Manners & Misdemeanors

How Do We Deal With Living In A Politically Correct World?

All this tiptoeing around words and what pleases you just sucks the joy out of life.
ILLUSTRATOR SANDY ARANAS
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I am sometimes afraid to let my Truly Rich Mother step out of our house, because she often says out loud whatever pops into her head. And while we strongly believe in freedom of speech, I just don’t think it is correct to say way too loud for everyone to hear, “I do not like her dress, Si-si. It is too American.”

Truly Rich Mom, of course, only likes French styles and select indigenous accessories such as “those gold plate necklaces made by the itas. ...Retrieve them from the baul, Si-si, the one where we keep the ashes of your great-great-great grand aunt who was also part ita. ...And dust them off, please. I don’t want her on my clothes. I am wearing vintage today.”

Horrors.

Of course, what she should’ve used to describe the jewelry was “local” or “native” or even just “Filipino.” (But what she really meant was colonial-era, as in Spanish, necklaces. I can not correct her anymore! Never mind, too, about Great Aunt Phillipa, who was a descendant of a ruling tribe. My apologies to her soul!)

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When these words escape from her lips and in a very public setting like, say, an important business dinner, I often imagine myself crumpling into a ball until my shock dissolves me into nothingness. Alas, when I open my eyes, I am still there among many strangers with various degrees of shock etched on their faces.

I must admit I am becoming a hall monitor, a tut-tut-tutter, a boring hag who now polices all forms of expressions and acts of hers that veer into political incorrectness.

But why should I feel so uncomfortable about words that, in my Truly Rich Mother’s mind, was her genuine opinion about something or her own way to describe what she wanted to say? At least she is not a hypocrite.

I am now afraid, dear readers, for I’ve come to realize that my mom has entered that golden era of untouchable ancientness, which means I am slowly getting old myself.

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My Truly Rich Mother has settled into that fluffy age, in which she can do whatever the hell she wants, and no one dares reprimand her, because she has paid her dues (and taxes) in full.

So, if Mother wants to announce, out of the blue, that she really despises our Truly Rich Neighbor, who has thoughtlessly decided to plant a fruit-bearing tree near our southwest wall, she will do so—in the middle of my breakfast, as I am taking a bite of bacon.

“Si-si, you know, Marietta now has to spend an extra half-hour, every morning and afternoon, sweeping away the flowers that fall from that godawful tree! Our neighbor is so ignorant. She is a secretly separated, tired-looking, ignoramus, who also drives terribly!”

Of course, I try to tell her not to say those words out loud or, to at least, just describe the neighbor (my good friend) as a now-free, rest-challenged, and factually unencumbered person, who likes walks. Truly Rich Mother is in the moment! She is in the middle of taking a bite out of a perfectly ripe mango that Marietta poached from the neighbor’s tree.

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Later that day, at my next-door neighbor’s home, my dear friend (and Mother’s enemy), Suzie, is in middle of a related crisis. Last weekend, for the upcoming birthday of her almost-one-year-old son, she sent out photo-invitations of her family plus the yaya holding the children. It was all artfully done, I think, with a bit of flair even (I must ask who her stylist is). The setting is under a fruit-bearing tree. Suzie is in an inoffensive Tory Burch shift dress and her day diamonds, the birthday boy in her arms, the nanny playfully corralling her three other kids. Everyone was smiling, even the yaya.

I didn’t think anything was wrong, but the other moms, the Alpha Moms, were quick to air their ire over the safe space of WhatsApp: “Did you see this!!!” “She is using that poor old dear as decoration!” “How dumb can she be?” “Why is she using her yaya to flaunt her wealth!” “Is that Tory B from two seasons ago?” “She cannot drive.” “Mom, go to sleep please!”

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“Oh, Si-si, you don’t think anything was wrong, right? I only wanted to have a little fun with the invitations. You know how bored I am?” Suzie asks me as we take our tea in her gray-and-blue modernist living room.

I am seated in an uncomfortable designer chair that is both too high and too low, but I say, “Of course, there’s nothing wrong with including Manang Nora in your photo. She is practically family. See, she’s smiling. And you really need her there to complete the picture. She is context. Also you paid her, right?”

We fill our tea cups with a gross coco-turmeric concoction, which we gulp down immediately as it helps with bowel movement.

“Suzie,” I say, “These women are just so uptight and overly sensitive about everything. I’m sure they treat their help not very well.”

“Si-si, uh, I don’t think we can call them that. We can’t call them ‘help’ anymore. It’s ‘housekeeper.’”

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In that moment, I have a new realization, so I stand up and leave right away my factually unencumbered neighbor.

As I make my way to our house, I realize that I cannot wait to get even older. While I dread the cruel effects of time on my health and, more important, ravishing beauty (this is why I am investing in multi-colored organic veggies and a non-greasy sunscreen with an SPF50 PA+++ rating), I look forward to that time when I can just do what I want, regardless of whether the PC police thinks it’s okay or not.

All this tiptoeing around words and what pleases you just sucks the joy out of life. Sure, you should do your best not to offend or disrespect, but sometimes being overly careful feels like smothering your head with a pillow. You become like the dead, who does not have the ability to express color nor voice opinion or dissent.

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I join my mother for dinner in the city. In the car, as we make our way through traffic, I stare at her intently. The light of the late afternoon sun lands softly on her face, and she looks like the most content child without worry or care.

“Is anything wrong, dear?” she asks. I shake my head and smile. “You look a little pale,” she says. “And also a little fat in the face. Maybe you should skip dinner.”

Okay, Mom.

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About The Author
C.C. Coo
The Truly Rich Lady
C.C. Coo—also known as Town&Country’s Truly Rich Lady—is not a professional seeker of leisure as many people wrongly assume, for she has a real-life occupation: a SHE-EO of Important (Sub)Company of an Empire, for which she works very hard to make sure that the people in her care are not left wanting. She believes that manners are utterly important: “If society is like one of those costume jewelry pieces worn by Jackie O or Diana, manners would be the glue that keeps the veneer of a most beautiful thing from falling apart,” she says.
View Other Articles From C.C.
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