Tag Archives: Social Rules

The Social Catalyst

Last weekend I spent 4 1/2 days riding about 1,200 miles with about 80 motorcycle friends with Backroads motorcycle magazine.

I say 80 friends because at the end of each day everyone would congregate at the hotel, have a drink and swap stories and it always amazes me how easy it is to talk to anyone in this crowd.  Stick out your hand in introduction and you’ll be chatting like long lost buddies within minutes.


As something of a social observer this was an excellent opportunity to watch a lot of different interactions in a very short space of time, and I started to see a pattern I had never seen before.

Certain people (who I won’t name to avoid embarrassment) have the amazing ability to liven up almost any conversation whenever they join a group.  Within minutes the level of laughter and energy will move up a notch, and the effect lasts long after they have left too.

The characteristics of these social catalysts seem to be equal part a great sense of humor, broad knowledge of a wide variety of subjects, keen observation skills which they use to tease people with, and a certain amount of irreverence where they will happily delve into subjects that polite conversation might steer clear of.

Having noticed it, it was hard not to notice, even when they joined a conversation I was in.

Sadly I don’t count myself as one of these social unicorns.  But maybe I can use these observations to help improve my future social interactions.  Either that or I’m going to end up with a bloody nose.


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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Life - or something like it

Why Does She Do It?

Mince Pie

Image via Wikipedia

Sheila Ellison‘s book “How Does She Do It?” is about the difficulties one woman faces trying to balance a busy career with the demands of home life.

The book starts at 1:37 a.m. on an average night with our heroine, Kate Reddy, carefully distressing store-bought mince pies with a rolling-pin so that they’ll look homemade for her daughter’s school Christmas party.  She then hides the pie boxes so that her nanny won’t tell the other nannies that Kate ‘cheated’ on the pies.

Seriously? I was so struck by how dumb this appeared that I canvassed the opinion of a few people, including my wife.  Without exception all of the men agreed they would have delivered the pack of mince pies without a second thought, and all of the mothers totally understood why ‘Kate’ felt compelled to go to such lengths.

Clearly the book should not have been called How Does She Do It but, instead, Why Does She Do It?

Why is it that people (usually women?) insist on creating convoluted social rules that make people jump through hoops to get things done?

Does it really matter that this woman didn’t bake the cakes herself?  Surely the task was to deliver something edible and festive and, frankly, I know several people for whom the first part of that statement would be huge a challenge.  It wasn’t that long ago when a store-bought cake was seen as a special treat.  That was when time was available and money was harder to come by.   Now that free time is so elusive, whose bright idea was it to make up rules designed to use up the scarcest resource available ?

When I hear women complain that they never have enough time, I have to admit that I often see it as self-inflicted.  I have no problem with a clean house, but does it need to be constantly ready for a photo shoot for Architectural Digest?  I don’t think so.  Throw a few kids into that situation and this is a recipe for constant frustration.

So, here’s a new social rule for you.  If you make up social rules that go beyond what is really necessary, or abide by  ‘unnecessary’ rules created by others in your social group, then you are not allowed to complain that you don’t have enough time. There…the lack of complaining should give you a little more time in your day already.

People who have watched Seinfeld will be aware that he made up crazy social rules, and had a good deal of success getting society to accept them.  The “double dip” is a great example.  So I am going to take a page from his book and create an “Anti-dumb Rule rule. Not only that, but I am going to put a handy Get Out of Jail Free card at the end of this post for use in future situations.

Here’s a few examples where the card can be used:

1. Wearing the same dress.
I know this is hard to understand, but just because your friends have seen you in that dress before, does NOT mean that it should be thrown to the back of the closet never to be seen again.   Here’s a simple flow diagram to help you – ‘no’ answers take the right fork:

2. Hand writing addresses on holiday cards.
Yes, I have just gone through the holiday season and, once again, tediously hand wrote the envelope on each card.  Aside from the fact that this takes time, my handwriting would make the average doctor look like a calligraphy expert, thus ensuring that these envelopes are both unattractive and may never actually reach their destination.  And why is it that when you can’t remember if you have the most up to date address you are not allowed to just call them and ask?

3.  Bringing gifts when you visit someone.
It’s nice to bring a gifts.  But when you avoid visiting your friends just because you don’t have to ‘knock with your elbows’, then I think the world is a colder and less friendly place.  If these are real friends, then simply spending time with them will be a gift in itself – a bottle of wine isn’t going to add much, other than providing something they can pass along to the next person they visit.

There are many more, but I would really love to hear your versions of silly social rules – there have to be hundreds of these things.  Heck…maybe I’ll even turn them into a book!

So here is my gift to you – a Get Out of Jail Free card for those silly social situations.

Simply print, cut out, and keep in your wallet.  If you want to get really serious, then I would suggest laminating it. Whenever you are short on time, or just not feeling it, simply show the card and other people are banned from complaining.  Done!  You are now free to only partake of the baking, cleaning, shopping, gift-giving, that you WANT to do or that are NECESSARY to keep people clean, clothed and fed.  Enjoy the freedom, and you are welcome!


Filed under Children, Life - or something like it, The Human Condition