Ruth’s Rules: Take Two


And now, for a caffeine-powered rewrite. Let’s call this a Second First Draft. A do-over. A mulligan. Not because Megan’s post was so fan-fucking-tastic (my niece is a senior in high school now; I get to use the Eff Word) that I feel competitive. No, it’s more that–ever since I rushed to do yesterday’s post and spent the rest of the day & night skimming over it–I can’t shake this feeling of having portrayed myself as The Unaware Embodiment of Miss Manners-Turned-Curmudgeon.

I figure I might as well embrace the fact that this blog is like a written word version of the glass blower’s shop. If you chose to read here, you’re sort of walking by watching me do my thing. I’m wearing overalls and grimy smudges on my wrists and chin. You might even see sweat now & again ’cause the …. Yeah, I’ll put the metaphor down.  “Step away from the metaphor.”  Here goes.


Confession: I walk on the bike path

There was a time when I was in-between jobs that I began to feel like the self-proclaimed Boss of Everyone.  I actually said to a telephone customer service person once, “That sounded condescending. Would you like to try again?” And he did. And we got along fine.

I’ve asked to see the manager and have said things like, “I don’t want you to apologize. I just want you to know that when you train your staff in the future you might want to remind them to double check that they’ve taken the sensor off the garment.”

Thank God, I’ve had a couple of wonderful mentors who skillfully modeled hands-free empowerment. I’ve heard things like, “I trust you implicitly,” and “Whatever you think is best.” They’ve shown me that stepping back is a great tool. I’m far from mastering a truly easy going outlook but if it weren’t for them, (how does the saying go?) I’d be all up in your grill.

I wander through my daily existence silently micro-managing the entire universe but by the time I actually act on any of my judgements, a whole decade’s worth of self-help has come in to play. My favorite therapist said to me once, “It must be hard being inside your head.” There’s a never-ending wrestling match of thoughts going on in here. It’s exhausting. Yet, inescapable.

There’s one person I can’t protect myself from: myself. I’m a hard to please hedonist with High Standards for Daily Conduct, a rule follower who loves to make up rules. Here’s how I try to live.


  • DON’T litter.
  • DO clean up after yourself.
  • DO remove yard sale signs after the event.
  • DON’T open candy packages in the movie theater unless the soundtrack is loud enough to camouflage the noise.
  • DON’T blow your nose in public unless you’re having a severe nasal discharge emergency.
  • DO carry keep your wallet and cell phone with you as a matter of earthquake preparedness.
  • DON’T groom in public. This includes nail trimming and filing, brow plucking, hair brushing and teeth picking.
  • DO tip 20% if the service is adequate or better.
  • DON’T tip less than 15%, even if the service is poor.
  • DON’T J-walk.
  • DO offer people with only a few items at the grocery store the opportunity to move ahead of you in line.
  • DON’T double dip.


  • DO offer all guests a beverage.
  • DON’T watch local TV “news” shows unless you can actually hear helicopters flying overhead.
  • DO play music during social events but keep the volume low enough to allow conversation.
  • DO keep the television turned off unless viewing a program is the purpose of the gathering or you’ve got a muted looping reel of amazing Hong Kong action sequences.
  • DO use cloth napkins.
  • DO allow double dipping if it’s an immediate-family-only crock of dip.


  • DO say, “please” and “thank you.”
  • DO return phone calls and e-mails eventually. An e-mail can be returned with a phone call and vice versa, but occasionally use the other person’s preferred method of contact if it differs from yours.
  • DO strive for correct punctuation and grammar always – even in e-mails and texts.
  • DO proofread. Repeatedly.
  • DO treat all other people with kindness. This usually starts with seeing them but may, on occasion, mean letting them go unseen.
  • DON’T lie.
  • DO protect other people’s privacy both in the written word and in conversation.
  • DO remember that people have different ideas about what is private.
  • DO send thank you notes – preferably hand-written and snail mailed.
  • DON’T say, “No problem” as a response to “Thank you.”
  • DO strive to listen to what the other person is saying without silently formulating a response during their turn to talk.
  • DO apologize if compelled to interrupt.


  • DON’T hit, bite or scratch.
  • DO pay attention to your emotions.
  • DO allow 20 minutes for anger to physiologically subside before acting.
  • DON’T steal.
  • DON’T put your purse, handbag or backpack on a tabletop, desk or bar.
  • DO look for and act on opportunities to be helpful to others.
  • DON’T meddle.
  • DO chew with your mouth closed.
  • DO smile.
  • DO put on your own oxygen mask on first – metaphorically and literally.
  • DO allow yourself to break the rules.
  • DO remember that other people have their own rules. They are different from–and may, in fact, be in direct opposition to–your rules. Other people will not (nor are they obligated to) follow, know or even care about your rules.

Now, I can only imagine, if some friends of mine are reading this, what they must be thinking. They know me. They’ve waited for Thank You notes I’ve forgotten to mail. They know the ways I belligerently fail to follow their rules. I’m not talking about weird, eccentric preferences like my “No problem” hang up, I’m talking about commonly accepted rules in our culture that I blatantly neglect to follow. “Has she no shame?” Oh, I’ve got shame. So a confession is in order.


  • I’m usually late. I have gotten slightly better about this over the years. But my past transgressions are so embarrassing that I feel as if I’ll never fully make up for the damages.
  • I don’t politely try food cooked by my hosts.
  • I don’t always help with the dishes when I’m a guest.
  • I err on the selfish side. That is to say I often put my own preferences first and I live from a general place of self-centeredness.
  • I can be tactlessly honest.
  • I interrupt too often.
  • I use swear words way too often.
  • I miss my own typos time & time again.
  • I’m self-deprecating to the point of seeming to fish for compliments. I need to learn to keep myself in check about this.
  • I walk on the bike path.

3 thoughts on “Ruth’s Rules: Take Two

  1. I enjoyed your first version, but this one is better. I like the framing of the prelude (well, not the part where you think my post is fantastic – wait, no, I do like that. Who wouldn’t, so, um, thanks) but the general framing. I like the tighter list. It has a better flow. And I like the confessions section. I also interrupt, miss typos, use swear words and occasionally indulge my low self-esteeem and fish for compliments.

    I also like how you pulled back the curtain and let us watch you work – letting both posts exist up here side by side. Well done.

    Thanks. I’m so grateful for this virtual workshop.

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