Manners Matter

victorian_ladyI’m not going to get all Miss Manners on you, but this is important. The little things that people do or say throughout the day that we think of as “manners” have been on a steady decline for a long time. And not coincidentally, society is going to hell in a handbasket. (See? Miss Manners would never use that expression.)

The things called “manners” are unnecessary, you say. Well, I disagree. When you look back at the original reason for any one particular act or saying that are considered part of having “good manners,” they are based on the concept of respect. And that, you have to admit, is seriously lacking in America today.

Why hold the door open for someone else? Well, it’s a sign of humility, of equality. I often hold the door open for men, who are usually a little surprised, but then pleased.

Why wait for the host to pick up their fork before you begin eating? Because the host has gone to all the trouble to put this dinner together, and you are acknowledging their efforts.

Why take your hat off in a restaurant? Because it’s probably a dirty old thing and you are about to eat food. It’s a sign of respect to the other diners. (And that goes for hoodies, too. Put the hood down, you young whipper snappers!)

The list goes on and on, of course. But the bottom line is that these “rules” of society help us to treat each other with respect and humility — both of which are seriously lacking in today’s world. So, JelloHeads, please try to have good manners and to teach them to your children. I don’t know why Southerners in particular have always been so observant of “good manners” (in some circles not so much, of course). And although I don’t usually consider myself a “Southerner, ” I did grow up in Virginia and I suppose some of it stuck. So the following little anecdote  from last week was amusing to me and I think shows how “good manners” can make life just a little easier for everyone.

Last weekend we had the pleasure of the company of my big brother for a couple of nights. And on one of those nights, some other friends of ours came over for dinner. Our other friends had not seen my brother for a long time, and so when they came in, I said “You remember Tom, don’t you?”

Well, my friend Stella Artois was raised a good Southern girl from Tennessee, so she knew immediately what I had just done and laughed, “Of course I remember Tom. But thank you for saying his name, in case I didn’t!”

It’s the little things, people. Manners count.

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10 comments

  1. i’m all for manners.. please, thank you, yes sir, no ma’am…

    though- i don’t take my hat off when i got out to eat. let’s face it- if it were that fancy of a place, i wouldn’t be wearing said hat in the first place. besides, no one wants to see my hat hair!

  2. hhhm.
    For those men who don’t take their hat off even in a dumpy joint or a casual place…
    I think most women would prefer to see your head, if its a mess then excuse yourself and go comb it, and please don’t forget to wash your hands after you use the toilet…
    setting a higher standard for yourself can be contagious and just maybe some one younger will take notice.
    set an example for young men – gee imagine that.

  3. You’re so right, SueJ. We are trying to train our kids to be polite because it really does make your life and the lives of those around you so much nicer, easier, better.

  4. manners are essential if you want to make it in the business world. period. if you want to be in a boardroom some day, or the oval office, or any office- even a manager of mcdonald’s office- you better have manners.

    not that I have strong feelings about it…

  5. Ahhh…manners. The small, beautiful dignities that we can bring to a moment.

    Hello, Sue … I’m Jaliya. This is my first visit to your blog, thanks to a link from Lisa at the newly-christened *That’s Why* 🙂

    Speaking of manners … Have you read Lynne Truss’ *Talk to the Hand*? … Brilliant book. Quote:

    “This is an age of lazy moral relativism combined with aggressive social insolence … the collapse of manners stands for a vast and under-acknowledged problem of social immorality. Manners are based on an ideal of empathy, of imagining the impact of one own’s actions on others.”

    A *Boston Sunday Globe* reviewer called Truss “a reformer with the soul of a stand-up comedian.” Oh yes. Scathingly brilliant 🙂

    P.S. I love the tag “old fart alert”!

    P.S.S. Henry James: “Three things in life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

  6. many years ago in a flea market i found a dusty little plaque that says “curltured and fine manners are everywhere a ticket for reqard” how very true!

    oh, to have hair again to worry about covering up with my hat!!

  7. Thanks, everyone. I know I am preaching to the choir here, as the family of JelloHeads has always been most polite!

    Jaliya, welcome!

  8. i think there are many more effective ways to set a good example for young men and women then by walking into a casual diner and removing your hat.

    whether one chooses to remove his hat or to keep it on, to me, does not define his character. this is probably because i’m not a very feminine woman who is constantly judged based on appearance. it just seems unfair to scowl at someone for not removing their hat when inside they’re the moral example you’d be proud to point out to your kids.

  9. CBC, you are right. The hat example was not a good choice for my point, because it involves no actual interaction between people. And today, so many folks, myself included, wear a baseball cap just about everywhere. And you are right that judging someone on appearance is wrong, It is completely wrong.

    So let’s just focus on the interactive manners. The times when you say thank you, or when you let someone into your lane of traffic (and without making a big deal about it, either!). These little moments are times when you put another person’s needs above your own, and that is what builds good character.

    Indeed, anyone can take their hat off, and still be a jerk in every other way!

  10. Ah yes, it seems that manners have gone to the wayside in our society and I’m happy that you brought this up. My son was taught from the time he could walk, to treat girls and women with respect. He never forgets to hold the door open for women and he always helps his grandma’s to get into the car when we pick them up. When he was in first grade, his teacher told me that the girls all loved him because he would pick up their pencils or books if they dropped them and hold the door open for them when they went out to recess at noon. That explains the line of girls at the bike rack in the morning who would almost sing in sweet voices.”Hiiiya Tony!” He would just say hello and keep going, not in the least big phased by it all. Of course, he was raised with three older sisters who kept him in line!

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