By The Front Porch Talker
“Hurt people hurt.” (“Greenberg”)
Don’t expect a sociopath to steal the silverware, or anything untoward in that regard. No, they will be too busy stealing your whole life out from under you! But, as I like to say: That’s no excuse for bad manners!
Luckily for us all, I am writing my own as-yet unfinished etiquette book called, Mind Your Own Business: Etiquette for the Clueless! It is written in that easy-to-read style, with bullets and cute reminders and hints, just like those ”˜Dummies’ books that presently insult your bookcase, along with your eight-track tapes and picture frames you got at Goodwill—the ones that still have somebody’s family pictures in the frames”¦
But, as usual, I digress in my southern-fashion. Anywho, my etiquette tome is unlike any you’ve read. I dare say that Emily Post would roll over in her proper little grave! And the rest of those stuffy types can just stick an olive with a toothpick for all I care!
Hint (smiley face here): Remember to buy toothpicks, then read on!
I call this chapter “Etiquette for Entertaining Sociopaths and Other Bad Eggs Your Mother SHOULD HAVE Warned You About! I call this mini-section, my “Helpful Hints For Staying Alive” told in a Susan Powder in-your-face attitude, with a slow, ”˜Ellie-Mae’ accent.
Remember: (bullet here) We are not discussing your normal, dysfunctional family here, a few of whom may actually have a stabbing contest at the dinner table over a chicken butt or a wishbone (you know who you are!). If you are in danger, put this book down and call the authorities. (On second thought: don’t bother.)
QUICK REMINDER: (insert pointing finger here) These guests are criminals! Sociopaths are not your friends! But they MAY be your relatives or spouses, or even guests in your home—someone the cat dragged in! It’s YOUR job to drag them out again—with grace and style, of course.
In my best Sergeant Friday tone, let me say: “These are REAL criminals, ma’am! I don’t mean your run-of-the-mill petty thieves or people of that ilk who will rob you blind, including that huge glass ashtray sitting on your coffee table. These men and women are MISFITS looking to wreak havoc in your house and home, with your polite guests, while you are in the kitchen discussing your recipe for Chicken Fricassee!
REMINDER: (BULLET HERE) Don’t be fooled!
QUESTION: (skip ahead) But, you may politely ask, how can I recognize a Sociopath or other miscreant when I see one? Do they dress in a particular style—say paisleys from the seventies, or like the ”˜Mod Squad’s’ Peggy Lipton?
ANSWER: (skip back) No, using the universal ANALOGY (SEE DEFINITION OF ANALOGY IN READER’S DIGEST’S “Word-A-Day” Section) of television from the sixties and seventies: this would be more akin to the “Twilight Zone.” The episode where you’re having guests over for dinner.
The men are pouring themselves a Scotch from a decanter and smoking cigarettes in the living room. The women are wiping their hands on their aprons, and working hard in the kitchen. Suddenly, while standing in the kitchen reading each other the Green Jello recipe, it happens: The twilight zone! Do NOT adjust your television set! You’ve just entered the twilight zone, where everything can and WILL happen.
BACK TO THE ETIQUETTE (insert wink here) and HELPFUL HINTS SECTION, IN THE PRESENT: (you are still in the kitchen, forty years later!)
So, meanwhile, your sociopathic guest will work the room—your newly decorated living room, of course! They are the ones hitting on your best friend! What do you do next? Well, you could do something tacky, like pulling the rug out from under them, thereby tripping said sociopath, narcissist or other miscreants before they can glad-hand your best friend, or you!
But that would be so vulgar and obvious, thereby ruining your own good name. Well, if that is the case you’d have to do a ”˜Kathy Bates’ as in “Fried-Green Tomatoes,” where, after bumping another car out of a parking spot she calls, “I have better insurance!”
You might even try something a little more subtle, although it will be completely lost on everybody else in the room. Personally, I like to wait until dessert is being served. In this case, I like to serve a light and fresh dessert, which I like to call my “Green Jello Surprise.”
Or in my special thematic presentation I call it my “Green Jello Sociopath Surprise!” (no, it’s not poison, unless of course you consider Green dye #3 poison!)
Seriously now, my dear reader, how many fine desserts have been discovered by accident while making something else? I can think of three: the Nutella chocolate falls into the peanut-butter (or is it the other way around?)—voila! You have Reese’s Peanut-butter cups! And what about the Rice Krispies merging with marshmallow mix—voila! You have Marshmallow Rice Krispie Treats!
And then there is my own special lite-and-lovely dessert, which I discovered quite by accident back in my Home Economics Cooking class. My friends (and you know who you are!) refer to it as my “Green Jello with Fruit-cocktail Surprise” (and in this case, sociopath surprise). I was minding my own business, as usual, making a simple Green Jello recipe for Parents’ Night.
But, I was so nervous that I completely forgot to add the proverbial canned fruit cocktail and my proverbial bottled red cherries. Imagine my surprise when Mrs. Simmons, my eighth-grade Home Ec teacher asked me, “Where is the fruit cocktail?”
You can imagine my humiliation standing there in my recently sewn yellow apron and my recently sewn pink and orange stripped shift (no darts!). There I stood in Home Ec—a regular Scarlet Letter, with a capital G (for Green) on my flat chest. I can still hear the heckling and jeering from the other girls—they can be so mean when it comes to being “different.”
I tell you this quaint little story in Martha Stewart fashion (as she tells the origins of her napkin-folding tricks), because this Green Jello Fruit-Cocktail-and cherries-Surprise (ala sociopath!) is perfect for this setting. Here’s the recipe: make your Green Jello , following the recipe on the boxes (you’ll need at least three); BUT, FORGET TO ADD THE FRUIT COCKTAIL AND CHERRIES. Refrigerate your Jello until it is Gelled properly.
Then, the surprise: take your Jello out of the fridge and spear your fruit cocktail and cherries with toothpicks! Then you’d stab those toothpicks into your Jello Mold. After that, spray a can or two of whipped cream over the whole thing, and voila! Green Jello Surprise (for sociopaths)!
I can see them now, my guests are politely eating dessert: green fruit cocktail jello with a dollop of whipped-cream, remarking to you: ”˜Where did you get this recipe?”
You lock eyes with the sociopath who asked you this question. You stand there like it’s ”˜High Noon at the Okay Corral,” just watching Mister or Miss Smarty-pants Sociopath sucking down the jello. Then, you say: “Oh, that’s my Jello surprise recipe! Did I forget to remove the toothpicks from the fruit-cocktail before I put it in the fridge?”
You will notice—for once—this sociopath will gag on his/her own words—literally! It’s precious, really. Meanwhile, you just keep walking back to the kitchen for more Cool Whip!
Although your relatives and friends may be dÃ©classÃ©, at least they do have a conscience, or so you would imagine. That is more than I can say about sociopaths. They are in a class of their own, and sometimes find their way into ours, too. You’ll know when you meet one. To them: your questions are beyond dispute. To them: their actions are beyond reproach. To them: you are simply a commodity to be traded for favors (yours), money (yours) and even life (also yours). It is never about them.
And, as a corollary: it is always about you. No, wait: it is always about them. No, wait: it is always about whatever a sociopath WILLS it to be about. That is the point: them! So, you may as well concede that point, because you will never win for losing. But you WILL lose for winning! That’s an easy way to remember it. There must be a pneumonic for that one!
My mother, God rest her soul, went beyond what is expected in polite company: she married sociopaths! You know how the women of that generation are—need I mention Zsa Zsa Gabor (God rest her soul) (Oh, excuse me! I must quote Monty Python—she’s not dead yet!), or the other Gabor sisters? Then you have Debbie Reynolds and let’s not forget Liz Taylor, too. I believe it would be kosher to include Michael Jackson (God rest his/her soul) in this bunch. They either were sociopaths or married them—numerous times.
My mother was like that too. She also loved to watch ”˜The Dean Martin Show,’ when he sang, “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime;” except she took this literally: she married everybody every time! Unfortunately, ”˜every time’ she got taken for all she was worth!
I am proud to say that I have inherited her genes in this regard. Bless her heart, she has given me plenty of life challenges that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn about the hard way without her influence. So, you see: there is ALWAYS something POSITIVE you can learn. Or, as I like to say: when you have GREEN JELLO (and fruit cocktail and cherries), make Green Jello Surprise! Your guest sociopath will leave before you’ve even served the decaf coffee to go with it. So, chew on that toothpick a while.
HELPFUL REMINDER: IT IS DANGEROUS TO SWALLOW A TOOTHPICK. (insert ”˜knowing smile hereJ See the episode of House, M.D. where a young Romani man accidentally swallows a toothpick while making-out with his girlfriend. Enter: House!)
Meanwhile, it is I, your Front Porch Talker and Etiquette Guru, with one hand on the thermometer of manners, and the other hand shaking yours!
(Brought to you by the folks who make Sanka!)