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A Few Rules for Fine Ladies and Good Gentleman at this Holiday Season
Friday, Dec. 19, 2003, 9:57 p.m.

QUESTION: Where did I go wrong?

WHAT I LEARNED: Emily Post was no dumb bunny.

As I move from holiday function to holiday function, I am reminded of some very simple rules for polite socializing and holiday event attendance that might be well to heed at the joyful time of year. Here on the Island I have already found them lacking – in myself or others – and so I am enumerating them here as a helpful point of reference to take forward into the holiday season or discard immediately as no fun at all.

1. Be strategic. At a party - leave on a high note, which is way before you think you should leave. Never stay on longer just because you have a deep-seated desire to sip just one more chocolate martini in your new faux-fur-collared sweater. You’ll just get all sweaty and have a headache to nurse the next day.

2. Be clever. Remember what your parents taught you - never, repeat never - talk about politics, religion, or other hot button topics. Not even when you are provoked. Just sing fa la la under your breath, go grab a rum ball, and pat yourself on the back for avoiding a major holiday pitfall. You'll thank yourself in the morning.

3. Be smart. Go to the work function but don’t kid yourself about where you are. If you don’t go to the work party, everyone will notice. If you make an ass out of yourself at the office party – everyone will notice. If you say something brilliant at the office party – nobody will notice at all. Remember – you’re not there to have fun, so instead just enjoy watching those poor souls laboring under the illusion that that’s what they should be doing. You’ll be so smug at work the next day that you may be intolerable.

4. Be philosophical. When attending a holiday concert, resign yourself to the fact that no matter where you are sitting, your view of the person you came to see sing or play will be blocked by a lady who suddenly tilts her head in such a way that her hair blocks out the entire stage, or by the band/chorus teacher who will never move from that place on stage except when the baton flips out of their hands - (yes, it did!), or by a real tall guy who sits in front on your 5 minutes after the performance begins precluding you from moving to another seat. If you stop cursing under your breath, you’ll get more into the holiday spirit - so just listen to the pretty music and relax.

5. Be prepared. If there is a way that your photographic equipment can fail – it will. Batteries will die, low light will produce pictures of shadowy figures on a distant stage, film will run out, digital camera chips will suddenly become too full to handle one more picture, heads will pop out of nowhere to block the perfect photo, and people will trip over your camera bag no matter where you stash it. That’s life at the holidays for those with a camera in hand.

6. Be silent. Just don’t say it. If you tape the holiday concert for posterity, the people behind you will talk incessantly, somebody’s kid will stand beside you and make loud comments through the entire program, or people will come and go from the auditorium with loud reverberating bangs of the steel doors. You will want to swivel your head around like the kid in The Exorcist movie and shout – shut up - but don’t do it. They will accuse you of lacking the proper holiday spirit. Focus, my friend, focus on the stage and keep that head pointed straight ahead. Now, that's some holiday spirit alright.

Happy Holidays and don't you forget it.

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