"Freedom without rules doesn’t work" – Judith Martin (Miss Manners)
"Etiquette is the science of living." – Emily Post
I am a timid person.
It’s difficult to explain this to people who often see me in front of a group of strangers, smiling, loud, sometimes naked, even. But an audience is a different animal than an individual; when speaking to an audience, I can be relatively certain that they *want* to appreciate what I have to offer (or else they wouldn’t be there). Crowds can be fickle, but it’s not that difficult to lead a crew which has come to you looking for a captain. I know my role in a crowd.
Individuals, on the other hand, present a much more intimidating prospect. There are so many opportunities with unfamiliar people! And so few assumptions one can make about the outcome of a conversation with one! Few things make me feel more timid than needing to speak to a stranger in a social situation – particularly if I want to make a nice impression. Walking up to a stranger and talking to them feels to me like a combination of stepping out onto a tightrope and cold calling. I don’t know my role in a situation like this.
Not knowing my role in a given situation – and therefore not knowing the rules of engagement in a given situation – gives me the howling fantods. When given a chance to learn the rules of engagement, I learn them, and I thrive.
BDSM should be a fantastic place for someone with such a requirement. Is not protocol a huge thing in the D/s community? It is, but protocol can be so formal, and I don’t want all that pomp. Does not every dungeon, munch, and social gathering have its code of conduct? They do, but while those rules are useful and necessary, they don’t provide much help in simply navigating the social waters of a conversation with someone new.
What’s missing in my life, I think, is good, solid etiquette. That bag of pretty tricks to pull from when you and the person opposite you try to speak at the exact same time, or when that cute girl’s got broccoli in her smile, or when that one guy is making everyone else uncomfortable. The WD-40 that makes the social gears run smoothly.
I’m not talking about some sort of fetishized etiquette, necessarily; I don’t have a lot of interest in Victorian households, or D/s protocols, or how to use which fork properly, or in delving deeply into someone else’s idea relationship etiquette. The active etiquette groups here on FetLife are (understandably) focused on lifestyle etiquette. None of these are what I’m looking for.
I am interested in the kind of etiquette that begins simply with the intention of being nice and not awkward to people, which I have and which makes me want to learn to be more polite. I want to learn good manners, and I want to arm myself with the etiquette which governs how those manners are to be properly used. But where can I learn? I was (figuratively) raised in something of a barn with regards to manners, and since nobody stands on ceremony anymore, I’ve found it difficult to learn them through observation. I need a Mrs. Higgins to my Eliza Doolittle!*
Am I the only one who feels this way? Do we need a finishing school for kinksters? I welcome your (kind) thoughts!
*Don’t any of you dare correct me and say Henry Higgins was the one who taught Eliza the rules of etiquette, I will cut you.