Taboo [tuh-boo, ta-] – prescribed by society as improper or unacceptable.
We all know those people. The people that seem to want to talk about all of the things that shouldn’t be discussed in public. The loud guy in your group of friends that goes into detail about his most recent sexual encounters next to a family of 4 trying to eat at a decent restaurant, as the rest of you cringe and mouth “sorry” to the dad who keeps giving you awkward looks every time your buddy curses. Chances are at some point, a parent, friend, or teacher informed you of a particular group of topics that are taboo in casual conversation. SEX. RELIGION. POLITICS. Just don’t do it, they’d say. The anti-Nike. But maybe, just maybe, as an intellectual rebel you choose to shirk the norm. To explore the taboo and see what kind of conversations actually manifest, somewhere away from impressionable youth. Some who’ve dared to venture into the forbidden have enjoyed its fruits while others surely faced what people had cautioned: awkwardness, resentment, ignorant rebuttals, and judgment. The burgeoning generations seem to be less afraid to break down those barriers and talk openly about classic taboos. In essence, what was once taboo in all situations may be no longer.
With that in mind, we at WhatIsAGentleman started to wonder; if the old taboos are dying, are there new taboos taking their place? The answer for all of us was an emphatic YES! But narrowing the prohibited list proved more difficult. One person’s taboo is another’s ice breaker. We spent countless hours mulling over our own list, changing the rules a bit to include non conversation based taboos and we have whittled it down to 3 new taboos for the aspiring gentleman, and all millennials.
The Invisible Phone
While a phone that can be cloaked and mysteriously invisible is intriguing, it’s not what we’re talking about here. The invisible phone is the idea that our phones, and electronics in general, should be invisible when with company. We’ve seen the commercials, heard the elderly insults, and felt the burn of a vibrating table or pocket. We, as a society, tethered to no particular generation, have grown infatuated and addicted to our little screens. Realization of an addiction is the first step to recovery, and setting up boundaries is the next logical step. Existing in the here and now, and engaging is something a gentleman should always aspire to do, and with that we have our first taboo.
Just don’t do it. On a date? Keep it hidden. Eating a family dinner at home? Leave it in your pocket. Grabbing a bite with your friends? Look at their goofy faces in real life. Of course there are exceptions. The difference between sharing the funniest video you’ve seen “in your life” and checking your instagram feed on a first date should be apparent. Pulling out your phone shows those you are with you’re looking for the next thing, something better than them. Use the phone as a social tool to connect, and nothing more. Exist in the now. Embrace the day. Carpe diem.
It’s a matter of perspective (First World Complainers)
Do you find yourself thinking, “Wow, that person could use a reality check.”? More often than not it was while talking to coworkers, friends, or even family who lack perspective. Our second taboo is a tough one to curtail, but definitely necessary to the overall mental health of us all. Our incessant need to complain about the mundane and minor inconveniences is killing us. Maybe killing is a bit dramatic, but all of the complaining we do is greatly detracting from our quality of life. Gaining perspective doesn’t mean you needed to live through it, but putting yourself in others’ less fortunate shoes is never a bad exercise to make sure your aren’t being pompous. Is your coffee not kids temp like you asked? Wait an extra 5 minutes to start drinking it, and stop the useless complaining, you’re better than that, so act like it. Taboo number two.
No one wants to hear your complaining, just like no one in the 50’s wanted to hear about your sex life. If you think about it, it’s all a matter of perspective. If we as a whole think in a glass half full manner instead of glass half empty. A positive groupthink could really change the mood of a room, or perhaps something even greater if done right. A gentleman doesn’t waste time complaining about their coworkers, the weather, or that friend that always calls off plans at the last minute. A gentleman always focuses on the positives, and good things usually follow.
With your phone invisible and your outlook particularly sunny, you might think sharing this new perspective would be a logical next step. We implore you to reconsider. A new issue has arisen we feel sneaks right into the 3rd spot on our list of new taboos: oversharing. The trend of placing everything one’s doing in others’ faces with a blatant disregard for your and your audience’s personal privacy both in person and online has become all too common.
The guy who can’t stop talking about himself or always has to have a story to ‘one-up’ another’s impressive tale is quickly getting put in the ‘pretentious” column. When in person, with a group or on a date, listening and responding proportionally has a profound impact to those you’re with. You are showing that you value another’s voice as much as your own, which is all any of us really want at the end of the day. In addition, every time you walk the dog or enjoy some fine frozen yogurt doesn’t require a posting. It’s about subtlety and restraint when using social media, and it’s a skill many of us haven’t quite mastered. Avoid oversharing endless vacation photos or political commentaries and you might attract fewer whispers behind your back from friends and be held in higher regard with colleagues and family members. Sure a picture of your new nephew is cute, and deserving of a post, but the 4th photo posted with a comment of “my nephew is better than yours because he’s into Bernie Sanders” wasn’t necessary.
It might seem counterintuitive to limit yourself with taboos in a world that is quickly experiencing a lack of limits. However, we think actively addressing these three new faux pas, along with selecting appropriate times to broach the classic taboos with the right company is a road map to being a modern day gentleman while engaging in more gripping, open conversations.