And now, drum roll please, four rules of life I have collected and strongly endorse:
1) Eamon’s Law: If you shoot down an idea, you have to provide an alternative.
For example, if someone in your group says “Do you guys want to get sushi?” DON’T SAY “No.” INSTEAD TRY: “Hey, why the gendered designation for our mixed-gender group and NO THANK YOU I WANT TACOS NOT SUSHI.” See? Providing an alternative is for winners. (This is a variation on Tina Fey’s advice.)
Gilles Deleuze agrees: “Every time someone puts an objection to me, I want to say: ‘Okay, okay, let’s go on to something else.’ Objections have never contributed anything.”
Exceptions: The answer to “Do you want to go to Cracker Barrel?” is always “No.” even if there are no alternatives in this post-Apocolyptic scenario.
2) Brion’s Law: Don’t yuck somebody else’s yum.
If someone is all, “Gee, I love that movie!” don’t say “That movie sucks!” Instead, try saying nothing. Or even change the subject, as in: “Oh, I really like this other movie!”
Exceptions: Dad, dried coconut is disgusting and I will never put it on a lamb cake. End of discussion.
3) Richard’s Law: Don’t say anything about someone that you wouldn’t repeat to their face. Modified: Always say things to people’s faces that you say behind their back.
If you are going to talk about someone, be prepared to tell them what you said (or for someone else to repeat what you said!). This lets you off the hook because you don’t have to remember who you told what to or what you can’t repeat if everything you say is for all audiences. Honesty is the way of truly lazy people.
Or, as A Gentleman’s Guide to Etiquette by Cecil B. Hartley (1875) puts it:
16. Avoid, in conversation all subjects which can injure the absent. A gentleman will never calumniate or listen to calumny.
Bonus of following this policy: You get to have pretty interesting conversations with people. Instead of spending your time casting judgement on people who aren’t around, you get to say to the person involved something like: “Hey, that’s an interesting choice. Not something I would have done.” Then they can say “Well, yeah, I thought this and that.” Then you can say “Oh, I never thought about it that way! I can totally see how this factored in to your decision.” Or they could say “Oh, good point – maybe I’ll try your way next time.” You don’t know until you try!
Not to mention, this policy really culls the herd in terms of people who can’t handle the truth. If you’re around people who don’t like that you are All Real Talk All The Time, maybe don’t hang around them. They sound like jerks. Or possibly dumb as a box of rocks.
Exceptions: I guess if someone’s dead, you wouldn’t be like, “Hey, you’re dead.” Otherwise, there should be no exceptions to this rule.
4) * New & Crispy * Amanda’s Law: Don’t ask a question that can’t be answered with “and how about yourself?” / “and you/rs?”
Good examples of this rule being practiced through totally acceptable questions: “How are you?” “Where are you from?” “What is your favo(u)rite colo(u)r?” “What sort of movies do you like?” “How do you feel?” “Can I help you with anything?”
Good examples of this rule not being practiced through totally jerk questions: “How’s rehab going for you?” “How’s that cancer?” “When did you two break up?” “When are you having kids?” “What’s it like being [insert religion or other non-reciprocal identity characteristic here]?” “Where are you from from?” (variation: “Where are you really from?”)
Exceptions: If you are in the service industry or some position that involves asking for people’s phone numbers or medical details for A Good Reason, maybe they don’t have to reciprocate the question. I think it’s okay to ask “What are you learning in 3rd grade?” and similarly open-ended (if specific sounding) questions. Also, if you are in a similar position (i.e. “How’s unemployment treating you?”), it is probably more okay to ask about certain things. (This doesn’t really violate the rule, but I inspired to give an example anyway.) However, in general, if someone wants to give you certain information, they will. You asking jerk questions just makes you a jerk. Why do you even need to know?!
This post doesn’t have too much to do with my dissertation, except that it is procrastination AND if one more person who is not CURRENTLY WRITING A DISSERTATION asks me when my dissertation will be done, I will probably punch them in the neck.