Of Plato and Politesse

Gentle Reader, this week’s edition of Delyte’s Deportment has a few particularly tricky situations. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Our first query also happens to be the very first submission to the column! The anonymous Gentle Reader writes:

What is the difference between romantic and platonic relationships? By platonic, I don’t mean simply a man and a woman that are friends and don’t have sex (outdated and heteronormative – yuck!), but any strong friendship. It seems that sex would be the obvious answer, but people have sex without any romantic aspect to the relationship at all, while platonic friends may feel so intensely about each other that the feelings could be described as romantic.

Film Noir

Without going into an elaborate explanation of the romantic-aromantic spectrum – it’s a topic for another time, I feel – is intimacy. As you note, Gentle Reader, a lot of people take this to mean physical intimacy – but as we all know, sex and love aren’t the same thing at all. No, here I mean real emotional intimacy, and mental intimacy. You may certainly be close to a platonic friend, and that friendship may be particularly intense, though – and you’re wondering where exactly the line between them lies.

Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Did anyone ever figure out the Fitzgeralds? Did *they*?

The truth is, an intense friendship can be confusing as hell, and the people involved can easily interpret the friendship in different ways – one can believe that romance is budding, while the other desires to keep things platonic. However, if two people truly have the degree of intimacy necessary to make those lines start to blur, they should certainly be intimate enough to have a frank and honest conversation about where they both stand on the matter. In some cases, that’s the only way to tell. Good luck, Gentle Reader.

Our next question comes from Ms. H. She writes:

What do you do when you are allergic to shellfish or salmon and that is all they have at the buffet?

Crawfish

Gah!

Well, Ms. H., if you know that that’s all they’ll be serving at the buffet before you show up at whatever the function is, you’d do well to eat before you get there, or else stay home. The only situation I can see where you’d know in advance what they were serving and be unable to get out of going is a wedding or something equally compulsory. In such a case, as I said, eat before you get there – and when you arrive, take a small serving of whatever dish it is you can’t actually eat, to be polite. Don’t eat it, of course; you’ll die! Just smear it around your plate a bit, and smile as best you can.

If you don’t know in advance that all your hosts are serving are things that you can’t eat, follow the advice above – take a small portion, smush it up, and smile – and then leave as soon as you’re politely able to, so that you can have something to eat. Know your hosts aren’t being intentionally rude; there are so many dietary restrictions for so many guests, and it’s difficult to keep track. If it’s a buffet at a restaurant or a casino and not at a private event, why are you even asking? Leave and go someplace else!

Buffet

Our last query is more of a general statement – there was originally a query attached, but out of respect for the individual’s privacy, I’m going to talk for a moment about accepting, declining, and issuing casual invitations. 

Inviting someone to anything – the theatre, to dinner, an evening out – or over to one’s home, for a party or a casual family supper – all of it is generally meant in a friendly fashion. However, sometimes one is forced to decline an invitation – perhaps one doesn’t have the money for an evening out, or one doesn’t feel close enough to you to meet your family just yet. What’s important to note is that the person declining the invitation, technically speaking, need offer no explanation. Every major etiquette book of the last century agrees on this point: A simple “I’m sorry, I can’t” or “No, thank you.” are both perfectly acceptable answers. However, often the invitee feels pressured to make some excuse, and that’s where the trouble starts.

Eye Roll

If you, Invitee, give an excuse to be polite, it’s only going to escalate. The Inviter will be able to trump most of your trumped-up excuses until you’re unable to get out of whatever you’re trying to get out of. If you must offer an excuse, make sure it’s something that the Inviter can’t just handwave away – unless you genuinely would like to go except for an obstacle that the Inviter can just handwave away. In that case, feel free.

Inviters, by the way, you’re not off the hook. By continuing to pressure the poor Invitee instead of graciously accepting their declination, you’re being very rude. After issuing an invitation and being turned down, you’re allowed one – ONE – chance to say something like “Aww, c’mon. It’s my treat.” If they turn you down again, STOP. You’ll save everyone a great deal of frustration and pain.

Right! As ever, if you have a pressing matter of etiquette or merely require advice, my in-box is always open to you. Have a good week, Gentle Reader!

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About Ty DeLyte

Madame DeLyte has suffered a grave disappointment - YET AGAIN - and still believes that freedom, beauty, and truth are what's valuable, rather than vulgar cash. He'd add love to that list - but, well, what can he say about love?
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One Response to Of Plato and Politesse

  1. Sarah Spectacular says:

    A friend of mine suggested that the only difference between a romantic relationship and a platonic one is the baggage that gets projected onto the romantic relationship. A sorry state of affairs – or is that the baggage talking?

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