to know you better around those”.
I’ve never been comfortable dating several people at once.. I’m not dishonest enough and I’m not practiced even in the art of vagueness enough to pull those kind of amazing circus feats off. I’ve always been a steady one-guy-dater-girl. Yes, to my chagrin, always. And I suppose this kind of balancing act (we all know from the experience with Mr. Favorite just how great my balance randomly isn’t) is precisely why I’ve always just dated one person at a time.
I opted to tell him the truth, keeping it as vague as possible and mixed in with just a smidgen of, “I kinda wish I hadn’t already committed to this”. He handled it well….maybe too well?
Did I do the right thing? Well, okay, I know I did the right thing, but did I do the right thing? After a few great dates together, do guys want to hear, “I have another date lined up”? Would I have been better to have claimed I couldn’t get the night free after all, instead? Or should I have gone full force with the vagueness and just said “…ummm…that’s really NUNYA”…?