February 24, 2006

Fast track to superior manners

Have you ever participated in an enforced civilized discussion? I’m specifically remembering a business skills workshop I went to a couple of years ago, where the ground rules were laid out up front: no talking about sex, religion or politics. It just gets messy. This was instantly familiar; those rules get applied in lots of situations and are a good substitute for sophisticated manners. (Don’t know how to navigate a loaded situation? Don’t cause one!)

Every so often I notice more topics that should be added to that list, mostly because they are completely wrapped up in politics. Food and healthy living, for instance. Sometimes music, media and art. Parenting. If you’re kind of a weirdo, your whole life could become a danger to civil dinner conversation. This has sort of been happening to me over the last few years. The fact that I can’t meet people without saying “vagina” is a start. (It just comes up ALL THE TIME.)

Recently some pals and I started a “porn club” for no well-defined reason and with no well-defined agenda. Basically just the keyword, porn, and the premise, “you’re invited.” I should clarify that I don’t live in a feminist sex commune or anything; my friends are not especially sexually expressive or political in public life, and neither am I, despite running this website which might have suggested otherwise.

Check all this context and clarification that I have to throw in as soon as I try to talk about porn club! Even if I don’t enforce the usual list of forbidden subjects, I do step up my sensitivity and manners when I venture into that territory. Or I hope so. I try to. Today, this is what I am excited about. Declaring “awkward subjects only” and practicing the necessary skills to pull it off. We’ve convened Porn Club for two delightful meetings, which probably isn’t that hard to do, in the scheme of social experiments.

I already attend a Rock Club to talk about music. I wonder if I should start clubs for religion, politics and breeding too, just to see what happens. Or just go right to the root and start Embarrassing Club. Whoa, actually, I’m going to file that away for later. I would be all over Club ‘Will Make You Feel Awkward and Start Fights by Accident.’ That would be a very efficient path to somewhere!

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