For her seventh book, the South Carolina native decided to follow in the footsteps of many a Southern grande dame, releasing an etiquette manual – but Rivenbark’s take is decidedly modern. In “Rude Bitches Make Me Tired: Slightly Profane and Entirely Logical Answers to Modern Etiquette Dilemmas” she gets to the heart of questions that a previous generation of belles might not have touched.
Rico Gagliano: So in your foreword, you ask a very dangerous question for someone who’s writing and etiquette book: “Do we really need another etiquette book?”
Celia Rivenbark: I know, that was pretty brave. Brave and stupid to ask that question.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So why did you write it?
Celia Rivenbark: Well, I did it because this is so not your mama and your grandmama’s etiquette book. This is not about holding the pinky high while you’re drinking the hot tea. This is not about which fork is the fish fork. This is about how to deal with the bossy witch at the playground.
Rico Gagliano: Witch, that’s a good one.
Celia Rivenbark: Yeah, there you go.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay. Why didn’t you call it “Rude Witches Make Me Tired?”
Celia Rivenbark: It just didn’t have the same punch, you know?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay. So you tackle a lot of etiquette dilemmas in this book. Which one gets your goat the most? The thing that you’re really happy to have a chance to set people straight about?
Celia Rivenbark: I would say the texting at the dinner table. That drives me out of my mind, right out of my gourd.
You know, I’ve been to dinner parties and everybody’s texting in their laps like little tiny children, and it drives me crazy. And I look at them and I say you know what? Unless you’re waiting for a text from the transplant team and you’re waiting on a new liver, you need to put that thing away.
Rico Gagliano: So how do you deal with a texter at the dinner table?
Celia Rivenbark: If I’m hosting a little party and somebody is texting I will just look at them in the eye and I will say, “I’m sorry, is our witty banter disturbing your phone call?” You know?
Brendan Francis Newnam: What I do is I do private shaming. I text them-
Rico Gagliano: “Get off the phone.”
Brendan Francis Newnam: “We’re watching,” or like a picture of them texting and I just send it to them.
Rico Gagliano: But what’d be funny is if somebody then was like texting you a thing saying “Get off your phone right now Brendan.” It’s just like a round robin of text angst.
Celia Rivenbark: Yeah, exactly.
Rico Gagliano: All right, let’s get to some of our etiquette questions from our listeners. They have some good ones for you, I think.
Rico Gagliano: This is from Andrea in Barnesville, Ohio, and she writes, “Are you allowed to bring ketchup to a restaurant if the restaurant doesn’t provide it? The place in question serves fancy burgers and ketchup is specifically not on the premises.”
Brendan Francis Newnam: What? Is this in America?
Rico Gagliano: I’ve heard about this place actually. We’re not gonna name names, but yes.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay.
Celia Rivenbark: Oh, you know, okay first of all, fancy burgers is hilarious. I mean, isn’t that kind of an oxymoron? You eat burgers with your hands, the grease is dripping down just like God intended. A burger place acting kind of uppity just seems weird to me, so yeah, what the hey? Take a couple of packets.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I think it’s- I would go one step further. It is your responsibility to bring ketchup to that restaurant Andrea.
Celia Rivenbark: Oh I love the way you think. I think you should bring it discretely, a little packet, not a great big pack. You know you don’t want to bring the 64 ounce thing right straight from your fridge and it’s got the sweat beading on it. You don’t want that.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Thump on the table.
Celia Rivenbark: Right, right. “I brought my own, thanks.”
Rico Gagliano: Check it out.
Celia Rivenbark: What would be funny is that everybody in the doggone restaurant would look at you with envy and say “Hey, can I borrow that dude?” Be like that.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Maybe you could charge them, make some extra money.
Celia Rivenbark: Exactly. I asked for A1 one time at Ruth’s Chris, not to name names, and honestly and truly he brought it to me in a little silver bowl after about 10 minutes, and he handled it like it was a cow pie. It was ridiculous.
Rico Gagliano: “Here, take it and get it out of sight.”
Celia Rivenbark: Exactly.
What you can’t see won’t hurt you
Rico Gagliano: All right, so we have a question. This one comes from Jack in Santa Monica. Jack asks, “Should I warn my guests that I recently saw a mouse in my kitchen? It’s been gone for a few days, but I don’t know where it is.”
Celia Rivenbark: You know what? Of course you should. And Jack, you should also be sure and tell everybody about any extramarital affairs you’re having, or how your toe fungus is progressing, because while you’re sharing, don’t leave anything out.
That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. No, of course you don’t tell them! Of course you do not tell them, because the heart of good etiquette, if you’re hosting you don’t want to make your guests uncomfortable.
Rico Gagliano: Oh that’s true, but what if-
Celia Rivenbark: It’s crazy.
Rico Gagliano: And if the mouse shows up you’re like, “Oh my gosh, where did that come from?”
Brendan Francis Newnam: Exactly, play it off.
Celia Rivenbark: Quite right.
Brendan Francis Newnam: You play it off like oh my goodness.
Rico Gagliano: First time ever.
Celia Rivenbark: Oh yeah. I had a little dinner party, oh a while back, and I heard an awful sound and I knew what it was. Just as I was opening the door for the first guest, and it was my husband, and he was using his shoe- his size 13 shoe to kill a water bug the size of Kansas.
I mean, we call ’em water bug, it’s cockroaches but in the south we don’t like that word so, it was a water bug. But you know, I’m not gonna say, “Oh my God, that noise, that’s him killing water bugs in the kitchen. Come on in, we’re having soufflé.” No!
Rico Gagliano: What did you say it was?
Celia Rivenbark: I just said, “Oh, he’s hammering something.”
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, you just ignore it. Like, did you bring your own ketchup? Welcome.
Rico Gagliano: All right Jack, there’s your answer.
Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Elizabeth. She wrote via our website- we don’t know where she’s from.
She says, “I am a new mom and visitors are stopping by unannounced. Sometimes my new baby is screaming and the house is a wreck and I haven’t showered and it’s just a really bad time to even think about saying hi. Is it okay to ignore the doorbell, or if I do answer how can I politely turn them away?”
Celia Rivenbark: Okay, here’s the thing. I mean, I have been in her situation. I think that you should answer the door every single time, because the truth is, unless you’re dealing with complete jerks, they’re gonna be bringing you something. They’re gonna be toting a casserole, or a big salad.
My good friend, when my baby was born, my good friend rang my doorbell. My hair was gross, I think I was wearing a sweatshirt and no pants, but she was carrying a 16-layer chocolate cake. You don’t think I opened that door wide? I didn’t care, okay?
So if they’re gonna show up, chances are- oh, the other thing they could do is give them the kid, especially if it’s screaming. Give them the baby and say, “I need a shower.” And you should say, “I’ll be back in 2-3 hours.” I think you need to look at everybody in terms of what they can do for you when you’ve just had a baby because it’s a big deal.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay, there you go Elizabeth. Not only did you get an answer to your question, but a solution to your babysitting problems.
Rico Gagliano: Indeed. Celia Rivenbark, thank you so much for telling our audience how to behave.
Celia Rivenbark: What fun.