Melissa Harris-Perry: Welcome back to The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry.
All right. I need y'all to come back with me to a classic movie moment from 1993s, A Bronx Tale. This is when the neighborhood gangster Sonny gives his young protege a little etiquette advice ahead of his first date with Jane.
Sonny: You pull up right where she is, right? Before you get out of the car, you lock both doors. Get out of the car, you walk over to her and bring her over to the car and take out the key and pull in the lock, open the door for her, then you let her get in. Then, you close the door for her, then you walk around the back of the car and you look through the rear window, and if she doesn't reach over, lift up that button for you so you can get in, dump her.
Calogero: Just like that?
Sonny: Listen to me, kid. If she doesn't reach over, lift up that button for you so you can get in, that means she's a selfish broad and all you've seen is the tip of the iceberg. You dump her and you dump her fast.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Now, all this sets up a most victorious love-conquers-all moment in the film when Jane does indeed lean over that broad front seat and unlock that door. Yes. Young love has a chance because Jane knew the rules of etiquette. Now, with automatic locks and remote car entries the norm in our lives these days, the specifics of this A Bronx Tale rule, they don't really stand any longer, but the point remains the same.
Etiquette is not about getting a gold star from a white-gloved behavior judge. Etiquette is about behaving in ways that demonstrate our respect for one another, our willingness to make our interactions just a little easier, a little softer, a little kinder.
Mary: Hey, it's Mary. I'm a Takeaway producer. My social etiquette non-negotiable is if you're running late, you got to text me. Five minutes late is no big deal, but 10 or more, just give me a heads up like, "Hey, the train's delayed, I left my house a bit later." Whatever. I won't be annoyed about the lateness, but I will be annoyed if you don't give me the courtesy of expecting it.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Oh, yes. The producers of Team Takeaway definitely have their rules for modern etiquette.
David: My name is David, I'm an intern at The Takeaway. If you're going to post a picture of someone on social media, you should always, always, always ask for their permission first.
Speaker 6: Okay. My etiquette non-negotiables are speaking when you enter someone's home and asking for permission to use people's pictures in your post. Oh my God, come on.
Jackie Martin: Jackie Martin here with The Takeaway. I don't like when couples fight in public. I did that when I was young. I don't do that anymore. I feel like you could save it for the house.
Melissa Harris-Perry: To help all of us be a little bit better with all the other human beings with whom we share our world, we sat down with Choire Sicha, editor at large at New York Magazine. Choire stopped by to answer some of your modern etiquette questions.
Melissa Harris-Perry: A Social Etiquette Guide, as the cover story for the magazine, can you talk to me about how that decision was made? It's a little different than what we often see on the cover of New York Mag.
Choire Sicha: Sure. We've noticed a bunch of stuff. We've noticed that locally, here in New York City, that a number of reports of conflicts, not crime, but just interpersonal strife, reports of those were way up. We saw that the tourists had returned to our city, which we welcome. We saw that a lot of us who hadn't been going to white-collar office jobs were going back to those, and things were different after-- I'm going to use the phrase "after the pandemic." I don't actually mean after, but things were different after this most recent period of the pandemic for a lot of us. We just saw that people were rusty in how to act, how to treat each other well, how to be in the office while still wearing their shoes, which they should be doing.
As a group, we really collaboratively went around and talked about people's stress points, actually, is where we started. We didn't start with the answers, we started with people's questions.
Melissa Harris-Perry: What were some of those questions?
Choire Sicha: Listen, I'll tell you the number one topic we deal with is tipping. A lot of the things are like-- Oh, yes, tipping is big. A lot of this was about how to survive awkward interactions, how to correct someone when they're wrong or should you do that at all. People were just stressed out about I think things maybe we were more used to dealing with 10 or 20 years ago, and maybe we got a little rusty as we spent more time on our phones and more time in our homes.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Okay. Let's take a listen to a question from one of our Takeaway listeners.
Francis Simon: Hi, it's Francis Simon from Greenville, South Carolina. I would like to ask how do you define modern-day etiquette versus any other type of etiquette?
Melissa Harris-Perry: What say you, Choire?
Choire Sicha: That's such a great question. It's a great place to start. When you or I hear the word etiquette, we all think of which fork you're going to use in the castle, right, but etiquette is actually about guidelines that help us not have unnecessary, unneeded conflict with other people, whether they're strangers or friends. These are a set of guidelines that help us get through the day without hurting other people, essentially.
Melissa Harris-Perry: We did get some calls about tipping. Let's take a listen here to Ron from Denver.
Ron: My question is about tipping. Nowadays, everyone has the tablets that they just flip around and you sign it and add a tip. Well, now, that happens at places that we didn't use to tip like just picking up fast food at a counter and they ask you to tip, and you buy something at a retail kiosk and they ask for a tip. It used to be tips were for people that provided service waiting on you at a table. Should we really be tipping everybody every time we buy something now?
Melissa Harris-Perry: What say you to this, Choire? Are there hard and fast rules?
Choire Sicha: This is evolving really fast, obviously. After talking to service workers and talking to deli workers and places like this, we have a hot take. Our take is that if you're picking food up to go or you're getting food delivered, you should tip a little bit if you can, maybe that's 10% at like a deli counter. If you're getting an Uber or a car, you should be tipping 20%. If someone's handing you a bottle of water or packaging nuts somewhere, yes, the tipping machine has run a little amok there, and it's undermining people's confidence in tipping where they should be tipping. I think that's disturbing.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Let's take a listen here to a call from Maya from Oakland.
Maya: I'm wondering how we went from "Thank you for your patronage" to "There you go" when people hand you your receipt and goods that you bought. I'm wondering how we went from, "Would you like anything else too, is that it?" Lastly, am I the only person who stops patronizing businesses who treat me that way?
Melissa Harris-Perry: Is there a certain kind of niceness that has just gone out the window?
Choire Sicha: That's very interesting as a question. I have a couple minor thoughts. One is that language has changed, absolutely. People will say things that sound very casual to my ears. Part of that is generational. Part of this is part of my community. I think we're having interactions that are uncomfortable and don't scan well to each other a lot of the times and we have to model the behavior we want out of those situations. However, sometimes when everyone's treating you poorly, it's you.
Melissa Harris-Perry: How do we know if it's us versus the system?
Choire Sicha: We talked a lot in the Etiquette Guide about the boundaries of what is etiquette, and some things are self-help and some things are therapy, and manners can only help us get so far.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Okay. Stick with us because Choire Sicha is going to stick with us. He'll be right back to continue answering your burning etiquette question for 2023 right after this break. It's The Takeaway.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Welcome back to The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry. We're back with more on our conversation about modern-day etiquette with one of the editors behind New York Magazine's Modern Etiquette Guide Choire Sicha. Many of y'all called in to get an answer from Choire about your etiquette questions.
Speaker 13: I'm always uncomfortable at lunches and dinners when people ask me, "So what do you do?" They say it in a very intrusive and screening kind of way. I usually flip the script and ask them about themselves because it's much more comfortable for me just to have a genuine conversation with someone and organically just find out why we are both there.
Melissa Harris-Perry: What are the rules on this? Are there better and worse ways to navigate the what do you do conversation?
Choire Sicha: It's funny. I've lived in New York for a long time, but I grew up in California, and New Yorkers start with what do you do and Californians start with things like what are you interested in or where'd you grow up? There's a lot of difference across the country and the world around this, but we talk about this a lot with people. What we heard from people was that what do you do is the most terrible opening gambit you could have. You should ask someone three other questions before you get to that. This is a great question, and I appreciate the sentiment behind it especially. We're not our jobs. Less and less are we our jobs as we are treated as disposable by most of our employers.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I think you're right. Some of it is etiquette and some of it is therapy. [chuckles] Let's take a listen here to Susan who's in Washington.
Susan: In states where recreational marijuana is legal, is it polite to smoke a joint or a pipe or to vape at a party where everyone else is drinking wine, indoors or outdoors?
Melissa Harris-Perry: I love this question. [laughs] Can you blaze up if it's legal?
Choire Sicha: This is such a great question. See, this is about the world changing so fast right before our eyes. We have a lot of conversations about this in New York with street weed smoking because people are like, "Oh, the street smells like marijuana all the time now." I'm like, "Well, it smelled like dirty pizza and rats before, so is this really worse?" I don't have an answer for this, and we should have an answer. I think that the most important thing is that we don't smoke in people's houses now generally without asking, so that's the best way to handle this, is a conversation with the host, but I'm going to be thinking about this all day. That is such a good question.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I know. I am too. I was like, "Whoa, I'm not sure that I know at all what the answer to that one is." Also, even as a host, if you're willing to allow, for example, cigar smoking on the porch, do you have to also allow vaping or weed smoking on the porch if it's legal in the state? I think there's so many interesting questions here. All right, let's hear from Susie from Alexandria.
Susie: I wanted to know if it is rude to never have your friends over to your home. I have a great fear of entertaining. It makes me uncomfortable. I have many friends whose homes I have been to, but I've never had them over for dinner or lunch or just to hang out.
Melissa Harris-Perry: This is a great one. This reciprocity in home opening. Is there an etiquette answer?
Choire Sicha: Oh, [unintelligible 00:12:33] what a sweet question too. I found that very moving. It's interesting because what our caller is saying is that she begins to feel rude that she hasn't hosted. I think that conversation about that would bring you closer to your friends if you said, I recognize that I'm always over here for dinner and I love coming to dinner with you, and also, I realize that I haven't had you over and I'm going to pull back the curtain a little bit and tell you why. That's an advanced conversation, but with a real friend, that's going to bring you closer, and it's not a problem to solve. You don't need to have those people over. I think you'll feel better and I think you'll be closer friends if you talk about it.
Melissa Harris-Perry: We've got an interesting question here from Paul about a more traditional form of etiquette and whether or not it's still allowable. Let's take a listen.
Paul McCarthy: My name is Paul McCarthy from Leicester, Massachusetts, and I'm 64 years old. I was taught to hold the door for a lady. Is that still acceptable?
Melissa Harris-Perry: What do you say, Choire? Is that still acceptable?
Choire Sicha: We talked about door-holding and old-fashioned chivalry things that a lot of us were indoctrinated into young. We think that you should not slam a door in anyone's face. We think you should try and make it a little less weird, by which we mean, don't stageily hold elevator doors and other doors open for women in particular. It's always nice to hold a door for someone and that's totally great, but I think the performative chivalry that happens is very out of fashion, especially among younger people. They would consider it actually rude.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Yes, I'm thinking hold the door for all the people, for the ladies, for the fellas, for your non-binary folks who you're joining and spending time with in public. Just holding doors can be a nice way to say hey to folks. I think all of us maybe got out of it a little bit in the context of pandemic social distancing. You didn't want to hold the door because you'd be standing then within six feet, but I'm a fan of both holding doors and having them held.
Choire Sicha: Yes, and there's a lot of-- I think of primarily male spaces like the locker room, my gym. There's a lot of like, "Hey, after you bro," stuff at the gym that's really sweet and friendly and community building and is among a single-gender population and feels good.
Melissa Harris-Perry: For sure. All right, final question, Choire. If there was one etiquette rule you'd want us to all know, have, take, keep in our minds, what would it be?
Choire Sicha: We have some really good ones in our lists and there's a few that I'm really attached to, but I have to say the one I think about the most is one of mine, which is about being the first one out. We talk about that phrase in a couple ways. One, it's like the phrase never stay too long at the fair. If you've had a great time, don't run into the ground. Also, we don't listen when we feel like something's going wrong when we're afraid or something bad is happening, and we often wait and see if anyone else is going to notice. If you feel like something terrible is happening, you owe it to everyone around you to evacuate the situation. If the subway car feels funny suddenly, or if you don't people walking behind you on the street, you're helping the people with you and other people in the community if you're like, "I'm out, I got to go."
Melissa Harris-Perry: Okay I love that. That's so very New York. [laughs]
Choire Sicha: It's true. That one's definitely skewed a little big city. That's true.
Melissa Harris-Perry: It did. I'm for it, though. Choire Sicha is an editor at New York Magazine. Choire, thanks so much for joining us.
Choire Sicha: This was a delight. Your listeners are incredible. This was a great time.
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