Put yourself first sometimes, but don't take it to extremes
Q: You wrote recently, about declining invitations one has already accepted, that, "the host has feelings that need to be treated with more care, in this case, than one's own."
A co-worker of mine would answer this with, "Well, I want to do what I feel like, etiquette be damned."
Doesn't a person have a choice to do what they desire most? This person would say, "You only live once, I don't have to do anything I don't want to do." Is this wrong?
A: Seriously? I guess your charming colleague hasn't seized the day at work yet, and shoved extra work off on you because life is too short to spend chained to a desk.
Granted, knowing when to put yourself first and when to put others first is more art than science. But it still involves a basic calculation: Am I ready to accept the consequences — to others and to me — of putting myself first?
For example: You want to blow off a friend's party because you're tired. Acting on that might be fine — if it's a big party, say, or if you've been great to that friend for years and have earned a little forgiveness, or if that friend is particularly laid-back and gets that not every night is the right one.
But if you punk out on a carefully planned dinner party because you just don't feel like going — because you "don't have to do anything I don't want to do" — then your jilted host will wonder why s/he wasted hours in the kitchen on you. S/he might wonder whether your sparkling presence is worth the price of your egocentric scheduling whims. Honestly, do you sparkle brightly enough to tip that balance your way?
We always have the option of putting ourselves first. But once you start exercising that option every time you want to (don't feel like it), as opposed to the occasions when you need to (too sick to circulate), then you're really exercising your option to be boorish, thoughtless and self-centered.
And in that case, you might as well just go for it, and start cutting in cafeteria lines, smoking in elevators, shoplifting, running red lights, and, why not, killing people who stand between you and trophies or promotions or front-row seats … all the things that people with any clue about how civil society works — people who aren't feral — wouldn't even consider.
If your partner's ogling bothers you, you need to talk about it
Q: I would like your opinion on guys who check out other women when they are out with their girlfriends/fiancees/wives.
A: Eyes — male and female — like to fall on pretty things.
When those eyes don't linger, then the romantic companion needs to re-read the above, and chill.
When those eyes do linger on someone, then looking becomes staring or, worse, leering — which is rude to the pretty thing and the companion. Anyone can unwittingly drift into a stare, but those who make a habit of it deserve to be called out for it by their mates.
When this calling-out exposes a difference of opinion on what's appropriate, and this disagreement — or any other disagreement, for that matter — plays out frequently, then both parties need to realize they'll never agree, and either embrace it or break up with it (to the hearty applause of everybody they know).