sometimes six words are just perfect


I've been writing ever since I can remember.  I had a typewriter and would bang away at little short stories about middle school drama, fake news reports (which I would then perform with the gravitas of Diane Sawyer), you name it.

It's taken decades to embrace concision.  

In one particularly poignant moment, I sat at a computer with an esteemed Texas attorney (former Supreme Court justice), working on a legal brief.  He was hacking up my draft.  Very kindly.  And very efficiently.  

"If you see an adjective...or an adverb.  Take it out,"  he instructed.

Granted, legal writing is different than creative writing.  Fiction writing is different than blogging.  Regardless, my heart fell.  Until I realized there's a nugget of truth in that (initially mercenary-seeming) approach.

Less words?  More impact.  They just have to be the right words.

St. Martin's Press kindly forwarded me a copy of their recent publication, The Best Advice in Six Words, edited by Larry Smith.  

(Editor's Note:  I am not being compensated for this post.  All opinions are my own.  I suspect they wanted this post to go in time for Christmas shopping, so, um, oops.)

A collection of six word-isms is like a plate of truffle fries.  You can't blaze through them or you'll get a tummy ache.  But if you SAVOR them, they're outstanding.

I have too many favorites to share, but these resonated with me the most:

Be an optimist who worries often.
-- Secretary of State Madeline Albright

For a minute, laughter cures everything. 
-- Ken Stasiak

Do not search symptoms on WebMD.
-- Danielle Bitner

Good posture trumps insecurity every time. 
-- Susanne Kuznetsky

Never trust a fart while juicing. 
-- Julie Sweum

Nobody, nobody knows what they're doing. 
-- Daniel Handler

When all else fails, start running.
-- Dean Karnazes

Hope six words liberate you today.

Ta ta for now,
Proper Paige

Free Form Friday: Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet


Proper Husband and I are firm believers in letting kids be kids.  We build blanket forts, splash in puddles in our rain boots, and speak in silly voices when the mood strikes.

We also believe in manners, though.

Is there such a thing as Halloween etiquette?  Isn't that being super annoying and overthinking it?

Yes, and not exactly.  Let me explain.

I grew up in a microscopic town where we knew everyone.  (It was also in Ripley's Believe It or Not because the post office for Georgetown, Maryland, in Kent County was located in Frederickstown, Maryland, in Cecil County.  Fun fact.)  

Anyway, in my sleepy little Eastern Shore town, our neighbors kept the light on until they'd seen all the kids in the area, which they could count on their fingers.  They didn't have to buy much candy, so I recall getting full sized candy bars (Score!) which made up for the lack of houses to go to.  If there were homemade treats, I could eat them, because we KNEW the person who'd made them.  

Ruth Sigler's house smelled like cigarette smoke and her French poodles.  She had no children.  She always made us treats.  We ate them.  

I feel like Halloween today is splitting the difference.  You are trusting the people whose homes you visit, but not enough to eat homemade treats.  It's a different world than it was when I was a kid (as evidenced by my upcoming 40th birthday and my realization that, um, I grew up in the 80's.)

What does that mean?

1.  Use "The Light Rule."

If the porch light isn't on, they aren't serving candy.  They might be out of town.  They might be infirm.  They might hate Halloween.  Whatever, dude.  Move on.  

2.  Explain yourself.

Be prepared to explain your kids' costumes, or prep them to explain them.  If you are dressed up like an evil Minion, your 60 year old neighbors will have no clue what you are.  They will smile and nod when you tell them, even though they'll still have no idea.  There's common courtesy in the exchange.  Be ready for it.  After all, you're getting candy out of the deal.

3.  Don't be a Greedy Grabber.

Even if your neighbor got the microscopic "fun size" candies, if they are giving out one candy per person, that's all you get.  Don't go after it with your claws like a tiger.  One.  

4.  Don't judge.

If your neighbor is a dentist and is giving out toothbrushes, it is your job to smile and say thank you like they'd just given you a Reese's cup.  Well, or maybe some Dots.  Like, not the best candy ever but something good.  A smile at a toothbrush (or a pencil, or a plastic slinky) is courteous.  Not every house is a home run.

5. Use your words.

When a small person dressed like Ariel comes to my door on October 31st, I know what she wants.  

But I still love it when she says, "Trick or Treat."  

And I love it even more when she says thank you.  

Hope the imps like your candy.

Ta ta for now,

Proper Paige

Taking Questions Tuesday: Where Have I Been?


I intended to put Simple Etiquette to bed with that last post.  

I needed to focus on a variety of things:  my career, my pregnancy with my second child, my family.  I was a little overwhelmed with life.  Writing an etiquette blog felt a little indulgent, a little pointless, and a little bit overdue for the cutting room floor.

[End scene.]

And then, I recently read this quote:  (I love quotes, man.)

"Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go."
- Natalie Goldberg 

Dammit.  I love Natalie Goldberg.  She wrote Writing Down the Bones, which I read in high school and which made an indelible mark on me.

I realized that I was thinking about it, the future of this blog, all wrong.

Granted, I don't have the lifestyle that I had when Proper Husband and I were in our twenties.  I don't often get to sit at a restaurant, sip a martini, and think about how people ought to write their thank you notes.  (Who does?  Did I ever?)  

I'm not *always* at networking happy hours, the newest cool restaurant, or the ubiquitous music festival.  (I do miss eating out without children.  Note to self:  Plan date night.)

So what?  Are only fabulous urban twenty-somethings held accountable to etiquette standards? (Snort.  As if.)

These days, I am at Target when it opens on Saturday morning.  I'm at Starbucks, a lot.  I am at home, raising two beautiful boys, trying to teach them to be good citizens of the world.  I am at the office, having meetings, being a professional person.

Etiquette is more important than ever. (Lightbulb.)

And so, picture it.  (Sicily, 1920.)

I'm back.

Hope you find yourself emerging today.

Ta ta for now,

Proper Paige

an overdue adieu


When I tell people that I have an etiquette blog, they are fascinated.  They always want to know how on earth I started such a thing.

And I tell them the truth:  My friends made me.  (To be specific:  Lisa, Melinda, Sarah, and Suzanha.)

It was six years ago, and I was a young attorney and a newlywed with a sassy bob and a lot of free time.  Much of that free time was spent networking.  Proper Husband and I were Quite the Young Professionals on the scene in Austin.  (In many ways, he still is.  I'll get to where that puts me in a moment.)

My friends kept telling me, "You need to blog."  I insisted that I wasn't an *expert* at anything (not then aware that a whopping majority of blogs are, ahem, written by people who aren't experts at anything).  After some pressuring and probing, I did confess that I am The Friend that people come to with etiquette questions.  

Writing about etiquette with your real name seemed risky and judgmental to me.  I needed a pen name.  And so, Proper Paige came to be.

Six years later, I am still an attorney and still very happily married.  I have very little free time.  Why?  I have an amazing son who is almost 4 years old.  I have a long commute.  I have a rewarding (and challenging) career.  And I have a bun in the oven.  

I don't go to networking events much anymore, because I rush home from the office to preschool to pick up the Proper(ish) Toddler.  It's not a chore; it's a joy.  Getting home to him and Proper Husband is the bright light of every day.  On the rare evenings when I have made plans after work, I inevitably miss them so much that I wish I didn't have whatever plans I've made.  (But then I go and have fun, but there's a pull, you see.)

This means that very little of my time is spent, oh, people watching in cool restaurants; stepping foot into a bar; hosting tapas parties; and things of that nature.  I still have strong opinions about etiquette.  That's innate.  But, you see, I don't have the time, or the desire, to write about them right now.

And when I tell people I have an etiquette blog, I feel like a poser, because it has gotten so little attention from me in the past couple of years, is that an overstatement?

So, there's nothing to stop me from warming up my typing fingers and dropping an opinion here from time to time.  I would love it if you kept me bookmarked.

But, if you don't hear from me, please know that I'm out there in the world, trying to be a wife, mother, attorney, writer, daughter, sister, runner, and friend -- all while treating people with the grace and respect with which I hope to be treated.  Oh, and always writing thank you notes and using the correct fork.  Some things never change.

Be well, and thanks for sharing.

-- Proper Paige

Oh, and if you are *totally* going to miss me so much you can't stand it, I'm also Instagramming my face off.  @hdbernard.  And I tweet sometimes.  Also @hdbernard.  Hugs.

Free Form Friday: Running


I've been a runner on and off for my entire life.  As of this week, it's on again.

To be honest, something about this time feels different.  I'm not in my 20's anymore.  It's a bummer, but it's true.  I'm not sure my metabolism can get out of its own way.  And that is No Bueno.

So, with the gravitas of a thirty-something working mama, blogger, other blogger, volunteer, wife, daughter, sister, and friend type of person, I'm recommitting to running.  You heard it here first.  (Or, if you work with me, you saw my sweaty mess of a self after a lunchtime run this week.  Yes, that was me.)

What I will not commit to, however, is any of these common running no-nos.  Dude, just because you've run twenty seven ultramarathons does not mean you can blow your snot rocket at me.  Nope.  

I love Runners World.  And I love the idea of being able to give people tickets.  Anyone who knows how I can get deputized should definitely email me.

Hope you commit to something healthy (and proper) today.

Ta ta for now,
Proper Paige

PS:  It might be worth $5 if you really have to fart.  

From the archives: Modus Interrupti


Originally posted on May 23, 2011.  This one deserves to be dusted off and shared again, because people never stop interrupting.

Back to Basics Monday: Modus Interrupti

We all know that it's rude to interrupt people.  But we still do it.  Not all the time.  But, sometimes.  Why?

Image credit

1)  We get excited.  
Sometimes, the little kid inside of us (and there's one in all of us; this I deeply believe) WANTS TO TALK NOW.  And the "now" isn't relative; it isn't next in conversation; it isn't in turn.  It's RIGHT NOW.  So, sometimes we interrupt because we are so excited about what we have to say.

2)  We are uber, mega relaxed in the company.  
If it's your sister or your oldest friend, or a dinner party with your sister and your oldest friend, sometimes you just don't think.  You get in there with your witty banter and your love of these people and the comfort that comes from the fact that they've seen you in good times, and bad, and you just talk the heck over them.

Image credit (OMG, this tumblr is hilarious)

3)  We are correcting something.  
Whether it's of crucial importance or not, one big time interruptions occur is when the speaker says something that the interrupter wants to build on, correct, tweak, or otherwise give their  revision to.  

4)  We are "lawyering."  
I have noticed that attorneys are frequent interrupters.  Usually it arises in the context of a work discussion where a legal theory is being discussed.  Good lawyers think quickly, and can often anticipate the line of reasoning another lawyer is going to use.  This means that, sometimes, an overly enthusiastic or smart ass lawyer can (1) hear what the other person is saying; (2) finish their thought before the person says it; (3) think of something they would like to add or contradict that hasn't been said yet; and (4) interrupt to say it.  

(Full disclosure:  I'm a lawyer.  I have done this.  Crap, when you type out how it works, it's even more rude than I imagined.)

Thanks, Proper Paige, for this litany of reasons that we all do something that we know to be wrong.  What's the point here?

The point is this:  You don't need to tell me that interrupting is wrong.  But, as pointed out in the blog post referenced above, the interruption basically works like this:

  • Talker is saying something. ("So, one time when I was traveling in Europe, I was on a flight from London to Frankfurt...")
  • Talker gets interrupted when seemingly incorrect information is presented, and the interrupter gives the ‘correct’ information. (OR) Talker is interrupted with some sort of encouraging remark.  ("Wait, you told me this happened to you in Munich!"  OR "Oh yeah!  I love this story!  Were you flying British Airways?")
  • Talker responds.  In any number of ways, including but not limited to:  They may close down and stop talking.  They may integrate the new data and keep talking.  They may disagree with the new data being given and a debate could then ensue.  They may be thankful to the person for correcting them.  They may be resentful of the person interrupting.  They may be grateful or relieved that the correct data was supplied. They may feel embarrassed.  Or they may experience some hybrid combination of all those responses. ("Oh, yeah, it was Munich!  Anyway..." OR "No, it was Frankfurt.  Seriously."  OR "Ha ha!  Your memory is so good.  Yes, Munich..."  OR "Uh...what was I saying?  Anyway, Germany..." OR "Seriously.  Can I finish?")
  • The flow of conversation and immediate dynamic between the people talking has changed. (Link to a blog post which shares this astute observation.)
Image credit

 That's it.  No matter what the person was talking about, what the interrupter said, or how the person responded, an interruption changes the flow and dynamic of a conversation.

Eew.  That makes it sound selfish.  That makes it sound aggressive.  That makes it sound really childish, even.  Because it is.

So, I'm counting myself in here.  No mas interruptions.  Let's not do it anymore, mmmkay?

Letting you finish your thought.  For reals,
Proper Paige

I think I've gotten better about not interrupting in the past couple of years since I originally wrote this.  Proper Husband may disagree.  It certainly won't hurt to pay attention to it, anew and again.

Also, yes, I watched quite a bit of the Cosby Show marathon on TV Land this weekend.  Why do you ask?

Hope your thoughts are valued and completed today.

Ta ta for now,
Proper Paige

Back to Basics Monday: Escalators


Do not sit on escalators.

Image from this article, which is both disturbing and hilarious.
And reminds me why I'm glad I grew up on the East Coast
but don't actually live there anymore.
Calm down, people.

Hope no one sits on your escalator today.

Ta ta for now,
Proper Paige