Learn the Rules (So You Know When to Break Them): Eleanor Roosevelt Gets It

I want to say my fascination with etiquette books started in college, but the truth of the matter is that it started a whole lot earlier. When I was still in middle school, I found a copy of Lisa Birnbach's THE OFFICIAL PREPPY HANDBOOK in my local used bookstore, and I've been hooked on etiquette ever since. 

In the intervening years, I've amassed shelves upon shelves of these tomes: the weirder, the better. I keep a third edition of Emily Post's ETIQUETTE on my desk at all times (still looking for a first edition in good condition that doesn't cost an arm and a leg), but my favorites are the obscure, the bizarre, and the downright odd. I thought I might bring you, dear reader, some of the gems of my collection.

Eleanor Roosevelt's Book of Common Sense Etiquette

Let's start with some advice from our pal Eleanor (side note, her mother nicknamed her Granny because she was so serious, which... I mean, I just love her for that). In the introduction, Granny says,

"Etiquette, from my point of view, is not just a matter of knowing how a lunch or dinner should be served, or what the 'proper' behavior is in this or that situation. There are many correct ways of behaving in almost any situation, and many proper ways of doing those things for which there are precise rules in formal etiquette books. But the basis of all good human behavior is kindness. If you really act toward people in your home and out of it with kindness, you will never go far wrong."

Hit the nail right on the head with that one, Granny. (I'm just going to keep calling her Granny.) And while we'll get to some of the precise rules she references in other posts, I wanted to start here, with that. Because that's some really freaking good advice. 

I wanted to start this series with this book, and this quote, in particular, because it is the single rule I will almost never (There are a few select times that are the exception, of course. See: Nazis.) advocate breaking. More than anything, it is important that we, as writers who are, one and all, humans first, remember kindness. Kindness to our readers, kindness to our colleagues, kindness to ourselves. 

BUT! As a writer of YA with a whole lot of romance, the following statement in particular, caught my attention. I want to leave you with this quote from Granny on the subject of teenage love.

"I have no patience with older people who attempt to laugh off their youngsters' love affairs with such terms as "puppy love," "infatuation" and the like. Love is love, and it is a matter of simple fact that boys and girls in their teens may fall in love as deeply, as seriously, and as devastatingly-- perhaps even as lastingly-- as when they are older"

Granny gets it.

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