Her ladyship: Okay, what started this off? This idea for an “advice book for the modern age”?  Were you standing behind one of those tedious people who take longer to order their coffee than you would to drink it, if you could just get a cup? Did someone put a store-bought cake on a heirloom platter and bring it to your funeral?  Did you punch an annoyingly smug Mom at the fun park and suddenly realize that our lives lack serious impulse control?

Celia RivenbarkCelia: I had always wanted to do a single-subject book but it wasn’t until my editor at St. Martin’s Press, Jennnifer  Enderlin, suggested etiquette that I felt my pulse race a bit. Yes! As my husband is fond of pointing out, there are few things I enjoy more than telling people how to live their lives. He is right so there’s no point in me pouting about it. When Jen suggested it, I DID immediately think of those people who clog the line at the post office with their incessant STUPID ASS questions. See. I do so love profanity and I thought it would be fun to write an honest-to-Jesus advice manual that kept it real so to speak. Hence, Rude Bitches was born.

Rude Bitches Make Me TiredHer ladyship: Isn’t it rather rude to have the word “bitches” in the book’s title? Aren’t you forcing hundreds of thousands of people to squirm uncomfortably when they attempt to order your book from  their bookstore, thus making you part of the whole “rude Americans” problem?

Celia: See above. I don’t care if people squirm a little as long as they can stop all that squirming long enough to order the book.

Her ladyship: Are you worried that our society is becoming irredeemably bad-mannered?  Is it Facebook’s fault? Can Facebook fix it with the enforced imposition of “featured posts”? And how did you discover there is a Facebook group called “I Secretly Want to Punch Slow Walking People in the Back of the Head”? Did Facebook suggest you “like” it?

Celia: Yes. Yes, I am. And, no, I don’t blame Facebook specifically although it certainly does make us all cringe more than ever at the “humble brag.” Before Facebook, it was rare to see in print something as rude as: “Skip Jr. was incredibly nervous about his ACT but it went well and now he is weighing Princeton vs. Harvard. Should we go with Mom’s alma mater or Dad’s. What to do!” Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.  A friend told me about the FB group “I Secretly Want to Punch Slow Walking People in the Back of the Head.” Ill-mannered? Of course. But it makes me laugh so it can’t be all bad.

Her ladyship: You cover pretty much every situation designed to challenge a body’s civility except what to do about the woman who wants to talk to you about Jesus while you’re waiting for the garage to change the oil in your car.  But everything else is there--psychotic little kids in grocery stores,  gross habits of gym-bunnies, people who insist on talking politics. And in each section, there are a couple of write-in-type questions. Were these sent to you by your readers? Or did you make some of them up because let’s face it, somebody needed to ask them?

Celia: The questions in the book came from, mostly, my very helpful girlfriends and the dressing room at TJ Maxx which is such a great sisterhood of strangers. I just “up and asked” for help whenever I went in there and people were more than glad to tell me their worst etiquette stories.

Her ladyship: Given the state of the comments section on any given website, how come your book isn’t longer? What rude behavior did you leave out? And did you leave it out because you secretly think it’s okay?

Celia: There is definitely enough material left over for a second book. I can’t wait to get started on it! There’s a fetcher at the end where I asked for readers to send their etiquette dilemmas that weren’t covered and they have responded! Which just proves that MY readers are insanely thoughtful and well-mannered.

Her ladyship: How long have you secretly wanted to be the cooler, more hip Abigail Van Buren? Is it possible to be cooler or more hip than Abigail Van Buren?

Celia: All of my life. And, uh, yes.

Her ladyship: Are you finding now that every time someone stops you to say how much they liked your book, they also have to bore you with the rude behavior pet peeve that you left out? Your book has been out a month and a half now--aren’t you sick of that?

Celia: Not at all. See the earlier question about leaving stuff out.

Her ladyship: And on that note, here's my pet peeve question. What can you do when you go to dinner with a good friend and you realize she is one of those people who makes the wait staff run lots of little errands and sends food back just because she can? Do you put a napkin over your head to hide from the shame? Over tip the staff and write little apologetic notes with smiley faces on the receipt? Tweet the awful experience in real time as it is happening? What would be appropriate here?

Celia: Oh, precious. I am so sorry that you have such poor judgment in friends. Ditch this monster immediately. Seriously, you should just photocopy the chapter that deals with high-maintenance diners and send it to her. Underline the part where I say wait staff can do “terrible things to your food. TERRIBLE things.” BTW, I have no patience for people who try to intimidate wait staff. It’s trite but true that you can judge a person’s character by how they treat people who can’t do them any good (help them get ahead). Seriously, don’t hang around her.

Her ladyship: When it comes right down to it, what’s the best piece of advice in your book?

  1. Think of others, all the time.
  2. Gossip is usually false.
  3. Leave the seat down.
  4. Be nice.
  5. Never buy cheap ice cream.

Celia: That’s easy: Never buy cheap ice cream. If you’re eating the good stuff, it will make you do all the others because you’ll be so damn fat and happy.