How to Introduce a Scapegoat and Other Etiquette Advice

If Emily Post wrote the rule book on etiquette, then it was Bridget Jones who taught us the struggle in executing it.

“Introduce people with thoughtful details. Such as: “Sheila, this is Daniel. Daniel, this is Sheila. Sheila enjoys horse-riding and comes from New Zealand. Daniel enjoys publishing and…” ~Shazzer (friend of Bridget Jones; movie: Bridget Jones’s Diary)

For example, how to maintain good manners in the most awkward of social situations, i.e. when you don’t actually like the people.

Click here: Video Clip of Bridget Jones

Transcript from video clip: (at Bridget’s work event)
Perpetua: Anyone going to introduce me?
Bridget: [to herself] Ah. Introduce people with thoughtful details. Perpetua, this is Mark Darcy. Mark is a prematurely middle-aged prick with a cruel raced ex-wife. Perpetua is a fat-ass old bag who spends her time bossing me around.
Bridget: [to herself] Maybe not.

Maybe not.  Bridget regulates her desires and proceeds to introduce them respectfully.  An etiquette that often fails in dysfunctional family systems.

The Christmas Eve Party 2013

“It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting “Cathy” and banging your head against a tree.” ~Bridget Jones’s Diary (Helen Fielding)

Every year we are graciously invited to a Christmas Eve dinner party by the best friends of DH’s parents (Jenna and Charles).  Last year, we were introduced to four ‘new’ guests: the pastor and her three adult daughters.

Jenna (paraphrasing from DH and my notes): “This is DH, the son of FiL.  He lives in Europe working for Company X since he graduated from college and they move him all over the place.  And this is his wife, TR, she goes where he goes and his Company finds her work wherever they end up.”

Silence.  Then DH says “Um, that is not correct”.  Then, dead, awkward silence until one of the pastor’s daughters changes subjects.  (Loved the fact that DH spoke for the truth as opposed to speaking for me.)

After my shock wore off, I decided NOT to DEFEND myself to Jenna or the other guests.  In the past, I would have tried to subtly negate Jenna’s introduction later in the conversation by controlling it.  Instead, I thought of CS’s and Kara’s chalkboard “Think What You Like” and let conversation flow.

The Christmas Eve Party 2014

“Singletons should not have to explain themselves all the time but should have an accepted status — like geisha girls do” ~Bridget Jones’s Diary (Helen Fielding)

This year we arrived at the party and were greeted by the hosts and familiar faces.  The first part of the evening was spent ‘chatting’ – meaning, covert aggressive comments/questions were flung for a JADE (justify-argue-defend-explain) response.  A harmless Yes/No question, seemingly with interest, is asked with an immediate explanation that didn’t lead to actual conversation only to the next question, followed by the next explanation.  The JADEing came to an end (or so I thought) with Jenna’s game: “You Are Where You Eat”:

Rules: Jenna read aloud a clue from pre-made cards and the rest of the guests guess who it is.  On the back of the card is your seat number.  Before moving on to the next clue, Jenna tells the person (who we just guessed) to share a specific story.   

I believe the game was intended to entertain us before we sat down to dinner.  Some of the clues didn’t quite live up to the expectation, unfortunately.  Maybe it would have been in a different situation – where the guests are functional (as opposed to dysfunctional).  The ‘suggested’ story that each person told felt like a justification of who we are rather than a sharing of who we are, imo.

Our index cards (DH, TR):

card

Our index cards were innocuous compared to others¹ and it was Jenna’s daughter that took the prize:

“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can get a college degree”

Her daughter had been to university (same university as DH) and didn’t finish.   She has since gone back to school and is now close to graduating.  For the last 10 years of Xmas Eve parties, either Jenna’s daughter or I have toggled between playing the token scapegoat.  Can you guess where Scapegoat #1 and Scapegoat #2 were assigned seats?  We both sat next to the pastor and to Emily Post’s relief, everyone managed to eat their salad with the appropriate fork while JADEing².

Etiquette in a Dysfunctional Family System

“Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor.” ~Emily Post

The only etiquette that works in a dysfunctional family system is playing your designated role (Scapegoat, Golden Child, Mascot, etc.).  JADEing is the favored pastime, where subtle means that verbal cues are seemingly innocuous and no effort at all is therefore required to illicit a JADE reaction.  And dare you use the wrong fork, will you forever be reminded of not only that shortcoming but also all the other past ones.

Maybe a point Emily Post and Bridget Jones could agree on is: Embrace yourself no matter which fork you use.  :)

Footnotes

¹Our cards on the surface were harmless but were revealing in the sense of the repetitive manner in which DH and I are spoken to.  Sadly, another card mentioned someone’s illness.

²In the movie, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget goes to a dinner party with all married friends. The conversation focuses on her single status.  At this Christmas Eve Party as others, we (Scapegoat #1 & #2) got questioned left and right about being vegetarian.  Enjoy the clip.

The Year of the (Scape)Goat

The 19th of February will mark the beginning of the year of the goat/sheep according to the Chinese calendar.  Astrology (and the internet) reveal these common traits:

Goats are kind-hearted, trustful and are not fond of change.

And I also read they are very sensitive.  Hah!  It was listed as a weakness.  I think, for only a moment, the universe is part of the ‘joke’ that took me a while to figure out – that humans can’t be goats!

Well, whether it is Chinese astrology or your very dysfunctional family, Scapegoats make the universe and the dysfunction go round and round.  It never stops.  Until the Scapegoat sees that there is a problem (other than themselves) and actually wants to change.  It can happen even when the stars are not aligned.  Go Goats!

Domesticating Molding a Scapegoat in a family involves placing blame until the child  automatically does so herself, on cue.  The only thing required to keep the goat contained is control.   Control keeps the universe from collapsing (or in this case, the system).  Usually, someone literally collapses because it is exhausting to keep a fragile system spinning in orbit.

Goat

Playing the Scapegoat is like an actual goat in the pasture eating unwanted vegetation.  When you think you have tamed the pasture, new weeds have already sprouted up elsewhere.  It works because the Scapegoat can be trusted to do the repetitive job, even our strengths are weaknesses!

As a Scapegoat, you can make all the noise you want but it isn’t until your duties get neglected that everyone pays attention.  Everyone starts to react to the uncontrollable weeds in the backyard (but not actually doing anything about it).  The only thing more off putting than looking at all the weeds is the neighbors commenting on the unkept yard.  Oh my!  Surely something’s wrong with the goat, what shall they do?  Weed killer and mulch, although acceptable alternatives, require too much work, unlike a peaceful goat grazing.

And unlike a peaceful goat, I started to become angry and then, a lot of stuff became uncomfortable around me.  The past years in recovery I felt changes even when no one around me could see them.  I was a human dressed in a goat costume and it was getting really itchy.  I still have a long way to go to get that darn costume off – it was sewn on with love and care intricate stitching.  However, parts are beginning to fray.

Astrology and the goat’s early domestication by humans have led us astray from the true nature of the goat.  The goat will readily return to its wild (feral) state and she is an intelligent, curious creature willing to explore unfamiliar territory (contradictory to the notion she is not fond of change).  Goats live symbiotic with man, serving purposes like milk, butter, cheese, clothing and removal of unwanted vegetation.  But with any symbiotic situation, some basic principles must be remembered to maintain harmony – the weeds are NOT the goat’s fault!

Happy New Year!  All the best to everyone for a healthy 2015!

Footnote to the New Year

I found this article revealing about the trait of procrastination as I try to move forward this year.  A timely article.  ;)