New York Magazine has published an exhaustive new set of “rules” that touches on everything from tipping at bodegas to making small talk with celebrities to recovering from mis-gendering a new acquaintance.
I found myself nodding along to some of the pronouncements: “Don’t go into a phone vortex at dinner,” treat and tip waiters and bartenders well and, most obvious of all, wear shoes in the office.
Too bad, then, that many of the whopping 140 etiquette lessons are so deeply infantilizing.
According to the magazine, thick-skinned, sharp-elbowed, ball-busting New Yorkers should be preoccupied with one thing: avoiding offending sensitive, self-centered people who hunt this concrete jungle in search of microaggressions.
If their list is any indication, we’re trying to make it at Oberlin, not the city Sinatra sang about. Among the highlights:
- “Don’t address two or more women as ladies.” From men, it’s “oddly creepy”; from women, it’s “an unnecessary attempt to feign some kind of unity.” I agree. Call us broads.
- “Avoid vague and cliche euphemisms for your privilege.” This one made me question if I actually comprehend the English language.
- “Accents aren’t ‘cute’. It’s condescending to describe them thusly.” Fine, I will use “adorable” next time.
- “Don’t be loudly naive about dating apps if you’re in a relationship.” Apparently, curiosity is offensive and should only be expressed at low volumes.
- “White people should always clearly pronounce 50 Cent. He’s not Fiddy for you.” Immutable characteristics dictate permissible use of language. Unless the topic is about misgendering someone (there are two rules on the topic), in which case the proper use of language is driven by self-identity. Got it?
- “Don’t tell people they look like other people … because it is potentially insulting.” Unless I’m comparing you to Sloth from the “Goonies,” take it as a compliment.
Amidst this intersectional jumble of new mores, there are several edicts about tipping. And they’re wildly out of touch with real New Yorkers who are struggling to pay for soaring rents and inflated food bills.
“At coffee shops, coffee carts, cafes and bodegas, tip at least 20%,” we’re told.
That means the next time I spend $6 on a muffin or $20 on a coffee, eggs and milk, I’m expected to throw the counter worker 20% for touching a button on the register. I don’t even get a bag to carry my purchases with that.
As an ever-so-helpful addendum, they added that “an item that involves no preparation,” such as some stale, plastic-wrapped Fig Newtons, requires no tip. Though they call it “miserly” not to do so.
The lone tip I could offer the man at my corner bodega is telling him to dust in the chip aisle. It hasn’t seen a cloth since the Koch administration.
And yet, we still patronize these imperfect places because they are part of the city’s DNA. An expectation of gratuity would make shopping there too cost-prohibitive and perhaps make it more beneficial to order from Amazon — a practice I’ve happily avoided.
This list should have been whittled down to a few useful ideas: If someone is wearing a mask, don’t ask why, because who the hell cares. Help women and old people carry their strollers and carts up the subway steps. Walk fast. Be nice to your cab driver. Don’t eat pizza with a fork and knife.
And lighten the f–k up.