The amazing story of two 40-something women on the path to matrimonial bliss

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Friday, June 10, 2011

West Coast Etiquette

While I cannot claim to be a jet-setter, I have travelled a bit and even lived in other parts of the U.S.--but here I am on the West Coast and to be honest, the pacing, culture and climate suit me.  It may be my region of origin, but it also where I choose to live and with that comes some definite realities about the way we do things here on the West Coast.

Teri will tell people that she is from all over, being from a military family--but she is actually from all over the East Coast.  She mostly likes it here (but wishes there was more warm sun) and thinks that compared to the rest of her East Coast family, she is pretty laid back, but she still has East Coast flare-ups on a somewhat regular basis. I actually get a big kick out of the differences.

I don't know what region of the U.S. standard manners and etiquette are created for, but I can tell you that what is expected and okay in the Southern part of the nation and what is expected and okay in the Midwest are not necessarily the same.  For example, on the East Coast people stand on line and expect others to do the same: you get into a queue, you have your selection, purchases, money, etc. ready and you do what you need to do quickly and move out of the way.  Here on the West Coast, we don't exactly do lines--everyone sort of mills about and moves loosely in the general direction of the counter, gate, etc. and then we casually slide through.  Heaven forbid any of us be accused of following the herd!   When we are forced to stand IN a line (as opposed to ON one), it better be short and our surrounding compadres are expected to be friendly and casually chatty.

As we've been planning our Wedding, we have been quite aware that some of the etiquette rules are not really tweaked for the West Coast (WC.)  First, we know for a fact that RSVPs and assigned seating are not the norm here (but we are attempting both with plenty of wiggle room and WC adjustments.)  Likewise, there is absolutely no way we could get away with a reception menu that didn't have plenty of non-carnivorous selections--it isn't about providing a little salad for the vegans and vegetarians here, it is about providing a little meat for those who still expect it.

When it comes to manners and etiquette, there are things that drive me crazy about the West Coast: timeliness is not considered necessary, people assume RSVPs are optional or left over for looks, everyone assumes that hugs are a goddess-given social norm, throwing anything away is subject to peer pressure and scrutiny, and everyone thinks it is perfectly okay to impose their food preferences, addiction issues and political ideology on whomever and whatever.

On the flip side, there are realities that I not only accept, but actually appreciate about WC culture: we genuinely welcome newbies and strangers and will always make room for more, we don't expect things to be gender segregated (no need for that old boy-girl-boy-girl seating rule), we are not daunted by rain, no one gets insulted if you start without them (since being on time is optional), we can talk about politics, religion and current events without personalizing, we'll almost always jump in to help someone move, we pretend we can't be shocked by anything, and meal times are flexible.

The truth is, as we plan our Wedding celebration, we've known that we can try to impose some etiquette onto the event, but since it is a WC affair, we've got to make room for the way things are really done around here and that includes a strong dusting of "Whatever..."

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