“Polite” People Can Still Be Assholes – My Take

Just because you’re polite, doesn’t mean you’re not a piece of shit.

Throughout all of our lives, we have been told to do certain things because they are “polite.” Conversely, we have been told to refrain from doing certain other things because they are “not polite.” I’m here to say that it’s all a bunch of bullshit, and whether or not you follow these made-up rules has nothing to do with you actually being a good person or not. The problem with these rules though, is that shitty people can be like “I’m fucking awesome” solely because they say bless you every time someone near them sneezes. I have always felt that we put way too much emphasis on these silly, meaningless guidelines because, truthfully, acting polite and being a genuinely good person have almost nothing to do with each other. People that think acting polite does in fact make them a good person are like that kid you knew in college who thought drinking whiskey on the weekends instead of cheap beer made him a mature adult. That kid did not have life figured out just because halfway through junior year he decided to stand in the corner and sip Bulleit Bourbon while everyone else played flip cup. Similarly, following these bullshit “rules of politeness” doesn’t mean there’s no chance of you being an asshole.

When I was younger, I remember an older person in my life telling me that when someone offers you some sort of compensation after you do them a favor—for example, you drive someone somewhere and they offer you a few dollars for gas money—you’re supposed to refuse at first, and then accept once they re-offer after your first refusal. Things like that make me irrationally angry. It’s not polite to say no even though you know you’re going to say yes after they insist. You know what it is? A waste of everyone’s fucking time. Saying “Oh no, I couldn’t accept” every single time someone offers you some sort of kind gesture doesn’t make you a good person, it makes you annoying to be around. A lot of these “good manners” or “polite” rules feel like they were invented hundreds of years ago by old, boring, white men (as far as I’m aware those are the people who made every single rule in the history of rules), and we’re all just ignoring the fact that they don’t make any sense or are completely outdated. For example, I’ve never heard a good explanation for why it is considered impolite to wear a hat indoors, especially at some sort of fancy restaurant. It makes less than no sense. Why does it matter if I wear a fucking snapback while we’re all sitting around a table? Does it affect, in any way, the taste of your penne all vodka? No? Then leave me alone. Also, would my messy hair that I’m covering up with the hat be better? Honestly, wearing a hat so you don’t have to look at my bed head could actually be considered the courteous thing to do. I just have never understood or enjoyed the fact that someone could spend their days feeding the homeless, giving to charity, and rescuing stray animals but still be considered disrespectful because he keeps his hat on indoors. On the flip side, someone who runs a pyramid scheme and kicks puppies could be considered a real swell guy just because he takes his Yankees hat off as he sits down for dinner. It should take more than removing a hat, refusing $5 worth of gas money before eventually accepting it, or saying “excuse me” after an accidental burp to be considered a good person.

We’ve all known “polite” pieces of shit. Let me give you a couple of examples. We all had that friend in high school who was known by parents as “such a sweet kid” because he was always the most talkative, outgoing, and gregarious with them. But, that same kid was known by his friends as a complete asshole. He was the type of kid who would come over his friends house for a party and immediately shake the parents hands when he walked in and ask how their day was, but then four hours later he’d be puking on the carpet after getting too drunk, starting a fight, and breaking something in the backyard. Furthermore, we all knew that girl in college who posted Instagram pictures of her long-distance boyfriend all the time with the most beautifully nice, heartwarming, and well-written captions to ever exist. Originally, you would see her posts and be like “Oh, she seems sweet. They must be in love,” but then you would see her cheat on said boyfriend at a party literally every weekend. My point is, it’s not very hard to trick people into thinking you’re not an asshole.

To be fair, I understand that we have to act differently depending on who we are with, and where we are. Obviously, if you’re meeting your girlfriend’s parents for the first time then you’re not going to show up to dinner wearing a tank top and a hat, start ordering shots, and ignoring all rules of politeness. That’s just common sense. But, wouldn’t the world just be a little bit better if we all agreed we didn’t have to put this act on all the time. Sure, if you’re in a job interview and the interviewer sneezes then, of course, you’re going to say bless you. I get that. But also, fuck that. I understand that it is a very silly and small thing to get worked up over and write an entire blog about (thank you quarantine for giving me the time to do so.) But, the reason I feel so strongly about it is not because I don’t want to say bless you, it is because some people—usually older people—will make legitimate conclusions about you and your character if you just simply forget to say it. That seems like some bullshit. And by the way, it is believed that saying bless you after someone sneezes originated from people thinking that a person’s soul could be thrown from their body when they sneezed, and that sneezing opened the body to invasion by the devil or evil spirits. Essentially, I could not be offered a job if I forget to say bless you during an interview in 2020 because people with seasonal allergies back in the day thought the devil was coming for their souls.

I want it make it clear that I’m not saying we should just ignore all manners or rules of politeness. Instead, what I’m saying is that I wish we would start judging people based on like… what they do and how they treat people, rather than if they say some made-up term after a sneeze. I’m not a historian but I’m pretty sure that is what Martin Luther King Jr. said right after he talked about people being judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Also, I want to make it clear that I know I sound like a young, naive, 23-year-old idiot who is just like “Hey man, all that matters is what’s on the inside man. Fuck the system and all their rules. They’re just trying to keep us down!” And maybe I am that young, naive, 23-year-old idiot. Or, maybe I just want to keep my hat on.

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