It is alright to be polite, respectful. It is not alright to kowtow. Not everyone deserves, earns conditions ripe for pleasantries. I know of no other time when polite language was least deserved than during the exchange that took place between my husband and his school district superintendent.

My husband was raised to address others with “Yes, ma’m” and “Yes, sir” in a consistent manner. All inclusive. Nobody was left out of the equation. If you occupied space in the same room with him, or on the phone with him, he would include you in his homespun ways. What is interesting is the fact that not one of his three siblings adopted the same reverential treatment towards others. Maybe that’s the joy of being firstborn. Another interesting outcome of his respectful approach came when my mom — unaccustomed to this manner of speaking, quite foreign really — felt compelled to tell my husband, “I don’t like that (recoiling at the use of “Ma’m”) don’t say that to me.” Okay. So, it is not universally held as cute, quaint, or necessary. Lay off.

At no time in my history as wife to my husband could I have known a more appropriate time to call into question his language. The local school district, where my husband had been employed for 21 years, using no polite language at all, wanted him gone. With zero justification, he was to vacate his position as teacher at the high school. They were to replace him with someone else. And the process played out with no pleasantries. It was a bitter pill for my husband. But, there he was in the throes of leaving, objecting all the way and using “Yes, sir”, not deviating one bit in his interactions toward the one man leading the campaign.

I don’t conform to the concept that I must be polite while someone knifes me in the back. Life is too short for that. I say construct a voodoo doll in the likeness of someone who has betrayed you…very therapeutic. Have fun sticking pins in the doll. Add to the mix your penchant for punctuating your conversations with, “Yes, sir” and you are sure to walk away both polite and victorious.

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