MISTRESS OF ETIQUETTE
Last issue, we proposed the reintroduction of the formal
introduction and handshake, rather than a sloppy intro and a big
hug when meeting someone for the first time. But - what do you
do when you meet someone you are certain you've met before, but
can't remember their name?
Don't panic! Because of the formality of the original
introduction you can probably remember either the setting of the
intro, or perhaps even who introduced you. If that person is
present now, slide up to them quietly and ask, "What was the name
of that person over there, the one you introduced me to last
month?" If that's not an alternative available to you at the
moment, you can be direct and ask. Even the best of us have
memory lapses, and it's quite possible they, too may have
forgotten your name. "I'm sorry, but I know we've met, and I
can't recall your name. I'm _____, and I think we may have met
Shy people may have trouble going up to strangers, so if you
can manage it, do it, for they may be too shy to. Remember, its
you who wants the chance to talk to them further and strengthen
the acquaintanceship. They might want to as well, but are too
A related problem that seems self-evident but is constantly
being repeated, is introducing people by an incorrect name.
Incorrect in the sense that it is inappropriate in the particular
setting. Some people adopt two or more names: their given name
which is well known to their friends, an outer-court name which
they use for gatherings and the larger Pagan community where they
are relative strangers, and one or more circle names (a 3rd
degree person may have 3 or more).
Some of these chosen names can be almost unpronounceable (a
thoughtless choice) or are too long for practical use. Even a
common birth name can lead to confusion when it has variations.
We all know Pete at the Tabernacle, but how many of us know his
name is Pierre? Faux pas are committed when someone introduces
you at a gathering by your given name when you would prefer to be
known by an outer-court name.
Going up to a person and asking lets them decide just how
they wish to be known to you. Allowing the other person the
opportunity for choice is rarely wrong.
The more serious breach of manners/etiquette/morals, even
rarely occurs with formal introductions. This would be if I
turned to a relatively new acquaintance and said, "See ______?
She is a witch, too." Unless I have explicit permission to tell
you, I have done a terrible thing, for now you know a very
personal thing about someone who does not know you know it. Even
if your friends seem to be completely open about their craft
connection, it is wrong to assume that you may pass that
information on without their knowledge and permission. If I have
told you such a bit of information about someone, I may also have
assumed too much about you and am pushing you further than I have
the right to, or than you wished to go.
Back to etiquette! In Europe, hugging is a common form of
greeting. Touching while talking is common, and personal space
is smaller than for Americans. Because touch is more common over
there, there is a subtle body language that says "I'm about to
touch you." If you are unwilling, slight movements can convey
that feeling. Here, especially in the Pagan community, "huggers"
do not have this background, so in most cases the huging greeting
doesn't allow you much choice as the "hugee." To back away, or
even break away, is taken as a personal affront, an
unwillingness to share space, energy, love, etc. Many Pagans
look upon the hug as a chance to get close, inside each other's
barriers. Or at least, that is what it symbolizes. In
actuality, with the great proliferation of hugs, we simply
develop new barriers so that touching can not breach them. Once
these new barriers are erected, they are harder to dismantle.
I am not saying hugging should be forbidden. Rather, that
we need to develop our own awareness of why we are seeking or
giving hugs. After all, we come from more Anglo-Saxon roots,
many of us, which are more formal, rather than the Latin or
southern Mediterranean. If you want to hug someone, go up and
ask them if they'd like a hug, or would mind giving you a hig.
Be sure to phrase it a way that they will feel comfortable to
decline. Slightly different rules apply with people with whom
you have a fairly close relationship, and assumptions might be OK
here, where by experience you know hugging is accepted.
There's a lot of wisdom in the old addage, "Don't assume
anything - it makes an ASS out ofU and ME.
We all feel we are the center of the world, and when we
leave a party, somehow it ceases to be interesting. So, when we
leave, we thank our hostess or host, and then make the rounds,
telling everyone we are leaving. This would be OK if we do not
break up conversations in the process. The only polite reason to
break into another's conversation is if they had previously asked
you not to leave without telling them. It is more appropriate to
stand near the door and say in a reasonably loud voice, "Well, I
must be leaving now. Good bye, everyone." Anyone who chooses
may then halt their conversation to respond if they wish, or go
on talking. It will be their choice.
So now, we are being introduced, we are recognizing our
memory lapses as minor, common occurrances. We are thinking both
of ourselves and of others in allowing personal space to be of
variable size, and not demand instant and constant access.
Future columns will discuss other manners, etiquette, problems,
or your differing opinions, as they come to my attention. Any