Mothers usually assume the responsibility for teaching their sons proper manners. This is an important part of child-rearing, which is sadly wasted as the boy-child grows into a man-child. I fear there’s a gap in the training that causes the problem. Manners are more like rollerblading than biking in that lapses cause pain.
Take, for example, the basic manner of politely saying please and thank you.
CHILD: “I want a cookie.”
MOTHER: “Is that how you ask?”
CHILD: “Can I have a cookie?”
MOTHER: “I’m sure you can, but the proper question is are you allowed to have a cookie, isn’t it?”
CHILD: “Fine. May I have a cookie?”
MOTHER: “What’s the magic word?”
MOTHER: “What?! Who did you hear that word from?”
CHILD: “Who or whom?”
MOTHER: “Go to your room, you little wisenheimer.”
Note how that same conversation has skewed twenty years hence.
HUSBAND: “I want to have sex.”
WIFE: “Is that how you ask?”
HUSBAND: “Can we have sex tonight?”
WIFE: “I’m sure we can, but I’m not sure I’ve been put in the proper mood.”
HUSBAND: “Fine. May I pour you some pinot and give you a foot massage?”
WIFE: “What’s the magic word?”
WIFE: “Yes, but there’s another word, isn’t there?”
HUSBAND: “Aw, fuck it. I’ll just go beat off. Thanks for nothing.”
I struggled with table manners as an adolescent. I held my fork improperly, had my elbows on the table, played with my food, and kicked my little brother in the ankles when he tried to drink milk. Still, it seems I have improved.
PHIL: “These tacos are da bomb. Pass the Tapatio, Sugarbee-o.”
FUTURE EX: “The what?”
PHIL: “Hot sawse.”
FUTURE EX: “Your Philly accent comes out when you say sauce. Say it again, this time with the magic word and I’ll gladly hand it to you.”
PHIL: “Can I please have the bottle of orange, peppery goo?”
FUTURE EX: “You’re no fun. Can or may?”
PHIL: “I can take you back to my place tonight, but I may not, as you are starting to annoy me.”
FUTURE EX: “You’re a writer. You should appreciate proper grammar and manners.”
PHIL: “You’re a woman. You should be making me dinner, doing the dishes, and then quietly juicing my penis.”
FUTURE EX: “Asshole.”
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