Don't tell my husband: As soon as I saw that the new Emily Post's Etiquette (18th ed.) released in October, I thought, I know what I'm getting Rafi for Christmas!

If you know my husband, this will surprise you. Rafi doesn't exactly seem the fussy manner sort, the type who would enjoy this book. He's definitely not a stern Captain Von Trapp at the table, reminding our kids of their place, of their do's and don'ts. And because he's been married to a feminist long enough, he knows better than to pull off any mindless gallantry.

But still, Emily Post has a special place in our relationship. While we initially bonded (and probably fell in love) over our shared love of dogs, my own love for him deepened the day I saw a copy of Emily Post's 14th edition on his bookshelf. I particularly liked the red-tassel gradeschool bookmark that hung across the top of the huge volume.

"You've read that?" I asked.

"A good chunk of it."

His aunt had given it to him for Christmas when he was 14—just after he started prep school, and before launching into the world of dating and then college and then job and family, where, his aunt had rightly assumed, good manners were important.

My husband—not a huge reader—read the book over a "slow weekend," not because he was so interested in manners per se, but because he liked the order and logic of it all. He's a cut-and-dry kind of guy, and he liked knowing the right and wrong of how to act.

I paid attention to etiquette for similar reasons. My natural social bent is awkward. I am shy and introverted, and my mind tends to blank out when it comes time for making small talk. Walking into a room or sitting at a table full of people I don't know is the stuff my nightmares are made of.

So understanding the rules of ...

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