The Etiquette of Morning Manners

Etiquette: Mornings
Gregory B. Johnston

For the average college student, mornings can be one of the trickiest and most frustrating times of day. If one happens to be awake between the hours of 7:00 and 10:00 a.m., there is a 85% chance that one is highly annoyed with the behavior of someone else who is awake between those hours (sleepers tend not to cause trouble). In order to avoid early morning hatred for friends, blockmates, and not-so-innocent bystanders, you should first identify the type of riser with whom you are interacting and proceed to practice proper morning etiquette accordingly. At a time when it is so very easy to offend, it is essential to proceed with extreme caution.

For the average college student, mornings can be one of the trickiest and most frustrating times of day. If you happen to be awake between the hours of 7:00 and 10:00 a.m., there is an 85 percent chance that you are highly annoyed with the behavior of someone else who is awake between those hours as well (sleepers tend not to cause trouble). In order to avoid early-morning hatred for friends, blockmates, and not-so-innocent bystanders, you should first identify the type of riser with whom you are interacting and proceed to practic  proper morning etiquette accordingly. At a time when it is so very easy to offend, it is essential to proceed with extreme caution.

Energy Levels

Morning liveliness is a touchy subject. For those of you who wake up perfectly full of vim, ready to chatter your way into te day, we commend you. However, please know that your chipperness, while admirable, is wildly frustrating to essentially everyone else. Attempt to gauge the levels of conversation that seem appropriate. Should you be alone in your room with someone of the same morning tendency, prattle away. But, do make sure to know your audience. Some of the less-chipper among us are perfectly happy to allow you to talk at us while we slowly chomp our cereal, provided at least 50 percent of the responses are adequately met by a meaningful grunt. Others cannot abide even this amount of exertion, and will make it fairly obvious through the employment of so-called “death stares” and, sometimes, “bitch faces.”

As for the most common form of morning conversations, you must think of them as something like a small, fragile bird: Bring up the wrong topic, get overly excited, or make any sudden movements, and these subjects will shut down or play dead. Gentle treatment will result in the gradual strengthening of their conversational means; by the end of breakfast, they may be as chipper as yourself, but the time this requires will depend on the subject.

For those on the other side of this conundrum, and the opposite end of the table, be aware that the giddiness you feel when encountering a small puppy for the first time roughly approximates how “morning people” awake each morning. Be sympathetic. Such enthusiasm is difficult to contain. While it may be an honest expression of your emotions, staring down friends and close acquaintances is not a socially acceptable form of behavior. If you are not yet physically in control of your face, warn others the day before to avoid unnecessary offence. Do not overextend yourself, but do try to use words, at least occasionally.

Noise Levels

Ah, the sounds of the morning: The birds tweet sweetly, soft whistles of wind rustle the fall leaves, and a few friendly dogs offer up their barks. While it’s tempting to add your own playlist of death-metal bands or loudly-bellowed bars of an opera libretto to the symphony of the morning, please refrain. Morning sounds should be enjoyable to all, and unnoticeable to those aslumber. Moreover, some sounds should not be shared to anyone at any point in the day. To the couples who refuse to let the break of day separate the course of love, you have our full respect and Harvard singles’ collective envy. However, no one should be awakened by the not-so-neighborly cries of “Ohhhhh Tommmm...” or “Yeah, baby. Yeeeeaaah!” It’s more than aesthetically jarring; it’s rude. Please be cognizant that four walls don’t rule out an unwitting audience and adjust the volume of your sweet music accordingly. The walls are thin, the night is long.

As concerns actual music: This is a sensitive issue, but a good rule of thumb is to assume that the mornings are not the best time to impress upon your neighbors your excellent music taste or vocal abilities. While you may one day tempt the girl from across the hall into your room with the irresistible strains of  80s German synth-rock, attempting this in the morning will likely have the opposite of the intended effect. Harvardians with ample singing ability (and especially those without), be aware that your songs of praise may not be so praiseworthy in the eyes of your neighbors in the early hours.

For those who hold the mornings to be a sacred and meditative time, and particularly for those who practice alternative forms of spirituality—you have our deep admiration. But, a word of caution for morning practices that might involve loud circular breathing patterns, worrisome-wheeze-sounding exhales, or Gregorian Chants: Care of the soul is wonderful. Psychological damage inflicted upon others is not.

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