The Art of Courtesy

The art of courtesy

Intentional discourtesy pulls your decent-human-being card. I worry for your children and hope you haven’t reproduced yet.

I am no Miss Manners. I curse like a sailor. I have foot-in-mouth syndrome to such a degree that LSCWs despair of my ever being cured. But there is one thing my father taught me, and it is the bedrock of all good things in society. He told me this as a child and I have never forgotten it.

Civilized behavior is leaving a room as nice as or nicer than when you first entered.

Behaviors that are not civilized include:

Dropping trash on the ground. Treat trash like dog poop and put it in a receptacle. Not the sidewalk, not the expressway. Just don’t.

Leaving a trail of discarded clothing and other belongings. Don’t let people know you’ve been in a room, or several. This is the symptom of a disorganized mind. Keep that shit in your bedroom.

Fucking someone else’s significant other. Ah, the possibility of true love to escape the misery of your relationship with your SO. If you can’t fix the issues, leave. Then you can fuck whoever you want. I learned this the hard way.

Coercing someone. I’m not talking about grabbing your toddler as they bumble toward a busy street. Coercion is when you do something that isn’t in the best interests of the coercee. This is a matter of listening to the other person. That’s one of the most civilized things you can do.

Taking up two parking spots. If your Maserati needs two spaces at the grocery store, keep it in the fucking garage. If you can afford a Maserati, you shouldn’t be doing your own shopping anyway, entitled asshole.

Cutting in front of the little old lady in the checkout line. This is one of the most disrespectful things you can do, in my opinion. Elders usually mellow out to an extent that they can become invisible. Don’t treat others like they’re invisible.

Not taking care of your animals. If you own a pet, you are responsible for said pet. If you own anything, take care of it. That’s what ownership is about. It’s not having. It’s a responsibility. If you can’t take care of it, don’t own it. Simple.

Not taking care of your kids. This is egregious. Your children are parts of you and if they aren’t the center of your care and concern, it’s a reflection on how you feel about yourself. Neglecting children is right up there with beating them. And your past is not an excuse. It’s an obstacle to vanquish. I speak from experience.

Here are the basics of courtesy:

At work, at home, and in social settings, acknowledge other human beings. I have never, ever been so insulted in my life as when the grocery check-out clerk failed to acknowledge me. I told him a few things and finished it up with “You are not too good for this job.” I believe I earned one of my little-old-lady badges with that one.

When someone renders a service, fucking thank them. Tell them you appreciate them. My favorite line is, “I appreciate this so much. You’ve been so helpful.” And I mean it. You can’t believe how this changes a surly clerk or child into a smiling human being.

Get your nose out of your fucking phone! Granted, this is a pet peeve of mine, but it is so rude. Put the damn thing down and look at the other person across the table from you. You can have the same interaction with this person, only face-to-face. Your addiction to your phone is a serious issue that may need medical attention.

I’m not blaming anyone because that would be the dirty pot calling the dirty kettle unwashed. As I grow older, I’ve discovered just how rude humans can be to each other. I remember my twenties and thirties and I cringe. I’ve become mindful of how I treat others and how I treat myself.

Courtesy is a mindfulness, an awareness, that will have a positive effect on the world around you. As the wise ones over the millennia have said, “Your reality begins from within.” That means every action you take reflects your inner world. Be kind to yourself.

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.

Don’t Kiss Me, I’m Irish-American


On Saint Paddy’s day, there are Americans who are of Irish descent that do not maraud in the streets in drunken stupors. We do not carouse. There is no Bacchanal on this holy day.

This is the day the Irish and those of Irish descent go to church, have a quiet dinner with their families, and give thanks for the service that Saint Patrick has given to free the people from evil and bring them to godliness. There is no alcohol sold on that day.

Those on the outside looking in have claimed this holy day as a reason to drink ‘til comatose or become stumbling, inebriated assholes puking at curbs. They wear green hats, socks, green pins, green shirts, and drink green beer (if only Padrick had foreseen this travesty…).

You do not get to be Irish for a day. You do not get to appropriate our heritage as a reason to lose all dignity. And like every other oppressed population in America, we only get a day of recognition for the services our ancestors have provided to the prosperity of this country.

I do not make claims of equivalencies here. I make the comparison above because only oppressed populations get “special” days or months. The longer the “celebration,” the greater the oppression.

Saint Paddy’s day has become an oxymoron in America. The holy day to celebrate freedom and devotion has been turned on its ear and twisted into a nightmare of consumerism and corporate manipulation. I’m sure the bars in every American town are delighted to take your coin. I know the liquor magnates get excited about March 17th.

Holy days for the Irish are just that. The day is a time of reflection, of gratitude, and family. Imagine the British turning an American holiday like Independence Day into some dog and pony show where everyone pretends to be Texan for a day, coal-rolls with their hemis in grand parades, and stages mock lynching while drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon. Would you be offended?

I am because I value my heritage. American society has twisted up and focused on the least admirable of qualities attributed to the Irish. The true purpose is to celebrate the spirit of the Irish in their devotion to the best qualities of people: Loyalty, kindness, family, and unshakable faith.

Just because I’m offended doesn’t mean you must stop celebrating Saint Paddy’s day in whatever manner you wish.  My greatest distress is that the Mardi Gras of “Irish”-American depravity is conflated with living, breathing people of Irish descent who will be in church today and will return home for a traditional meal of their ancestors.

For my family, corned-beef and cabbage with soda bread is the traditional meal.  And it may sound trite and commercial because it’s a meal associated with the Irish. But when you add in the Potato Famine and the economic collapse of that era, which sent the Irish swimming to America in droves, corned beef would be a big deal reserved for the holy days.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a celebration of freedom that was granted through God’s servant. To my knowledge, Padrick wasn’t of Irish descent at all, but that’s the beauty of the Irish. Having been vilified, they vilify none. They welcome others to their table because nothing is more sacred than breaking bread with friends and family.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.

An Open Letter to Melissa

An Open Letter_awkward

The awkward girl without a book.

An Open Letter_highschool

The awkward girl with a book.

An Open Letter_now

The confident woman I’ve become. Thanks for helping me to make this possible.

Dear Missy:

I’m writing this letter and making it public now that school shootings have become a “normal” fact of life. To me, you are kindness incarnate, and though I may never reach such heights, your nature is a standard that I’ve made my own.

I was an awkward girl: small, thin, and poorly dressed. Your first instinct was to protect me. I don’t know why. I don’t know which of your experiences motivated you, but you saw me. You worried for me.

At the lunch table, when I made conversation so awkward with your friends because I hid in a book, I knew you tried to include me. You hoped I would swim in waters that I couldn’t navigate. Maybe when I was five or six, it would have worked; that was before everything went wrong for me.

My existence was hell on earth, and throughout my life, when things were the most dangerous for me, an angel has stepped up to show me the way out. You stand out in my memories as all the other angels do. While your efforts to bring me out of my shell, to protect me, appeared to have failed, you showed me the way out.

Each time I help another, I remember you. You didn’t care what I looked like. You saw through my ‘weirdness’ and my attitude. If I saw you in the hallways, you always had a smile to greet me.

That continued kindness made an impact on my very self-hood. You helped me save myself in ways you can’t imagine. Perhaps I would have shot up a school of innocents if you hadn’t reached out. Or died of an overdose somewhere on the east side of Baltimore.

There was so much potential for an unhappy ending.

The reason I’m telling you this is I want you to know you made a difference. You hoped I would thrive. I do now, but it was a long road. Your small actions were one of the lamps that lit the path to where I am now.

Others have expressed their admiration for your kindness, and the way I remember you, you will aver my praise and tell me that you didn’t help enough.  I say to you, seeds are small, but they grow into plants, crops, flowers, and trees. Never forget that every little kindness is powerful. That every plant that grows under your care will thrive even if you don’t see the fruit of your gentle labors.

I want you to know that when a butterfly flutters its wings, I think of you.

Thanks for reaching out,


©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text and pictures.