I”ve been thinking about courtesy lately. It started with a conversation with my friend, Marleen Hansen. She lamented the decline in table manners. “People don”t know basic etiquette, like using the silverware and napkins that are provided,” she said. “Everyone eats with their hands!”
I must admit that I”ve been repulsed at meals with some important people around town. I don”t expect all of us to behave as if we were having high tea at Windsor Court, but a bit of good conduct goes a very long way.
My mother insisted that I learn to set the table properly. These days, Chris and I eat at trays in front of the TV. But, I still know where to place the salad fork and the bread plate, and what to do with a sugar shell.
One of Mother”s rules was that we could eat with our fingers only on a picnic. At home, knives and forks were de rigueur. Once, in high school, I embarrassed my date by eating a piece of pizza with a knife and fork.
When I studied interior design (in one of my previous incarnations, my 20s), we were taught that you must know the rules before you can break them. The instructors were talking about design rules, but it applies to almost everything. Now, not only do people seem not to know the rules, there appears to be no one who can teach them. (Yes, I am beginning to sound like a very old lady.)
My theory is that courtesy transcends table manners. We are getting progressively ruder every day. Comments that would have been shocking at one time are a common occurrence.
TV shows are filled with language that is crude, and therefore disrespectful. Those crass Kardashian sisters call each other “bi-ach.” They appear to think it is a cute twist on the term for a female dog. I do not find it amusing.
Once, I saw a lovely, young girl in a local store wearing a T-shirt that said in big letters “Idaho.” Underneath, in smaller print was written, “No, you da” ho.”
She was about 15, shopping with her mother. Her strawberry-blonde hair was well-groomed and shiny under the fluorescent lights. I cannot imagine why her mother would let her go out with something so vulgar written across her chest.
I wonder if I was the only one offended? But, I really wonder why the girl and her mother did not know that the shirt was distasteful and a very poor choice.
Dr. Laura recently got into trouble for using the “n” word. Her argument was that black rappers and comedians use the word often. She entirely missed the point. That is, that the word is foul and offensive, no matter who says it. And, why would anyone, especially a supposedly educated person, look to rappers for vocabulary cues and guidance?
Once upon a time, people dressed to go out. They behaved well in public. They treated others with dignity. What happened? Now, every day is “casual” day. We eat with our hands because we are accustomed to dining out of a greasy paper bag. And we are impolite because so many of us do not know better.
I long for more refinement, a touch of civility in my world. I wish someone would start an etiquette class or two.
I truly believe that more courtesy would lead to a lovelier world. Thank you, Marleen Hanson, it all began with you. Would you consider teaching the class?
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