As an only child before my mother and step father were married, I knew exactly what my WASP-y Mimi expected of me–sit up straight, put your napkin in your lap, do not talk until being spoken to.
My new step-brother, Sammy, who was 11 at the time, and step-sister, Courtney, age six, did not know what they were in for.
Our blended family, along with many others, came from different backgrounds. I came from a strict, uptight household and my new brother and sister came from a relaxed, humor-driven home.
As we arrived, before even an introduction was made, my grandmother asked Sammy to take off his ball cap. It was all downhill from there. When we sat down to eat, Courtney belched, our whole family laughed until we snorted, all except Martha. She was horrified. Even though we were just children, manners were expected.
Martha still spoke about that incident until her last years, this time also laughing.
My grandmother came from a different generation, obviously.
Hers was a generation of debutante balls, dressing to the nines for church, and being raised by Emily Post.
Manners now-a-days are sometimes obsolete in our society. Even “please” and “thank you” are considered a thing of the past, but some believe it is all about how you are raised.
“I don't think (please and thank you) are used often enough, so when they are, I really take notice,” said Kayla Quinn. “People seem to be so rude these days. We've raised our three year old to say ‘please‘, ‘thank you‘, ‘excuse me’, etc. and any time we are out in public, people really commend us about it!”
Using manners, some say, should start at a young age and be developed.
“When our kids were little and they would ask for something, we always asked them what the magic word was,” said Lisa Truppi. “It was 'please'. I think that kids should have manners and these days a lot of kids don't.”
And sometimes etiquette is not all about words.
“Another thing I noticed is that when you are going into a store and you are older or just have your hands full sometimes people just walk by and don't help,” said Truppi. “When I see an older person or someone with their hands full I automatically try to help them. It seems that a lot of younger people don't have the inclination to help others.”
Is it a generational thing to not use manners? Some say, yes.
“I think too many people in our generation feel entitled to things,” said Maggie Kloentrup. “They don't take responsibility or recognize the effects of their actions on others. Why? I have absolutely no idea, but I think it's a serious problem.”
To some, using manners is more than just a personal choice; it’s a responsibility. Hayley Turney, a soldier in the United States Air Force, says it’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
“When you give respect, you get respect,” said Turney. “In a professional setting, I feel this generation and the one behind us is going to really suffer from not putting manners into practice…In a military setting you must be professional, and you must use your customs and courtesies at all times. You could have the same work ethic as another person, but having manners would always put you ahead of them if they didn't.”
The act of having manners is open to interpretation.
Being “rude” can mean different things to different people. Simple exchanges like making requests, expressing thanks, and greeting and introducing ourselves comes about in everyone’s everyday life.
In this society where it is common not to slow down to see what is around us, table manners and other common courtesies fall by the wayside.
But, having manners is all about just being aware of your surroundings and being able to adapt to them.
As the queen of etiquette, Emily Post would say, "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."
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