Lord of the manners | brunch | Hindustan Times
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Lord of the manners

Modern life is full of social minefields. But there’s a polite way out of every mess. Here’s how. Now say Thank You! It’s 2013. You’ve learned how to introduce people at a party, be courteous in a nasty email, even figured out how to RSVP.

brunch Updated: Jan 05, 2013 19:10 IST
Sonali Kokra

It’s 2013. You’ve learned how to introduce people at a party, be courteous in a nasty email, even figured out how to RSVP. But the fight for good manners isn’t over. We’re still struggling to tackle new situations, new dynamics. From social networking to social graces, gay hook-ups to public break-ups, gender politics, office politics and everything in between, we chart a civilised road out of every contemporary conundrum.

You have two gay friends and they’re single. Should you play cupid like you do with straight folks? Or are the rules different?

Nitin Karani, an activist for gay rights and the editor of LGBT magazine, Bombay Dost, thinks it’s best not to do it unless both have specifically asked to be set up. "Unless you’re very close friends and you know without a doubt that the person is looking to date, don’t try it.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2013/1/manners_brunch.jpgA lot of times, people are just confused about their sexuality and are figuring things out. What if the person is bisexual? Let them do their own finding of soulmates. A lot of gay people are sensitive about the subject after they’ve just come out. Don’t rush to play cupid unless you know for sure what mental space he or she is in. If and when they choose to discuss their love life with you, that’s a good time to gently ask if they’d like to be introduced to someone. But not before that."

You’ve been living together and sharing the rent equally. But the relationship’s over. So which one of you has to move out?
Logically, the one who moved in should be the one who moved out, believes relationship counsellor Varkha Chulani. “It’s only fair that the person who’s been there longer should stay. But if the couple rented a new place together, it might be a good idea for both to move into different houses,” she says. “I recommend a clean break. That way, neither feels vengeful or shortchanged. Parting ways can often turn ugly, so the conversation about the new living arrangements needs to happen before the animosity kicks in. Otherwise it just complicates the issue some more.”

No one tells their parents how much they earn these days. But a close friend has been blowing up money because there’s no one keeping tab. Is it better to intervene or just quietly watch the show?
Financial planner Dia Kirpalani says that before you jump in, it’s important to understand how your friend’s savings and investment plan compare to their income. “Just because it can be saved, doesn’t mean it has to. If your friend is
saving and investing enough, they’re within their rights to blow up the extra on frivolous fun. Intervene only if you think your friend isn’t thinking about the future at all,” says Dia. “Also, don’t offer advice, just gently introduce an idea. A
person’s finances are their private affair and even close friends need to tread carefully. If you truly believe your friend is being imprudent, casually discuss the idea of investing it so that they have more money to blow up later while still keeping their retirement fund. When it comes to monetary issues, don’t attack the person’s ways. It’ll never go down well.”

You like your boss. You even socialise outside office. But you don’t want him trawling through your FB wall and Twitter timeline. Is there a way to keep him off them?
Unfortunately, there are just two ways to do it: Have the uncomfortable conversation or ignore the friend request. Saurabh Kanwar, president of the digital marketing agency Flarepath, says that any attempt to keep people off your social network profiles will ultimately fail. Mostly information invariably leaks out. That’s a side effect of the ‘network’ part of social networks. “Don’t fight it, use it,” is Kanwar’s advice. “Add your boss as soon as you join. You might be able to subtly drip-feed them news of your hard work, late nights and ‘beyond the call of duty’ efforts. Your boss feels more plugged into your schedule, and may even supervise you less in the real world. It also lets you keep an eye on them. If you don’t want something to be seen, don’t post it. Just use email. Add seniors from prospective employers to your timelines – light public interaction with the competition keeps the boss nervous and insecure.”

You’re getting married. You want to call the exes. Most of them are friends now. Good idea?

Bollywood director Samar Khan opted out of inviting his exes to his wedding. But he wouldn’t dismiss the idea. "A lot depends on what age you’re getting married. I was 26. Most of my exes themselves were unmarried at the time. I thought it could lead to awkwardness. When you see the person-you-once-had-the-marriage-conversation-with tying the knot with someone else, it could feel like rejection. And the person might act a little inappropriately in an emotional moment. I didn’t want to put my bride or my exes through that stress. I’m 40 now and most of my exes today are married and with families of their own. If I was to get married today, I’d probably invite them because they’ve very clearly moved ahead in their lives."

You’ve been dating for a while and there’s the possibility of it becoming serious. You want to be completely honest. Do you spill all the secrets about your sexual past? Or is it none of your partner’s business?

According to journalist and author, Sathya Saran, full disclosure may not be the best idea. "It depends a lot on the person and the couple’s equation, but I think only you can really accept who you are. Others always have a point of view coloured by norms and society, so I think it might be best not to volunteer your entire sexual history. In novels like Tess Of The d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, the maiden who chooses to disclose to prove her trust and love always loses out. Incidentally, men almost never disclose their past, so why should women do it?"


A close friend recently started a family. You used to love hanging out but now, every time you make plans, the baby tags along. You didn’t sign up for the package deal. How should you broach the subject without sounding self-centred?
Chulani’s solution is that both parties meet halfway. “If you want a friendship exclusively with your friend, you can assume that the relationship is pretty much over already,” she says. “Very rarely will anyone be okay with letting a friendship cause trouble in their family. The single friend needs to make allowances for the one with the family. The one with kids needs to ensure some buddy-time alone with an old friend.”

You’re a salaried man and she’s a salaried woman. You really like her, but footing the bill all the time is really expensive. You guys should be going Dutch. How do you say it without sounding cheap?
Kirpalani thinks that it’s very important to be clear, in your head, what your capacity is and how much you’re willing to spend. Both for men and women. “What usually happens is that initially, men refuse to let the women pay, setting the norm for the relationship and later they can’t handle the financial strain of paying for everything. Most women today will offer to go Dutch or foot the bill after the first couple of dates. Men shouldn’t say no if they know they won’t be able to single-handedly foot all the bills all the time,” she says.
“Most men are uncomfortable going Dutch. But they should know that no sane salaried woman would take offence at having to pick up the cheque on alternate dates. Sharing expenses isn’t cheap, it’s how you do it that is cheap or classy. Don’t let her pay for the fancy dinners while you only take her out for a kathi roll. That would be cheap!” adds Kirpalani .

You like your in-laws and you love to see your little ones
bonding with them. But your kids are yours to raise the way you want to. How do you curb the
unwanted parenting advice?
Smriti Lamech, who writes a popular parenting blog Themadmomm, accepts that grandparents have a right to an opinion and have it heard. “But I also have the right to listen carefully and then make up my mind,” she says. “If I find it a regressive or gender-biased opinion and my kids are within hearing, I always debate the point so that my kids hear why I’m making that particular choice.”
Pratibha Rajesh, whose parenting blog Emotionalecology, is also quite popular, has laid down some non-negotiable rules, with the rest open for discussion. “Some things my in-laws know are my domain completely. Like disciplining my children. Once, when I raised my hand on my child, my mother-in-law intervened, I told her later that there were some things I was going to do my way. The trick is to lay down the rules the first time it
happens. If you let it slide for years and suddenly decide, ‘no more’ one fine day, they’re not going to be able to adjust to the shift in authority. But while I have such a tough stand on some things, they also know that they’re allowed to spoil the kids on their time, when they go visiting.”

Illustrations by Abhijeet Kini

From HT Brunch, January 6

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