A while back, I headlined an entry here “Dear Mrs. Manners.” Since then, thanks to Google and those who forget that the real Manners dame calls herself “miss,” I’ve been getting a series of puzzling e-mails from people asking etiquette questions. Some of them are in the comments, if you’d like to click through that link. Others are e-mailed, and I try to answer them. I figure the essence of good manners is simply the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another, so what the hell? I get lost when you get into the when-to-wear-a-morning-coat question, or are-engraved-invitations-too-much-for-a-casual-second-wedding business, but I’ll take a crack at them.
So, today, another arrived. Pink font, smiley emoticon, the works. It wondered how much you should tip your hairdresser. It was signed “Jennifer Bastion” and the inside joke will perhaps only be appreciated by those who were KW Fellows with me. Our number included a woman with a very similar name who, I can state with confidence, doesn’t use pink fonts or smiley emoticons in her correspondence, and probably doesn’t give a rat’s ass about hairdresser-tipping etiquette. For a moment there, I thought I’d stepped into a parallel universe, where she was perhaps Miss America, and I was Peggy Fleming or something.
Anyway, of course I answered. I suggested 10 percent, with more at the holidays or with yeoman’s service. Why do we have to tip hairdressers, anyway? What do they do that deserves tippage? Someone let me know, please.
For a long time now, I’ve believed the right wing is in its Caligula phase — pure decadence, lighting seegars with C-notes, using phrases like “reality-based community.” William Bennett repackages public-domain fairy tales, adds an introduction about the “moral lessons” we learn from them, and hits the bestseller list — while incidentally gambling compulsively. Rush Limbaugh divorces wife numero tres after he kicks a drug habit — and he’s defended, because he had “back pain” and it’s not like he was taking heroin, for God’s sake. And of course Ann Coulter. I read just the lists of people who have books out, and I think, will these people buy anything? Evidence suggests so. So I’m glad Richard Cohen feels the same way:
Edward Klein has written one hell of an expos�. His new book on Hillary Clinton, “The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She’ll Go to Become President,” insinuates epic mendacities, sapphic sex, fiscal improprieties and marital rape. All of that Klein documents either vaguely or not at all and is so beyond belief and good taste that the very fact his book is selling like proverbial hotcakes starkly exposes the anti-Clinton people as the village idiots of our time. It takes one to buy this book.
…His book is flying off the shelves — more than 350,000 shipped. The other day it was No. 4 on Amazon’s bestseller list and was sold out at my sedate neighborhood bookstore when I checked. It has become a Rorschach of conservative madness — proof that they will buy anything, no matter how badly done, that attacks the Clintons or liberalism. Klein’s book is just the most recent example. He looked at conservatives the way P.T. Barnum looked over his audience: “There’s a sucker born every minute,” Barnum said. Ed is nodding all the way to the bank.
I had the same reaction when I read about the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s super-secret monitoring of Bill Moyers for liberal bias. Jon Carroll had a better, less expensive idea: Why not ask him?
A mean but amusing piece in the Nation underlines the point, while visiting the College Republicans convention: By the time I encountered Cory Bray, a towering senior from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, the beer was flowing freely. “The people opposed to the war aren’t putting their asses on the line,” Bray boomed from beside the bar. Then why isn’t he putting his ass on the line? “I’m not putting my ass on the line because I had the opportunity to go to the number-one business school in the country,” he declared, his voice rising in defensive anger, “and I wasn’t going to pass that up.”
And besides, being a College Republican is so much more fun than counterinsurgency warfare. Bray recounted the pride he and his buddies had felt walking through the center of campus last fall waving a giant American flag, wearing cowboy boots and hats with the letters B-U-S-H painted on their bare chests. “We’re the big guys,” he said. “We’re the ones who stand up for what we believe in. The College Democrats just sit around talking about how much they hate Bush. We actually do shit.”
Yes, the College Republicans do shit. My ex-newspaper ran a story a couple years ago about how the College Republicans targeted an old lady in Fort Wayne, sending her daily fundraising letters warning that liberals were about to take over Washington, so please please please send more money! She sent tens of thousands of dollars — she had senile dementia, by the way — and they pleaded for more. The letters redefined shamelessness. Other papers found other cases around the country. The Nation story alludes to it briefly:
CRNC front-runner and University of South Dakota senior Paul Gourley was at the center of a controversial fundraising scheme. During the height of last year’s campaign, a firm hired by the CRNC sent repeated solicitation letters printed on “Republican Headquarters 2004” letterhead to elderly Republicans, some of whom suffered from dementia. The letter urged recipients to pray over an American flag lapel pin, then send it back–along with $1,000–so George W. Bush could wear it during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. The solicitation was signed by “Paul Gourley, National Director.” Though Gourley denied knowledge of the letter’s content until it was published, it cast a cloud over his candidacy.
Although he did win the election. Hmm.
Read more about the College Republicans here.