Old Money, Pet Peeves

Every so often, I’ll meet someone and the conversation drifts to what I do for a living. When I explain The Old Money Book and what it’s about, The Question arises in one form or another: “So what can I do to be more like Old Money?”

In response, I generally run through the Greatest Hits: living below your means, modesty, discretion, politeness, hard work, education, family, button-downs, blue blazers, penny loafers. Sometimes, Bad Byron pops up on my shoulder and whispers, ‘Tell them they need a nickname, too, like Skip, Chip, Muffy, or Tipsy.’

But I resist that impulse. One thing I’ve recently thought about adding is: ‘Do what you say you’re going to do, every time, and in all things, big and small.’

In the past, this was a Pet Peeve of mine: people not doing what they say they’ll do. (It still is, but I’m less exposed to it now.) I would sometimes search for some rationale or logic behind the apparent disregard or try to make excuses for the behavior. Was it negligence or deception? Was it malicious? Forgetful? My wife, often the one to cut to the heart of the matter with typical Boston candor, would reply, “They didn’t do what they said they were going to do. What does that tell you about them?”

After digesting that in silence, I’d make peace with the situation. Now, I simply cut to the chase rather quickly, assess the what did or didn’t happen and the person, and move on. It’s one of the things I watch for when I meet new people now, like a sign post on Relationship Road.

Presently, I have no idea why this concept is now popping up in my mind on a regular basis. I’ve had no one flake-out on me recently or let me down in some big way. I’ve got my ‘process’ down and my ‘radar’ up. All systems are go.

I think I’ve simply had a revelation that ‘giving your word’ to another person that you’ll do something–or won’t do something–is a type of currency in the Old Money relationship economy. You trade on it. You store value in it. You rely upon it to be worth what the other person says it’s worth. Your value is not just your expertise, skill set, or balance sheet. It’s your reliability, the solid nature of the space between your word and your deed.

This currency floats above what is legal, and may hover just above what is ethical: it’s simply what is right, what is fair, and what is kind. It’s subtle, but it’s solid. If someone’s word has value, it’s not given lightly, any more than a crusty Boston brahmin would give a $20 bill to…well, anybody who wasn’t family…and then, well, maybe not even somebody who was.

Anyway, I digress. As we approach this holiday season, I want to give everyone the chance to unload your Personal Pet Peeve. Feel free. Don’t name names, and don’t go off the rails, but do get it off your chest.

We’ll enter the new year with a lighter load. Alright, let’s hear it…

  • BGT


68 thoughts on “Old Money, Pet Peeves

  1. Lateness, I absolutely can not abide lateness. When you are late and do not call to let me know, it tells me you do not value my time or me! Public arguments, loud voices screaming at each other! I remember seeing a public argument as a child, my mum pulled me away and stated” We don’t do that, shame on those people”. It still horrifies me after all these years. Jane Keller

    1. Thanks for sharing, Jane. Social math: your complaint equals the motive for establishing private clubs, i.e., a sanctuary where members know how to behave and dress. Armchair anthropology 101. – BGT

  2. Hi Byron. Lack of manners or common decency. As you say, we’re not talking finger bowls, or high tea here, just basic human kindness and decency.

    My new favorite line of yours…”…the solid nature of the space between your word and your deed.” Priceless.

  3. At first I hesitated to reply, but yes,sometimes saying what is bothering me does make me feel better. And so I will say that people dressing down all the time- in stores, at work, at church, at nice restaurants, at holiday parties! – is really wearing me out. Especially when those dressed in stretchy fabrics, tops that look like blankets, hoodies, sneakers, shorts in the winter, every mismatched, logo-covered outfit say to me, “well aren’t you dressed up. I just like to be comfortable” because I’m the maniac wearing a sweater, jeans, and boots.

    Well, if your clothes are decently constructed and in your size, there is really no reason they should cause discomfort. I want to respond that I would never be comfortable leaving the house in what they are wearing, but usually smile and find someone else to chat with. There is no respect for the occasion, it seems, or for the benefit of others. I believe it is important to present my best self.

    And finally, I will mention poor posture as the icing on the cake (or more accurately, the icing sliding off the cake) of the slovenliness of Americans.

    1. Elle, I recently attended an evening ballet performance; a talented Russian ballet company was performing a technically challenging piece and it was an incredibly special event. During intermission, I saw a woman wearing sweatpants and it just broke my heart. You are not alone in your cultural lament!

  4. Agree with all of the previous comments, and my special favorite is failing to R.S.V.P.

    I used to love to have people over, but my enthusiasm is dwindling. Still fairly new to my state, I recently invited a small group of new people for cocktails and snacks. 75% of my guest list never replied. When I called to follow up (an action I deeply resent needing to take), they all asked if they could let me know the date of the gathering or just show up.

    As a solo hostess (I’m widowed), I can pull a party together, but it takes advance planning and some careful logistics.

    I wound up taking the only couple that replied (immediately, I should add) out to dinner and we had just a fine time. Guess I’ve found two members of “my tribe”. The heck with the rest! Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve run into this problem, from folks who should know better. So disrespectful!

    1. I agree 100% with this, Mary Helen. It hurts to invest effort into doing something nice for others and then be left hanging. Of course, R.S.V.P. habits are an excellent metric by which to assess a new acquaintance’s character. Host a party to learn who your friends will be in your new neighborhood/job. 🙂 I’m not that brave (yet?). I only invite new acquaintances over one (or one family) at a time and somewhat informally — in conversation, so I can assess if they’re interested at all and then mutually decide on a time — because of a fear of this.

      1. Sadly, the behavior is not confined to just new acquaintances. I had similar trouble in our previous state with people we had known a while. I think many people have come to believe it’s rude or offensive to decline an invitation. Wrong! What’s rude is to leave the host(ess) hanging. Heck, she might want to invite someone else, if given enough time. No is an acceptable reply. I might invite you one more time. Don’t respond? You’ll never get asked again by me.

    2. Yes, the standards of etiquette have eroded. Hopefully you can expand the tribe, one by one, in 2019, and have the makings of a good dinner party in the summer. Thanks, Mrs. Tully! (I love saying that.) Happy new year! – BGT

  5. Merry Christmas, Byron!

    My biggest pet peeve is people who constantly change plans and give you a moment’s notice of those changes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a friend or co-worker or employer, changing things at the last minute without sufficient notice is rude. I believe in flexibility, and ‘life happens’ and/or unexpected emergencies occur but I have issues with multiple decisions changed every few minutes or within hours of an event or work shift.

    It causes unnecessary stress and acts as a domino effect to others.

    1. Yes, a symptom of technology, a world in which information is put out, absorbed, and updated continuously, almost instantaneously. Plans, conversely, are made and honored. Good peeve. Thanks, Cheryl. Happy new year! – BGT

  6. My pet peeve is newly wedded couples not sending thank you notes for wedding gifts. No hand written notes, no email, text or even just a phone call. No acknowledgment at all. This is unacceptable behavior on part of the recipient not just due to lack of manners but also it leaves the giver wondering if the gift was even ever received. It leaves the giver in an awkward position of trying to find out if the gift was indeed delivered and also feeling unappreciated for the thought, time and expense of choosing the gift.

  7. Dear Mr. Tully,
    This is a bit fun! Something I find myself doing (catching myself and trying to correct) is oversharing. Partly generational norms, but also my new workplace culture, encourages this practice. I was not raised to do this. My mother (or grandmother) would know how to answer simply and gracefully without giving too much detail. I tend to share too much (in the spirit of friendship and honesty), but often regret the amount of detail. Working on this is my New Year’s resolution. As for other people, being late or being flaky with time/plans is frustrating. Also, eating loudly can be unpleasant.
    Best wishes,

    1. I have found that saying, ‘I really couldn’t say’, or lifting one shoulder in a demure shrug, helps. I’m not denying them information. I am not trying to tell them off. People overstep the bounds of polite society in the first place by asking question they have no business asking in the ‘spirit of transparency’. I prefer the spirit of ‘none of your (blank) business’, but wishing to be polite and not burn any bridges, I attempt diplomacy.

      1. Thank you, Ms. Bishop! Wonderful advice, and most welcome. I often wonder if my generation (the first internet generation) has lost out on the art of conversation. Or, perhaps the ability to speak broadly and well signifies social group or class (perhaps education). I wish you all uplifting and stimulating holiday conversation!

      2. Exactly. In the age of oversharing, when one doesn’t overshare they’re criticized. Deemed quiet or antisocial. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. Social media is to blame for this in my generation. Millennials equate oversharing by celebrities who are promoting a film or album as something they should adopt in their everyday lives. They place less emphasis on substance and more on how many followersthey have.

    2. Thanks, Rachel. Easy trick to help with oversharing: respond politely and succinctly, then ask a question or change the subject. It keeps the conversation going, but doesn’t require you to keep talking. (Friend of mine with a psychology degree offered that one to me, as I was having difficulty with inquisitive people at one point.)

      Happy new year! – BGT

  8. People having dinner with their phones instead of their dinner companions! That strikes me as intentional rudeness. I would never do it or tolerate it (so, fortunately, it doesn’t tend to happen to me).

    Gossip. It breaks my heart to hear someone gossip about others, because then I know I can’t trust the gossiper and shouldn’t bother getting closer to them. I value my friends immensely and would do anything for them, so I keep them few and choose them slowly and carefully. I want to be a trustworthy friend myself.

    Finally, and worst of all — like you mentioned, Byron — breaking one’s word. I would include habitual tardiness and last-minute changes of plans (without a good reason, of course) in this. It’s very inconsiderate. I tell them how I feel about it kindly but firmly and set a strong boundary with that person in the future. I can’t rely on them, so I simply stop doing so.

    I like this — a Festivus “airing of grievances” against humanity. 🙂

    Wishing a wonderful and safe (and peeve-free!) holiday season to all!

    1. Thanks, Jess! Yes, we’re going pet-peeve free in 2019. A rule that I may break if I have an issue and absolutely must post about it. Otherwise, we’re going to be optimistic, not let the side down (as the Brits say) and carry on with grace and fortitude. – BGT

  9. It seems to me that today’s ‘young people’ (doesn’t that make me sound so ancient?) can’t seem to commit or communicate. I don’t understand the lack of commitment to any particular event. Are they in such high demand that they cannot say ‘yes’ to the simplest invitation? It’s not as if I’m asking The Queen to tea.
    Next… I say, ‘hello’ to the ‘twenty-somethings’ at church as I walk by and all I get back is a smirk. Are they amused by social pleasantries? Offended perhaps? I don’t get it. Are they appalled someone outside their age group would dare to speak to them? Are they ‘so cool’ they cannot say ‘hello’ to other people? I’m befuddled. Last, but not least, could everyone please arrive on time?

  10. I would have to say holiday drunkenness. There are just some people who think the presence of alcohol at any function is an invitation to go full on “Animal House”, even if it is at Grandmother’s house! Ridiculous.

  11. Simple manners, when your three year old is aware enough to say a simple, “excuse me,” to an adult as she needs to slide past some one in a shop… I expect that adult to have been the one to say it first, or respond in accordance. Simple and obvious, and something I hope to see more of in a very general sense… even if it needs to come from our children first.

    And a very Merry Christmas to you Byron.

  12. My pet peeve is condescension. I don’t like being looked down upon, talked down to, and treated disrespectfully by people who are 1) not as a attractive 2) not as wealthy 3) not as educated 4) not as accomplished in career. That may sound very arrogant but I speaking facts. Unless you truly are better than me, and your mother is better than my mother and you have the goods/credentials to back it up, please refrain from condescending remarks. Thank you Byron for allowing me to blow off steam this Holiday Season. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  13. Swearing or cussing. If all you can do is say **** all day, you really need to expand your vocabulary. It makes you sound unintelligent and rude.

  14. A quote from a new novel, by a Dutch writer [my own translation]:

    “Tourists are always the others. What distinguishes them from us is not even entirely clear; but that there is a fundamental distinction, is for us a certainty that is of existential importance and that touches upon our identity.”

    Anyone living in a historical city will understand.

  15. So many excellent comments regarding Byron’s essay. I often find myself missing an earlier time and place as so few in today’s world have any idea what any of us are talking about.

    I almost never host an event any longer for reasons others have stated so far. I am, however, a wonderful guest. ;o) I respond early with an RSVP, I bring something to the event, and I ALWAYS follow it with a thank you, whether by email or note card.

    And tardiness? Just don’t be.

    Lastly, the ubiquitous cell phones. One of our greatest technological tools and yet our worst nightmare for social manners. I’m a member of a local Rotary club and it’s shocking to see how many members, young and old, will be glancing at their laps checking social media, email, whatever, while the meeting is in progress or a guest is speaking.

    Festivus indeed! Best of the season to you all.

  16. My pet peeve is when people ask personal questions. If pushed enough I simply, but politely reply by saying: ‘Are you with the police ?’ When they reply ‘No, what makes you say that ?’
    I say ‘Because you ask a lot of questions !’ They soon get the message.

      1. Another good response is, “Why do you ask”? It usually leaves the questioner confused and embarrassed.

  17. I have two.

    Firstly, the vast quantities of cheap, plastic, rubbishy toys and gadgets that proliferate around the cash registers of discount stores at Christmas time. That there is market enough to warrant the manufacture of this volume of tat is depressing.

    Secondly, the vulgar, gossipy, mean spirited and poorly edited rubbish put forward as news by (some/most) online newspapers. Is this really what there is to read? Shaping public opinion? My city’s daily (former) broadsheet now seems more like a lifestyle magazine.

    I sort of feel better… ha ha.

  18. I agree with the choice of pet peeves suggested by this community so far. Mine is discussing personal information publicly. This is relevant far too much, especially around holiday events. Whether in the workplace, or during simple conversation. Some are far too keen on sharing personal health details, relationship & intimacy issues, their latest bank balance or lack thereof, etc.

    There use to be a time when one kept intimate details to themselves or limited this to their inner circle. Nowadays, with the invention of social media it’s become a popularity contest. Who can push the boundaries of the taboo in their post sharing? One of the reasons I have distanced myself from social media platforms. Not to mention privacy concerns.

  19. Hello everyone,

    I agree with all of these posts but want to capitalize on two . . . cellphone use and dressing down. I’m amazed at how when I go anywhere, be it the grocery store, Starbucks, the mall – you name it – almost everyone’s face is buried in a device. It’s as if no one can function without it. I get particularly annoyed with people who walk through the store chatting away on the phone as if everyone wants to hear their conversations. I’ve made it a point to keep mine put away until absolutely necessary. If I’m in a public place, and my phone rings, I’ll go off to the side or somewhere private to answer it – that is, if I feel so obliged. I’ve tried to teach my two sons to do the same.

    As for dressing down, people have taken it too far. No one dresses up for anything anymore. It’s just a constant array of jeans, t-shirts, tennis shoes, and even the occasional pajama bottoms. Good grief! There’s nothing wrong with those things, but there is a time and a place. Unfortunately, our society thinks that means any time and any place.

    Oh, and I almost forgot – tattoos are repulsive. As stated in previous Old Money posts, they have become an epidemic. My husband doesn’t like them either. You might as well being wearing a sign that says, “Dirty.”

    It’s great to vent to others who are like-minded.

    Merry Christmas to you all, and Happy New Year!

    1. To Heather Fagan Whilding….. I embrace and agree with almost everything you said…with a qualifier. I never speak on my cell phone in stores, but in the grocery store, I’m on it the whole trip. You see, my grocery list app is on it! I use Cozi’s lists and they sync with my laptop. I never forget my list anymore. Yay! Then, when I get to the checkout, if the line is long, I use it to check my mail and messages, news stories, and so on. I find it keeps me much more patient while I wait, and certainly more pleasant. That can never be bad, can it?

      I’m a big advocate of Tim Gunn’s “sweatsuit alternative” concept, a uniform for ordinary days that is very comfortable but looks totally pulled together. That can entail some Old Money go-to’s, like khakis and a knit shirt or sweater. Comfy need not be sloppy, right?

    2. Heather, when I read your opinion of tattoos I laughed heartily and agreeably. Feeling hypocritical though, as I’m wearing Old Money garb and a nose ring.

  20. I suppose living/working in Washington DC (and living in Alexandria VA) kind of spoiled me as far as manners, promptness and formality. It was VERY hard to adjust when I moved to a small town in Texas. I went to a party at a restaurant that was to start at 5 and arrived right on time. I was confused to find that everyone was in the middle of the meal and some already finished. I wanted to leave but my husband suggested we go ahead and eat since we were already there. So, not only are we waiting on our food as everyone is finished up, but the young man next to me was wearing headphones, talking on his phone to AT&T to get instructions on how to record the Super Bowl. What started out as confusion quickly turned to deep hurt. Seriously, it was all I could do to finish my meal without tears. Sorry, didn’t mean to get side-tracked. Almost everyone has touched on certain pet peeves and for some reason this came to mind. I’d really like for someone to tell me I’m being ridiculous and petty.

  21. My pet peeve is not so much people as it is a culture has developed that makes us want things that are not needed. For example no-one needs 200 television channels. At our annual holiday party a number of gentleman wanted to know if they could watch the game. I said sure, but they discovered I only get about four channels. (I use an antenna). This led to conversation about cable TV, internet and utility bills (*sigh*). My mouth literary dropped open when I heard what people pay. Some pay 300.00 a month for financed smart phones for the family not to mention subscriptions for these gaming consoles, on top on cable and internet. Several people pay at least 400.00 a month. Whereas I’m about 60.0 for a bare bones internet (need to access the office) and a couple of flip phones. I then walked into the kitchen for some ice and saw a number of ladies standing around the sink admiring something. It was our antique dish drying rack. Dishwashers have become digital throw away items that cost more to fix than purchase. Nightly. we all chip in to wash and dry

    1. Ooh, this is a great one, Bob. Excessive consumerism — and the constant barrage of predatory marketing that drives it by driving the psychology that produces it. Thanks for mentioning this.

      I forgot something in my post that really is a major pet peeve of mine: prescription drug ads, which are a relatively new phenomenon. “Ask your doctor…” about something that costs tens of thousands per month (e.g., biologics, cancer drugs!), that she would have certainly suggested if you needed it — or something mundane that’s shockingly gross to hear about on television. Followed, of course, by the list of side effects from the drug, which will make you need to “ask your doctor” for more drugs to combat those… It used to be illegal to advertise prescription drugs directly to consumers. It should still be.

      I’m like you and just have home Internet, no social media, an antenna for network TV, and a flip phone, which I keep turned off when I’m not expecting a call. Also, I’m 35; so now that they seem to have let go of “Generation Y,” I suppose I’m defined as a Millenial. Yet people of all ages think I’m crazy for not being hyper-connected. That makes me sad for them, because I actually have a tremendous financial and professional advantage that would be easy for anyone to claim at will if they could let go of the addiction. “I won’t be distracted at work or embarrass my employer” can put you head and shoulders above the crowd. When Silicon Valley titans don’t let their own kids have the devices they peddle to everyone else, you know you’d be better off to live like the kids.

      The only part on which I disagree with you is the dishwasher. I cook every meal and live alone — it’s non-negotiable. 🙂

    2. Bob, I always enjoy your replies. They somehow seem to resonate with me. I, too, am astonished at the cost to watch television now. Disclaimer: I have and pay for cable, but it is used to save my marriage. My husband is not willing to let it go, although he rarely watches it. I supposed it’s his Linus blanket. Compromise is important. But if it were just me, I wouldn’t have it, and I also agree about the dishwasher. I have one, but more often than not, I find myself washing and drying by hand. Many years of childhood chores is well-ingrained.

      1. It’s a matter of curation of your media. Maybe try this. In our breakfast nook I have a nice radio called Tivoli Model One (It’s about 15 years old, but they still make them). With your spouse listen to NPR over breakfast. If you have bad reception maybe get a streaming radio. Serial Radio just like they had before television is popular, but now it’s in the form of Podcasts. As indicated I don’t have a smart phone, but I do have and iPod from 2003 that I take good care of. Depending how deep you are into technology listen to a serial Podcast together in your sitting room, or better yet subscribe to a newspaper like the Times and read it together. My wife son and I watched the Rose parade and my son I and watched the Citrus Bowl on New Years day and I haven’t had the television on since.(Free since they are network TV). Television is particularly obtrusive since it effects people who want to read in the house. The family dynamic can really be broken if a partner has to go into the bedroom with a closed door in order to read a book during the day. Even the internet, I have a well maintained used Mac Book that I use maybe for 15 to 20 minutes every other day. The old money book mentions consignment shops for furniture, thats the philosophy I take with laptops and other technology, most PC repair places sell used gear and If need I will purchase from there.

      2. Thank you, Bob. These are good suggestions, and I will look into them. I have, in the last few years, started to get my husband to read, and he is enjoying it…when he finds something he likes. Right now, he’s still reading fiction that appeals to men, i.e, crime stories, mysteries, etc. But it’s a start, and I’m pleased with that progress. Perhaps he’ll move onto other nonfiction items in the future, but for now I’m good with this. It allows us to sit quietly together, enjoy some soft music, and wind down after the day with a glass of wine. He is a very hard worker, and he’s learning different ways to destress, rather than just mindless TV. But he’s not quite ready to cut that cord….but we’ll get there!

    3. Good call, Bob. Yes, that cable TV bill can slowly wreck a savings plan. Better to head off to the used book store. Dishwasher…that’s a good one! Thanks. – BGT

    4. I totally agree. Many years ago, I made a deal with my daughter to disconnect the cable and put the ($37.00) premiums into a savings account. She used the money to buy her first used car. Good deal wouldn’t you think?

  22. People who do not know how to be a welcomed house guest. If you are a guest at someone’s home, either thoroughly wash your makeup off every night or bring your own pillow cases. Ruining your hostess’ linens is not how old money guests behave. We had two families spend the holidays with us. The stark contrast between the behaviors of the two was astounding at times.

  23. Just read all of the thoughtful comments above. Thanks. I have nothing to add – tattoos, loud eating, too many prying questions, those damn screens, etc…

  24. I’m troubled by people who do not take good care of their personal balance sheets.

    The balance sheet enables us pass wealth from one generation to the next. Wealth can dramatically improve quality of life.

    More often than not – I see one generation make millions, and the next generation squanders it.

    Or worse, I personally know many individuals who made millions and squandered it within their lifetime in less than two decades.

    These individuals and their families never pass the three generation test.

    According to Albert Einstein, compound interest is the most powerful force on earth.

  25. As someone who is on the road to 49.I find myself more appalled each day at the world I live in.I did not grow up in wealth but some of my family married into it.Even as a squarely middle class child in the 1970’s my mother taught me good behavior.How to eat properly.How to set a table and so on.The trashy behavior courseness and vulgarity are everywhere you go today.Hand in hand with that is the progressive idea that there should be virtually no limits on human behavior as long as that behavior does not “hurt anyone”.It is hard to believe how far we have declined since 1985!😔

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