Arcynta Ali Childs in Smithsonian:
Through September 5, the National Portrait Gallery is displaying 60 paintings on loan from private collections in Washington, D.C. Among the portraits is that of Judith Martin, better known as advice columnist “Miss Manners.” The first lady of etiquette spoke with the magazine’s Arcynta Ali Childs.
What etiquette breach do you most dislike?
The major etiquette problem in American nowadays is blatant greed. It’s people who are scheming to get money and possessions from other people, and who believe they are entitled to do so. Whether it is the gift registry—or people who claim to be entertaining and are telling their guests to bring food, to bring drink and sometimes even to pay—the ancient practices of exchanging presents and of giving hospitality are being undermined by this rampant greed.
In a December 2010 survey, Travel + Leisure magazine rated Washington, D.C. as the fifth rudest city in America. As a Washington, D.C. native, etiquette authority and frequent traveler, what are your thoughts?
I’m often told that when I travel. And I have to say to these people, whom are you talking about? I was born in Washington, and I’m not rude. You’re talking about people that you sent here. You’re talking about people you voted for and you sent to Washington. So if you have complaints, and when people do, they often say to me, well what can we do about it? I said the answer there is something called an election. That’s something you can do about it. The idea has gotten around that people who are virtuous are unable to restrain themselves by the decencies of etiquette and unable to deal with people who disagree with them. And therefore, the people who are the most contentious often win elections. But the voters forget, first of all, that we have a cooperative form of government. They have to get along if they’re going to get anything done. And second of all, that they themselves don’t like it. They think thatit’s amusing during the races, but then they don’t like it afterwards. So don’t vote for it. These are not native-born Washingtonians.