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Bumbleberry sat at the short work table in Carousel Boutique. Rarity was upstairs in her inspiration room humming while she worked on her latest creation. Without any distractions, Bumbleberry was able to suppress his urges and concentrate on becoming a safer stallion. He opened up his borrowed book, Standards of Courtship by Love Hearts, and continued where he left off.
The Standards of Courtship described manners as “interpony courtesies that distinguish a mare or stallion from other ponies.” Being a pony of class meant having good manners. It covered all the manners Bumbleberry had learned as a child, such as saying please and thank you, and how to take turns in a conversation and not interrupt. He also read new ones like being sure to knock before entering or thanking a host when visiting another pony’s house. Manners seemed to be of great importance and referenced other sections of the book that included exercises on practicing manners. The fuchsia pony made a mental note to come back to this section and read on.
Love Hearts also wrote on how common courtesies are born from mutual respect for other ponies. This reverence is noted by using titles when addressing others, especially when courting. For example, “Miss” would typically be used before a mare’s name while “Mister” would be used before a stallion’s name. “Doctor” and “Princess” also are also common titles. I suppose I should use Miss with Rarity? Bumbleberry wondered.
The next section discussed a formal courtship between a stallion and a mare. When it comes to courting, discretion is of the utmost importance. Direct communication about the courtship itself indicates poor adherence to social graces and rules. Such a pony is unlikely to be a good domestic partner because he or she is unlikely to follow the rules of the household.
Potential very special someponies typically meet at parties, as that is the traditional way of meeting friends. The book described numerous reasons for throwing a party including birthdays, special occasions, or even just because. However, it is rude to the other guests to host a party and then attempt to court one of the guests. To avoid this situation, Hearts recommends hiring a professional party-thrower to host instead of hosting one’s self, leaving one free to court. Bumbleberry wondered if Pinkie Pie was a professional party-thrower.
For a mare to court a stallion, she should ask him to perform a service for her. This show of attention is also a show of approval to the stallion. Conversely, stallions show their preference for mares by offering their services to them. The difficulty of the service indicates the level of affection. A mare asking for an easy service indicates a lot of affection, as she does not want her very special somepony to work hard. A stallion offering a difficult service indicates a lot of affection as he does not want his very special somepony to work hard. So typically mares ask for difficult tasks and gradually ask for easier ones whereas stallions offer easy tasks and gradually offer harder ones. The book contained a huge number of example tasks, but a few of them, in order from easiest to most difficult, were opening doors, getting drinks, pulling carts, cooking food, and pro bono professional services.
Hearts pointed out that changing gender roles have sometimes caused the services of courting to be inverted, where the mares offer and the stallions ask, but at the time of publishing, it was considered unconventional.
Once a service is finished, another service could be requested or offered to indicate that the courtship is going well. Refusal of service would indicate that the courtship is going poorly, and that the mare and stallion should look elsewhere for their very special somepony. Services are often arranged for several days ahead, when both parties are free. The Standards of Courtship points out that one mare could easily receive service from several stallions at once, rating each of them as a potential very special somepony. Similarly, one stallion can provide service to several mares at once.
The ultimate sign of affection in the courtship is when the guise of service is dropped and the two ponies arrange time to spend together without a service in mind. Bumbleberry wondered if Hearts and Hooves day was created so ponies could schedule a date to drop the guise and instead just spend time together.
A short while later, there was a knock at the front door of the Carousel Boutique. Bumbleberry looked up from his book at the door. Rarity came running down the stairs. “Coming!” she trilled.
Suddenly Bumbleberry felt himself being pushed into one of the changing rooms. “Wait in here until I’m done,” the seamstress ordered. “I don’t want you getting into any more trouble while my customer is here.” She used her magic to close the curtains and threw open the door.
“Hello Rainbow Dash!” Rarity greeted her guest. “Here for your pick-up?”
“I sure am!” Rainbow replied. She stepped inside and Rarity ran across the room.
Bumbleberry listened through the curtain.
“I have your outfit right here.”
“I’m so excited to have a Shadowbolt costume!”
“I designed it off a pattern for the Wonderbolts flying suit.”
“It looks awesome! I can’t wait to wear it for Nightmare Moon Night.”
“Well try it on first. It fits tighter than most outfits so it might need adjustments.”
Rainbow Dash stepped into one of the other changing rooms and zipped up the outfit. Curiosity pushed Bumbleberry to peak through the curtains to see Rainbow in the costume. She stepped down to the floor and exchanged words with Rarity, but he didn’t hear them because he was so enthralled with what he saw. Rainbow Dash’s feminine features and agile body were accentuated by the tight-fit suit. Her wings were bare, showing off her delicate feathers while her powerful legs were outlined by the fabric. She shifted a few times, moving her body underneath the material a bit. She took off and flew in a small circle before landing again. Watching her move so gracefully made him start to step in place nervously.
“It’s a little tight,” she admitted. “I think I need a little more room to breathe if I’m going to be doing my amazing tricks in this thing.”
Rarity nodded with understanding. “Of course dear. That’s why we do these fittings.”
“I understand.” Rainbow Dash bowed her head low and extended her back legs, trying to stretch out her back in the suit. Bumbleberry didn’t know why he was compelled to step out of the dressing room and approach Rainbow Dash. Both mares looked up at him.
“Oh, Bumbleberry, I didn’t know you were here,” the athlete greeted him.
Rarity was aghast to see him, and didn’t have a chance to react before he spoke.
“Hello Miss Rainbow Dash, it’s nice to see you today too.” Bumbleberry bit his lips, wondering if that was enough manners. “Would you like some help taking off that suit?”
“Sure! It’s a little too tight and I’m not sure if I can take it off myself.” She turned, exposing the zipper to him.
The stallion smiled widely and shook with excitement. Rarity stood with mouth agape. “Did … did you just…” Rarity stammered.
Bumbleberry unzipped the suit with his teeth and Rainbow let out a sigh of relief. “Yeah, just a little looser, if you could, Rarity.”
Rarity blinked. “Of course!” she said, levitating the suit into the air. “I’ll let out the seams a bit. It should be ready tomorrow.”
“Thank you Rarity, and thank you Bumbleberry!” she smiled at each of them and walked out the door.
As soon as the door closed Rarity dropped the suit and turned to the stallion. “What was that?” She demanded.
Bumbleberry frowned. “I think that was Rainbow Dash turning down my advances.”
“According to the book, if she accepted it, she should have asked for another service.”
Rarity looked surprised at him. Then she shook her head. “Well she probably wasn’t expecting it. First, Rainbow Dash is hardly up to date on the finer points of courtship. She doesn’t even like to read!” She looked sideways at the door. “Second, this is a professional establishment, not a party. She wasn’t expecting a stallion to try to court her here.”
Bumbleberry nodded, jotting down notes on a notebook with a pencil. “What about her colors, do you think they complimented mine?”
“I… well, yes they do.” She was surprised at how much he took to the book. “But try to be a less direct. It’s rude to talk the colors of ponies, even to your friends.”
The earth pony took a few more notes. “Alright, one last question. Did you need help folding that suit?”
“No, I…” Rarity stopped as she took in his offer. It was clear he was using the courting techniques he just read. Thinking on it for a moment, Rarity cleared her throat and spoke in a suggestive tone. “Ahem, what I mean is no, I couldn’t possibly trouble you for such a task.”
She smiled coyly and Bumbleberry smiled back.
“Are you sure? It really is no trouble!”
Rarity tossed her hair and looked away. “Well, if it’s really no trouble, I suppose you can.”
He jumped at the consent and then bounced over to the suit. He carefully folded it and gently placed it at her hooves. “Here you are, Miss Rarity!”
The mare stepped in place and cooed with excitement. She was so thrilled to be treated like a proper lady! She then shook herself off and stood still. “Thank you, Mister Bumbleberry.” She bent her front leg and bowed to him. Then she levitated the suit and turned to the stairs.
“Do you need any help upstairs?”
She stopped and looked at him. “Um…” She knew this question was coming but didn’t know how to put it. “Bumbleberry, I think you’re a very nice pony, and I know you want to be somepony’s very special somepony, but…” she stammered. “Don’t you think you should be studying the Standards of Courtship?” she smiled weakly at him, hoping he’d understand.
Bumbleberry frowned and looked at the floor. “I understand,” he despaired. “But…” he sat up and puffed out his stallion chest. “Isn’t there anything I could help you with upstairs?” His face was proud but his eyes were pleading.
Rarity giggled at the sight of him. “Yes, I’m sure I can find something I could use help with,” she admitted. “But only so you can practice what you’ve learned!” Bumbleberry frowned at her and looked up at her with the biggest sad eyes he could muster. “I’ll even rate you as a potential very special somepony.” He grinned widely and she blushed. “I mean somepony ELSE’s very special somepony!” Embarrassed, she ran up the stairs with Bumbleberry right behind her.