When I was 15, my mother wrote me this.
You’re approaching adulthood. Neither boys nor girls automatically know how to behave. Manners will get you through. That’s what social manners are for.
The other night a young woman sharing a table with me burped loudly. She didn’t say excuse me or look around as if someone might have heard. A while later, she burped again. Again without any comment. A few more times she burped and not once did it look as if “excuse me” even crossed her mind.
I found myself annoyed. You should say “excuse me,” I thought. Did she not know any better or did she consciously make a point not to act ladylike? She had a buzz cut and cap. She wore a sweatshirt.
How would I have reacted if she had been a he? I would’ve thought him rude, but I also would’ve found him typical. Ugh. Guys. But for some reason, I expect a girl to know better.
This strikes me as sexist. Low expectations of men and high expectations of women. And I suspect I am old-fashioned. Men should take their hats off inside, no one should slouch, and flip-flops are not for work. And if you burp, say excuse me.
But I wonder what my notions about the way things should be say about my writing. How do biases, pre-conceived ideas, prejudices, and attitudes about girls who burp in public shape your writing? How do you write believable, worthwhile characters if you’re stuck on the way you want people to be?
Or, in a different direction–watching this aspiring writer across from me burp and not say anything made me wonder how polite a write ought to be. Must a woman writer always act like a lady? Is it even ladylike to write?
I say “excuse me” when I burp, but I’m not sure I’m a lady…