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konerko14
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I know there are some manners that make sense and should be performed, but I want to know if there is a rational reason to do the manners listed below. The reason I picked these specific ones is because they are accepted in a lot of countries as the proper thing to do. But are they accepted because there is a good reason to do them or because they are tradition and people dont want to go against the majority?

I dont like these manners:

1. Taking your hat off at the table or when entering someone else's house. Its supposed to be a sign of respect but why is it respectful? Just because its tradition? Would people even think twice about it if it wasnt established already as tradition or is there a good reason to do it?

I hate taking my hat off in these situations because I'll have hat hair, and I think having your hair displayed in such a manner would be more disrespectful than not taking it off at all. Not to mention it also makes me feel awkward with my hair all over the place. I mean, I wore the hat for a reason in the first place: to make me feel comfertable.

2. Men opening doors for ladies. The supposed purpose of this is respect, I assume. But why are men the ones who have to open the doors? Dont the ladies respect the men, or are they just using them as slaves? If ladies do respect men, why dont they open doors for men? Yes, ladies are generally weaker than men(not all the time though) but thats no excuse for men to have to open doors for them, especially car doors.

What really makes me mad though is that men pretty much have to open doors for women(especially on first dates) or else the guy drastically decreases his chances of the lady liking him. The only reason the lady hates opening doors for herself is the fact that this tradition is implanted in her head and she will not care to figure out if the tradition is good or bad because she is on the winning side of it already, and she knows she can get plenty of guys who will open doors for her.

3. Men having to pay for the woman. Whether this involves dinner, activities,etc, I dont think the guy should always have to pay. If its on a date, I think the one who intiates the date should pay for most things unless a mutual agreement has been made for a different way. If its just a casual hangout with a girl/girlfriend then I see no reason for the guy to have to pay for everything. Its very second-handed of the lady isnt it? I just dont think guys should feel obligated to pay for everything. A better solution would be to establish a mutual agreement on what each person should pay for. That way the guy isnt spending a fortune on the relationship, when she is cashing in.

Another thing I've noticed is that a lot of adults(men and women but usually women I think) try to pay for their friends' expenses such as dinner when they go out together. I've seen this happen almost every time I have gone out to eat with my mom and her woman friends- its always the same thing. They dont just offer to pay for their friend(s) but they just dont take no for an answer. Its absolutely ridiculous. I think they do this for a couple reasons: 1)to prove or show off to their friend(s) that they have a lot of money and can afford such expenses 2)they feel obligated to pay for them because thats how they were raised and also since they dont question traditions. 3)they value altruism more than selfishness. The only other thing I really want to say about this is that each person in this situation should pay for their own meal.

I'm sure there are many, many more manners that I would not be fond of but here are a few. I want to know if theres a valid reason for these manners or if they are just stupid traditions. Also I wouldnt mind if others listed manners they personally disliked.

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Ooh, new forum interface! B)

2)Like 3 below, for me these things are a way of showing that I care about the woman; I think it's a subtle way of telling her that you value her enough to want to do those things for her. As far as I can tell from introspection it's a way of showing the woman in question that you are both willing and able to provide for her or protect her should that ever become necessary.

I'd like to turn this around on you, though. :huh: Why not do these things for women? It's a rather minor effort you expend and the potential benefits you get from it are huge. She will probably like you better if you do this than when you don't, and if she does she will probably express this in some way. And frankly, that feels good :)

3) I used to question this also, but since I've started studying Objectivism I have a much more profound respect for earned money. If I know I have worked hard for my money, then it gives me much pleasure to spend it on someone I value. I do not mind in the least to do something like this now, but then I do not do it because it is tradition, but because it's a way of showing someone is important to you.

You could have spent the money on other things you value, so for a person who knows the value of their own money this choice is very significant; it shows what his values are, and I think that at least in some cases (I haven't thought about whether this holds true in general or only for women who also know what it takes to really earn something) women pick up on this.

For both of these, I must say that it makes a big difference to me how much of a value the woman in question is. I have far less motivation to be courteous and respectful to a woman I've just met than to someone who may one day be my wife... The second person would obviously be worth a lot more to you, and hence it's logical to show them that, too.

Edited by Maarten
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2)Why not do these things for women? It's a rather minor effort you expend and the potential benefits you get from it are huge. She will probably like you better if you do this than when you don't, and if she does she will probably express this in some way. And frankly, that feels good :)

That makes sense. I like that viewpoint. I stand corrected.

3) If I know I have worked hard for my money, then it gives me much pleasure to spend it on someone I value.

I usually dont like spending my money on other people except on gifts because they have their own money. If the other person has also worked hard for their money, I would think they would want to spend it and not feel like a second-hander taking hand-me-downs, even if it is from someone close.

I wouldnt want my girlfriend to pay for all my things. I would feel like a bum.

Edited by konerko14
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Hmm, I didn't mean that, exactly. But it is only natural to spend your money on things you value. If you never use your money it isn't really doing anything useful for you...

I assume you also spend money on your favorite activities, so why not spend it on a woman to show that she is indeed important to you? I think (if you value her of course) it's a matter of integrity to spend your money on the things that matter most, instead of things that do not matter.

Just to qualify this: I think the most natural way of dealing with dates is to assume that the person who initiates it pays for it. So if a woman invites me for dinner, I wouldn't go there expecting to pay half, whether it was at her house or not. I think a similar thing works for when the man asks the woman out, only it is probably more common.

Edited by Maarten
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Taking your hat off at the table or when entering someone else's house. Its supposed to be a sign of respect but why is it respectful? Just because its tradition? Would people even think twice about it if it wasnt established already as tradition or is there a good reason to do it?

Why do we take off our hats? To show respect or that we're humble before god? Why do we shake hands? To greet someone or to show we don't have a weapon in our hand and mean no harm? Why do we knock on doors before opening? Why is the middle finger obscene? In the end none of the why's really matter. Hardly anyone knows what the origins of them are or why we originally started to do them, what matters is they are accepted and understood in our culture. I've heard lots of arguments against this as being society dictating what is the proper way to act, but I view it as simply a basic accepted means of communication within a society.

2. Men opening doors for ladies. The supposed purpose of this is respect, I assume. But why are men the ones who have to open the doors? Dont the ladies respect the men, or are they just using them as slaves? If ladies do respect men, why dont they open doors for men? Yes, ladies are generally weaker than men(not all the time though) but thats no excuse for men to have to open doors for them, especially car doors.

This one, and the next one to an extent, is becoming a difficult one since the feminist movement. I've been snubbed and called rude things already for taking the assumption that a woman needs the door held open. Chivalry is dying. Personally I think it's just common courtesy to hold a door for someone, man or woman, if it would otherwise close in their face, or if they have a burden they are carrying, disabled, etc. Maarten has very good reasons for both of these as far as dating, etc is concerned.

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I want to know if there is a rational reason to do the manners listed below.
The rational reason is to be polite, as a form of consideration to others who you care about. If you don't care, or they don't care, then it is irrational, otherwise it is rational. But it is not intrinsic -- it is due to social convention. I don't wear a hat and I know few people who do, and almost all of them do so because it's cold or rainy, which it isn't indoors. One person I know always wears a hat (fashion thing), and it would not occur to me to think of it as rude that she leaves the had on indoors. I am offended by people who insist that hats should not be worn indoors, and consider the expression of such an opinion to be rude. However, there is an analogous thing about jackets which I do consider more meaningful, so if a person leaves their jacket on in my house in the winter, I consider the possibility that I should kick the furnace up a notch.

It is rude to open doors for females, except if there are special circumstances, e.g. it is your aged mother or the love of your life (or a candidate for the job). OTOH if you generally open doors for others, then it's expected that you would do so for females.

If you're hurting financially and you're just out with a female friend who you don't care much about, you should alternate payment responsibilities. But if this is a female that you actually care about and want to find a way of showing how you value her, money talks. (Money isn't the only thing that talks, and a well-crafted mental product like just the right trinket speaks louder than a hundred bucks. The general rule is, in a relationship, silence is not golden).

There are a lot of very silly social conventions, such as which side the fork goes on, wearing white after Labor Day, the convention that females are not allowed to refuse to dance, various forms of verbal insincerity. The real question is, are you unintentially insulting someone because of your ignorance of social convention?

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The real question is, are you unintentially insulting someone because of your ignorance of social convention?
No, I think the real question is "should you care if you are unintentionally insulting others through your ignorance of social convention?". If someone's ego is so fragile that they get upset about you eating with the wrong fork, or not asking how their day went just to make conversation, then you have to ask whether this is someone whose opinion you should care about anyway. The best fictional example of this is obviously Howard Roark, whose indifference towards arbitrary conventions tended to insult those around him, even though he wasnt doing anything wrong (although theres perhaps a difference between being genuinelly ignorant of conventions, and deliberately ignoring them). Another example would be Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, whose character is awesome and I wish that I had the balls to ignore conventions the way he does.

Now, I dont deny that in some situations it could be best to go along with a social convention you think is silly in order to achieve some definite goal - for example if you are on a business lunch with people you want to impress, or trying to get a girl to sleep with you, or whatever. But this all goes under the general heading of "When is it moral/acceptable to massage someone's irrationality in order to get what you want?" rather than being specific to etiquette.

Edited by Hal
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I second Hal.

Why should I have to follow some made up rules that don't make sense, and the moment I don't follow that which is illogical to me be deemed as a social outcast and be thrown away?

I have no need to be around people like those. I would rather develop and stay in a closed circuit of friends, then hang around people who stick to rules they were told and never considered if those rules were logical or not.

Some very few rules out of modern manners do have sense and value, but even then they are usually coated with a layer of stuff I don't see any valid reason to do.

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Shaking hands, taking off your hat, all those other traditional things to do are there to express an idea, no different than the language you speak. You may consider it foolish, silly and illogical to shake someone's hand, but you can also find it foolish and illogical to find the word f**k or cu*t to be completely offensive. It is not because of what the sounds are but what they convey.

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you can also find it foolish and illogical to find the word f**k or cu*t to be completely offensive.

Well yeah, I do - people who find these sounds offensive regardless of context are acting irrationally. There are legitimate reasons to object to these words (eg if someone calls you a 'c*nt' in a hostile manner then its disrespectful), but just hating the sound of them makes no sense. Perhaps a better example here is 'n*gger', which seems to cause certain people to have a very visceral reaction when they hear it. Again, there are rational reasons to be offended by 'n*gger' if its being used (eg) in the context of a racist attack on a black person, but having a physical reaction or recoiling in shock just from the mere sound alone is pretty silly.

To go back to the ettiquette point, there are valid reasons when you might want to say 'n*gger' in "polite company" - for instance if you were quoting someone else, or talking about the word itself. But a lot of people would be too scared to even say it out loud, regardless of the context, just because they think theres something dirty about the word itself. The may decide to refer to it as "the n-word" instead. And this sort of thing makes no sense.

I've always found our cultural attitudes towards 'swear' words interesting, because they seem to be based on ideas about language that are found in primitive societies, where certain linguistic sounds are thought to have intrinsic meaning, and almost magical qualities. Several cultures have myths about 'words of power', and the idea that knowing a person or an object's "true name" gives you control over it seems to be quite common in mythology (the Jews with their 'G-d' thing are a pretty good example here). The objection to swear words seems to be rooted in the same tradition.

Edited by Hal
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I consider ideas, moods, etc. the people give me through their eyes, body and speech. (this exact order)

If someone is happy to see me, I will be able to tell that without a handshake, b/c I invest time and effort to see that.

If someone is insulting, I will see that even without curse words, b/c I invest time and effort to see that.

When that effort dissapears, those behaviors turn into a habit/ritual without any thought process. At that moment, it no longer conveys an idea, but a fake mask that hides indifference, boredom, etc.

And that is a much bigger insult, than any language can convey to me.

Why complete a set of rituals everytime I see a person? It only takes away my time, my effort, and my concentration. Those who have brains and use them, will be able to see my ideas about them without rituals that I have to perform. If instead they rely on performance of rituals to figure out how I feel towards them, then they refuse to think, refuse to spend time and effort to see me and my ideas, moods, etc. If they refuse to spend energy for that, why should I spend energy into rituals for them? I will not give out my energy as a charity to those who don't care to spend one for me.

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Well yeah, I do - people who find these sounds offensive regardless of context are acting irrationally. There are legitimate reasons to object to these words (eg if someone calls you a 'c*nt' in a hostile manner then its disrespectful), but just hating the sound of them makes no sense.

The reason you would find it offensive at this point is irrelevant. My point, which you've restated here, is that it makes no sense to just hate the sound of the words. You hate the sound because it carries meaning. It does not make sense to find the action of using the middle finger towards you offensive, you only do so because it has meaning. The actions in mannersim and ettiquette make sense only because they have a meaning, a concept, behind them.

I consider ideas, moods, etc. the people give me through their eyes, body and speech. (this exact order)

If someone is happy to see me, I will be able to tell that without a handshake, b/c I invest time and effort to see that.

If someone is insulting, I will see that even without curse words, b/c I invest time and effort to see that.

When that effort dissapears, those behaviors turn into a habit/ritual without any thought process. At that moment, it no longer conveys an idea, but a fake mask that hides indifference, boredom, etc.

And that is a much bigger insult, than any language can convey to me.

Why complete a set of rituals everytime I see a person? It only takes away my time, my effort, and my concentration. Those who have brains and use them, will be able to see my ideas about them without rituals that I have to perform. If instead they rely on performance of rituals to figure out how I feel towards them, then they refuse to think, refuse to spend time and effort to see me and my ideas, moods, etc. If they refuse to spend energy for that, why should I spend energy into rituals for them? I will not give out my energy as a charity to those who don't care to spend one for me.

Next time I meet a new person who is upset about something someone just told them or who is having a bad day, I'll be sure to mark them as being hostile towards me. I'm glad you can read people so well, I'll be sure to shake your hand if I ever meet you.

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The actions in mannersim and ettiquette make sense only because they have a meaning, a concept, behind them.
I suppose you mean that this is why manners are OK? Am I right?

If so, then answer is:

Physically the words are just sounds waves. They are given meaning. By whom? By those who spoke them, or by those who heard them? What if their meanings aren't the same? Who is to decide which meaning is the proper one?

What if someone spoke in Foreign language and a collection of sounds from it, though unknown, sounded like n**ger? Should the person who spoke be punished? Is it OK for others to assume he was using the correct meaning?

How about connotation? Many words can be used to mean other than what they mean? Which one should be considered?

Is it right to use a different neutral word instead of "offensive" word? It means a different thing, right? Oh, maybe it matters what the person who spoke meant?

In physical realm: A is A. In realm of the sounds that we make when speak: sound is not meaning.

What people should do is ask for clarifications instead of blindly assuming the insult. If they don't, then they refuse to think.

Next time I meet a new person who is upset about something someone just told them or who is having a bad day, I'll be sure to mark them as being hostile towards me.
You can only assume that they are hostile to you, if you refuse to think and ask them what if they are mad at you or not. If in response the person snaps at you, then the person has allowed his anger to be released on you, in which case the person was indeed hostile to you.
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"should you care if you are unintentionally insulting others through your ignorance of social convention?".
You bastard, how dare you pick on my spelling! I think I'm right: you're asking a separate question, namely, "once you learn that a person is offended, should you care?". It goes without saying that I would not want to accidentally insult anyone, but I am happy to insult someone who needs it. That leaves open the possibility of refraining from using my left hand to eat with, because the person I'm with might get upset -- just in case they were of some particular value to me. I'm not advocating blind obedience to conventions of etiquette, but I do advocate knowledge of the conventions so that you make a rational decision to insult. That's why I am trying to learn all 127 swearwords of Finnish.
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I suppose you mean that this is why manners are OK? Am I right?

If so, then answer is:

Physically the words are just sounds waves. They are given meaning. By whom? By those who spoke them, or by those who heard them? What if their meanings aren't the same? Who is to decide which meaning is the proper one?

What if someone spoke in Foreign language and a collection of sounds from it, though unknown, sounded like n**ger? Should the person who spoke be punished? Is it OK for others to assume he was using the correct meaning?

How about connotation? Many words can be used to mean other than what they mean? Which one should be considered?

Is it right to use a different neutral word instead of "offensive" word? It means a different thing, right? Oh, maybe it matters what the person who spoke meant?

In physical realm: A is A. In realm of the sounds that we make when speak: sound is not meaning.

What people should do is ask for clarifications instead of blindly assuming the insult. If they don't, then they refuse to think.

I suppose then under your logic that language is no longer ok then either. What's the point of talking and communicating if we have no expectation of a common understanding of what the words mean? I should be equally insulted that people expect me to take off my hat to show respect as I am that they expect letters r-e-s-p-e-c-t to represent that same concept or the sounds I use to vocalize the concept. I didn't pick them. I should no longer speak to people, simply read their body language. Why are we having this conversation? You could have completely different meaning then what I am reading.

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The best fictional example of this is obviously Howard Roark, whose indifference towards arbitrary conventions tended to insult those around him, even though he wasnt doing anything wrong (although theres perhaps a difference between being genuinelly ignorant of conventions, and deliberately ignoring them).

I recall that one of Rand's characters, and it may have been Roark, said something like he would dress the way people dress and eat what they eat because those were not important things, but would not handle his work that way. Perhaps someone with a stronger knowledge of Rand's works can remember more accurately than I and provide a citation and quotation.

If my recollection is correct, Jefferson is quoted as expressing a similar sentiment: "In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock."

I think this makes sense. Of all the things to fuss about, is it really that big a deal to you to shake someone's hand or pat their back or bow? Is it really that big a deal to you to eat with one fork over another? If it is, and you have reasons for defying the style, okay, go with your judgment. If you don't have reasons, you're better off being a conformist than a conforming non-conformist.

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I suppose then under your logic that language is no longer ok then either.
What do you mean by "no longer OK"?

If you mean "Should we still use language?", then I answer "Yes."

If you mean "Should we still use language as a primary method of conveying emotion?", then I answer "No." A human face and eyes can convey more and can be read much faster than if you were using only language.

The only time language should be used for conveying emotions is when the other tools don't. If you meet a new person, it might be hard to read his/her eyes and body language b/c you've not learned that person yet, which is why you would use the best tool available to you at the time: speech and human language (if you both share the same one). But as you get to know the person, their eyes and body language will tell you more than human language, which is incredibly slow when compared to the speed and accuracy you can get from eyes and body.

Is it really that big a deal to you to eat with one fork over another?
It's a deal to me if it goes against my principles. How would I know if it goes against or not? I'll think about it and deduce it.
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If you meet a new person, it might be hard to read his/her eyes and body language b/c you've not learned that person yet, which is why you would use the best tool available to you at the time: speech and human language (if you both share the same one). But as you get to know the person, their eyes and body language will tell you more than human language, which is incredibly slow when compared to the speed and accuracy you can get from eyes and body.

So I suppose a simple handshake would not suffice since you can't read that person's body language yet.

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So I suppose a simple handshake would not suffice since you can't read that person's body language yet.
Suffice for what?

To understand if the person is "friendly"? Then no. Your murderer or someone who does not like you can shake hands with you just as well.

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It's a deal to me if it goes against my principles. How would I know if it goes against or not? I'll think about it and deduce it.

I think Matt's point was that it's not a very important issue, so it's not really worth it to make a stand on that. There are far better uses for your time and effort.

In a way it can be compared to those libertarians who are making really huge issues out of drug-legalization. I mean, sure, in an ideal society those things should be determinable by each person themselves, but it's silly to make it a very important issue for your political campaign.

I think the same goes for people who make really big deals out of ignoring non-harmful social conventions... it serves no purpose whatsoever and when you do have something to say the chances are that much bigger that people will disregard you as being a wacko out of hand, just like all those libertarians are laughed off the election stages :)

This of course changes completely if the social convention is objectively harmful, but that is a wholly seperate issue.

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If you have questions about how manners function in a society, I recommend reading Miss Manners' column. It's very instructive and you learn a lot about such supposed faux pas as using the wrong fork. Using the wrong fork is not rude, although it is considered crude by people that value strict formality; it's a sign that you're not familiar with the arcane implements of fine dining. I.e., it means you're a n00b.

Good manners--like proper attire, good spelling, and all other social conventions--are invisible. They serve to make the form of your actions vanish from the viewer's mind, leaving only the content. If your form registers as "off" to the recipient, your intended content will be altered, possibly significantly.

As for why women expect men to open doors for them, I personally expect men I'm associated with to go into a building before I do, like they are leading the way, and I thank them for not letting the door slam in my face just to prove how enlightened they are. They only need to open the car door for me if I'm carrying packages . . . usually HIS packages that he's deposited in my lap so that he can drive.

I figure that men can be entitled to complain about all the little things they're "expected" to do for women when they go through the kind of grooming ordeal women do to go out on a date. If I'm going to style, wax, pluck, moisturize, line, cream, brush, trim, polish, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum you can exert yourself to the extent of opening a frickin' door.

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To understand if the person is "friendly"? Then no. Your murderer or someone who does not like you can shake hands with you just as well.

He can equally light up with a huge smile and a twinkle in his eyes to fool me. He could say, "So glad to meet you". What is your point with this statement, that men can lie and deceive? I agree, but it has nothing to do with whether it is stupid, silly, or illogical to greet someone with a hand shake.

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I figure that men can be entitled to complain about all the little things they're "expected" to do for women when they go through the kind of grooming ordeal women do to go out on a date. If I'm going to style, wax, pluck, moisturize, line, cream, brush, trim, polish, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum you can exert yourself to the extent of opening a frickin' door.

Why would a woman consider it an ordeal? Isn't it of great personal value to her to be found more attractive by the man she is interested in romantically? Perhaps I'm interpretating it poorly, but you're making it sound as if it's some sort of unfair obligation placed upon women.

No one is forcing women to spend some time before a date maximizing their looks, so to speak, and I know I would personally value a woman who enjoys looking her best much more than one who only does it because she thinks she's supposed to do it out of social convention.

Approaching these romantic situations from an obligation perspective is just as wrong as approaching anything else out of obligation. You should do what you do because you think it's the right thing to do; because it's in accordance with your values. It's just another way of showing another person they matter to you, and you can't do that if you act out of tradition or duty or because you simply think that's how it works in the world.

Edited by Maarten
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It's a deal to me if it goes against my principles. How would I know if it goes against or not? I'll think about it and deduce it.

Note that I said: "If it is [a big deal to you], and you have reasons for defying the style, okay, go with your judgment."

As to how you would know whether it violates your principles, of course your suggested method is correct, but whether you actually use that method is just a matter of your priorities. Of all the problems I could solve, figuring out whether there's an objectively correct way to use a fork is not high on the list, i.e. I have better things to do with my time and thus I don't really care. If I'm facing a scenario in which I think fork selection could be important, I'll learn the rule and follow it. If I'm facing a scenario in which business attire is important, okay I'll wear business attire. I haven't given the objectivity of fashion much thought and I don't care enough about it to fly in the face of custom. If you have reasons to care about such things, I'm interested in hearing them.

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Why would a woman consider it an ordeal? Isn't it of great personal value to her to be found more attractive by the man she is interested in romantically? Perhaps I'm interpretating it poorly, but you're making it sound as if it's some sort of unfair obligation placed upon women.

It's an "unfair obligation" placed upon women to the same extent as and for the same reasons as expecting men to open the door is an "unfair obligation" placed on them. In other words, if you think it's "unfair" that you're expected to open a door, you're a jerk.

And it IS an ordeal. Beauty is pain.

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