Since I’m obviously not a Southerner and no amount of browbeating will ever change that, my brain simply isn’t wired for passive aggressive or that weird thing called subtlety. I have some clever ideas that I think are mighty fine solutions to the terminally tardy family member.
1. If she doesn’t show up on time to the next family dinner, we put her dinner out on the front porch when the rest of us sit down to eat. When she arrives an hour late and sees the neighborhood cats polishing off her cold steak she may start to get a clue.
2. If she’s late to the next family gathering at a restaurant, we have a tall dunce cap with sparklers that she will have to wear if she wants to join us. If she refuses to wear it then we collectively ban her from the table.
3. If she’s late to an outdoor gathering, we pack up and move a mile down the road within the first 30 minutes of her no-show, and we don’t leave a trail of breadcrumbs for her to find us.
4. If she’s late to a wedding or a funeral, we instruct the ushers not to let her in the church (I mean, really, to waltz into a church in the middle of a wedding so that everyone will stop looking at the bride and groom and look at you as you curtsy and whisper your apologies. How . . . unSouthern.)
5. And if all else fails, we throw a black hood over her head as she leaves for work one morning, kidnap her and bring her to a clandestine location in the woods, and beat her severely with Miss Manners etiquette books.
No, Miss Manners probably would not be pleased with that last recommendation. In fact, she probably wouldn’t care for any of them. I know what Miss Manners would say because I researched it on the Internet. Her solution? “When you are the host, tell your guests when dinner will be served (‘Please come at 7; we’ll be eating at 7:30’) and go ahead with that schedule, telling anyone who arrives late, ‘I knew you wouldn’t want us to wait for you.’”
And that is probably what we’ll do from now on. We’ll simply plan our dinners and events and carry along as if she’s not coming at all. And until someone grows the guts to confront her about her unacceptable behavior (or just gives me the green light because I have no shortage of guts), we’ll just be Southern and pretend it’s not happening.
I can live with this because, like I said earlier, you make concessions for certain things in life, and if something is important enough to you then you can learn to adapt to just about any situation.
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