I just got a Facebook invite for a wedding four days from now, 2½ hours away. I’m going because it’s my most dysfunctional cousin, who probably doesn’t even know how to do a wedding invitation, and whom I’ve never met in person due to family issues. Are wedding invitations being sent now via Facebook and with short notice? These are millennials, and their rings are tattooed. Everything seems so upside down to me anymore that I assume an odd way of doing something that used to have certain rules may very well be the “new” way, and I just hadn’t heard.
S.B. / Kansas City, Missouri
You’re right that you can’t judge people’s social behavior based on how it used to be in your day. You can, however, judge it on the grounds of whether it makes any bloody sense, which these invitations don’t. The use of social media isn’t the problem — that’s actually the solution to the problem of inviting people to a major event with 96 hours’ notice. Millennials may be digital natives who never touch money, but they’re still Muggles, for heaven’s sake. They can’t just apparate wherever they’d like. With that kind of time horizon, you’re lucky if you can get somebody to meet you for brunch, never mind a wedding.
(Tattooed wedding rings, however, seem like a splendid idea! So many advantages: They are permanent and personal, invulnerable to theft and loss. The couple’s money goes to a local artist, and ink as far as I know is less likely to be problematically sourced than gold or diamonds. Best of all, you can’t pass a tattoo down to the younger generation, thereby avoiding so many potentially painful and awkward situations of the kind that lead people to write to advice columnists. Still, they might not be the best choice for terribly impulsive couples.)
It doesn’t really change anything for you either way, though, does it? Rearranging your weekend isn’t less of a hassle if I say that FB “pop-up weddings” are the New Thing, and you’d still go even if I said your cousin was a barbarian.
One used to assume, encountering some unfamiliar custom, that the other person didn’t know the rules of the social game. Today there is always the possibility that they are playing a different game entirely. We grew up with baseball, but now there is soccer and ultimate Frisbee and LARPs and field hockey and giant chess. Are they playing baseball badly, or cricket quite well?
Or are they playing Calvinball? There are always people who can only and ever play Calvinball: their rules, all the time, never play it the same way twice. Calvinball may have been coined by Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson, but in reality it is older than baseball, and it sounds like your cousin has been playing in its major leagues for some time. Hang on tight and enjoy the ride!
Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.Is it you or is it them? It’s them, right? Only Miss Conduct knows for sure! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.