Undead Week: On Ghosts and Manners

“So there I am—visible, mind you—and up comes Kaz. And he walks right through me! Like I’m not even there! So I turn around to give him a piece of my mind, and he just laughs it off—and you know he knows better, he’d never do that to Nita—and says he’d been thinking about inviting me to a feast, and—well, I’d had it. Yeah, that’s why I didn’t use the door. I needed to get out of there. I’m sorry, okay?”

When you’ve got ghosts on the same footing as the people around them—so to speak, anyway—little issues are going to crop up. Issues like the fact that ghosts don’t need to, or in some cases can’t, eat. Or like the fact that they pass right through everything that isn’t incorporeal like them. Like with the bloodsucking earlier this week, social convention is likely to end up cropping up. For instance:

Walking through ghosts. Granted, most people wouldn’t want to—it’s cold and clammy at best, and downright disturbing at worst. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, though. I don’t imagine it to be much more comfortable for the ghost. So there’ll probably be agreements that pretty much boil down to “I don’t walk through you, you don’t walk through me.” This, of course, only works if it’s known that the living creature can in some way sense the ghost—calling foul on someone who couldn’t have known is just unfair.

Food. Would you invite a recovering alcoholic to a wine-tasting? Or a lactose intolerant to an ice cream social? Didn’t think so. For someone who can’t eat, but does have all her senses, being invited to an event that’s all about the food is probably going to be about equivalent to any of the above examples. Worse when people start rubbing it in (even if it’s an innocent “You gotta try this stuff!”). Particularly if they’re the only one of their kind at the party and don’t have anyone to commiserate with. So odds are social convention is going to declare this insensitive at best and downright nasty at worst.

This doesn’t mean that it’s just humans watching out for the ghosts’ feelings; the ghosts have to adapt as well. Take the ghostly ability to walk through walls. Just because one can doesn’t mean one should, and not just because of the risk of being walked in on while changing. I imagine the conventions regarding walls and doors for ghosts being similar to the conventions for fences and gates among humans. Sure, you can climb over the short chain-link fence or the wooden one around the front yard/pasture, or slip through that crack in the taller board fence, but unless you live there or are very good friends with the owner (and are young enough that it’s still acceptable), it’s not going to get you a very good reaction. Taking the gate, on the other hand, lets them see you coming, shows that you’re following the rules, and in general keeps the system going. By the same token, social convention will probably pressure the ghost to stick to doors and either open them before walking through or announce its passage through in some way before doing so.

That’s just the easy ones. Got anything else to suggest?

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