This week, a terrible lady made Deputy Editor Ashley Cardiff feel very bad about her own manners–which defeats the purpose of manners! Ashley told EIC Jennifer Wright, who has also experienced the toxic, passive-aggressive “You’re welcome,” and she explained that when people do this, you have to scream at them. You have to scream hard. Here, they discuss the best way to shame people for being passive-aggressive assholes…
Ashley: So, this morning, the worst thing happened.
Jennifer: Please tell me more, Ashley. I have no idea what this anecdote will be about.
Ashley: My boyfriend and I were leaving a coffee shop and he passed through the front door. There was a girl outside the front door, which she took hold of, though my boyfriend did not let go because–although traditionally you should always let people out before you go in–it was a very heavy door. My boyfriend passed through and held the door for me, which was very nice of him. Just as I got through, however, the girl passed between us and said, “YOU’RE WELCOME.”
Jennifer: FUCK HER. FUCK THAT MONSTER PERSON.
Ashley: I could feel the words “Fuck off” form in my mouth because New York has made me this way, but then I paused and thought perhaps my boyfriend had thanked her and it was not, in fact, an act of monstrous passive aggression. We got about ten feet away and I said, “Hey, boyfriend, did you thank her?” And he said, “No, I thought you did.”
Jennifer: UGH FUCK HER. Did you run back and just… I don’t know just jump up and down in front of her making angry monkey faces? Is that a response? I feel like – not just justice, but Borgia justice should be enacted on people who do that.
Ashley: “Oooh, you want a banana? Did you want a banana prize, you monkey asshole? I’m the fucking Pope and I do what I want!” Like that?
Ashley: That seems obtuse. Anyway, let’s agree–even if I was just spacing out and forgot to thank someone holding a door for me–this is outrageously rude. Moreover, whatever self-righteous thrill you get from rubbing someone’s lapse in manners in his/her face, you completely cancel out that person’s bad manners with your own terrible rudeness. Right?
Jennifer: It would appear that person forgot that good manners are designed to make other people feel comfortable. I feel like, to some extent, this may be an American failing? I think you see manners used more as a club to bludgeon people and assert superiority to them in our society than you do in say, England.
Ashley: Oh, it’s always America’s fault.
Jennifer: Well, I do think it’s a peculiarly American thing to do?
Ashley: Not only did she say something totally passive-aggressive, she was always wearing one of those giant foam hands and stuffing her face with a pie using the other. Additionally, she was morbidly obese and managing to sit on a couch… even though we were outside on a sidewalk.
Jennifer: I suspect you are making this up. On the other hand, this seems consistent with my worldview, so I’m torn.
Jennifer: It sounds like something people like that would do. Checks out on my logic radar.
Ashley: Don’t blame America. People are assholes everywhere. I’m sure English people have shamed each other with bad manners, they probably just did it with an off-kilter sense of humor and then had some tea after. Going forward, let’s stop making useless generalizations about countries.
Jennifer: Okay, fair point. Sorry I was such an anglophile asshole for a second, there.
Ashley: SO RUDE.
Jennifer: But! Moving on from this, boldly. What do people who do the passive-aggressive “You’re welcome” expect to happen? Do they think people will say “Pardon me, good lady?! Here is a medal.” Do they expect people to say that sincerely? Do they think I just carry around a pocket full of medals?
Ashley: You don’t?
Jennifer: It weighs me down, Ashley, but those medals are not for them.
Ashley: Moreover! Isn’t it the height (nadir?) of BAD MANNERS to be completely rude and nasty? In our defense, she wasn’t even holding the damn door. But even if we were just spacing out, even if our manners had lapsed… that would still make her a dick! This whole interaction really shook me because I am usually on the effusive side of appreciation when people hold doors for me. …Wait. Is it worse manners to do that or to use your blogging job as a public platform to shame people?
Jennifer: You should have taken a grainy iPhone camera picture of her, and we should be running it right now.
Jennifer: Look, I remember this happened to me, once. I probably remember it because it was one of the only direct, furious confrontations I’ve ever had. It was in my cocktail waitressing days, and it had been a really long day. I was getting into the elevator in my own building. And a man held the button for me. I actually said “Thank you,” but I guess I mumbled it. And he said, loudly, “You’re welcome” and shook his head. And I turned to him and said “Pardon me?” I gave him the side-eye as I did it. And he said – in this deep southern accent, he was clearly a tourist, he was carrying one of those gift shop bags that have the apple and the heart on it – “It’s customary to say “thank you” when someone does something nice like hold a door open for you.” And in kind of a bizarre moment, because I am not good with confrontation, I yelled “Not in New York, you son of a bitch!” Although, obviously, that is customary everyplace. The first portion of that sentence was stressed. As though I was offended that he had come to my city and brought his horrible ways with him. I think that was the moment I first identified New York as my home, and, in a weirdly protective move, that people didn’t just get to clomp in in their boat shoes and drag their shitty manners all over it. And then I yelled at him for the duration of the elevator ride about how he did not get to do that. And then he left, and as he walked down the hall, as the evelator doors were closing, I heard him call out “Bitch!”
Ashley: I can’t believe you yelled at an old man and called him a son of a bitch.
Jennifer: I did. I was very upset. He won’t do it again. Also, he learned that you don’t come to Manhattan and pull that shit. Because people will yell at you for a full thirty seconds.
Ashley: You learned him good.
Jennifer: I think this may be the only head on confrontation I’ve ever had? I’m not endorsing yelling at old men you’ve never met who are trying to teach you how to be a lady, often, but everyone should probably do it, once.
Ashley: Bet it feels good.
Jennifer: It felt pretty good.
Ashley: You know, maybe next time someone opens a door for me, I’m going to scowl at them and look away and say nothing, in the hopes they’ll pull this passive-aggressive shit and then I’ll just let loose.
Jennifer: I think you only get to do it once, though. I think that moment is really a gift. Don’t squander it. Wait for an old Southern man to come and tell you off.
Ashley: New York is really stressful. I think we need vacations or something, Jen. Or therapy.
Jennifer: Want to just go camp out and wait for Dark Shadows to start? Barnabas Collins would eat these people for us.
Ashley: No. Wait. I want to yell at strangers until they feel awful. I need to go. Now.
Jennifer: Get the old tourists!
Ashley: I’m gonna go look for ones with limps!
Jennifer: Show them the only lady in this city is called “Liberty!”
(UPDATE: As our lovely reader KJ pointed out, Miss Manners herself agrees that correcting others–for bad manners, undisciplined children, poor grammar, etc–is in itself “dreadful.”)