When confronted with an awkward situation that falls outside the bounds of social etiquette, modern women and men may find themselves in a quandary over what should be done. Never fear, etiquette devotees, for a new volume has explored this uncharted territory and created a guide for those hapless sailors who find themselves adrift in such unfriendly waters. From adultery and infertility to illiteracy and obesity, Tara Laskowski has carefully documented the dos and don’ts for these sticky circumstances in Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons. How fortunate for the current generation to have such wisdom readily available! Emily Post never addressed the faux pas to avoid when choosing to elope. Miss Manners never opined on how to scout a location when engaging in recreational arson. And neither one discussed the missteps likely to occur when conversing with soon-to-be victims of homicide. In short, this is a necessary volume for the considerate psychotics and kindly sociopaths among us—and for those of us who are in search of an amusing read.
Laskowski injects this short volume with many bons mots, each clever turn of phrase imbuing this offbeat collection with energy and humor. Readers will find that this book is closer kin to The Worst-Case Scenario series than to manners and etiquette books. The friendly tone and practical advice read more like The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Murder or Adultery for Dummies than Emily Post Does Adultery. For example, when advising would-be mistresses of married men, she urges: “Never say, ‘Am I better in bed than your wife?’ Instead, try, ‘God, you are so hot I could have sex with you three or four times a day.’” There is always a dose of reality in Laskowski’s writing, and her counsel and resulting recommendations remind readers that for some people out there, these situations are quite real. The lonely adulterer faces the prospect of spending birthdays and holidays alone without the companionship of her or his lover. These special days of the year represent the most dangerous and emotionally fraught time in what Laskowski infers to be an already precarious situation. Like a loyal friend, she dishes practical advice for such emotionally explosive days as New Year’s Eve: “When everyone else at the party your friend dragged you to is pairing off to smooch at midnight, closely examine an imaginary stain on your designer jeans and drink your champagne quickly. Toss back your hair and tell yourself next year will be different.”
Each one of the brief chapters—there are ten in all—holds a full book of satire waiting to be written. Laskowski herself seems to acknowledge this in an indirect way, as she makes endless mention of appendices that aren’t there and notes that don’t come. It’s a funny trick, but it also belies how much more there is to be discovered in each short section. While some may question the demand for a fully developed book of etiquette for arsonists, there is real potential in such a tongue-in-cheek volume addressing obesity or elopement. Let’s hope that Laskowski takes her talent for caustic comedy and expands one of these little jewels into a stand-alone gem, because after reading this volume, readers will be ready for more well-mannered bad behavior.