Manners and Common Courtesy

May 6, 2018

Miss Emily Post

As a small child, growing up in south Alabama, I found myself in a household where manners were paramount.  I spent hours at the table learning to place my napkin in my lap, which fork to use, and how to set a proper table.  I once spent an entire week in a summer learning to walk with books on my head- first one, then two, then finally three.  The final touch was balancing three books on my head while walking the length of house and back in heels.  I mastered the task and was told that I could finally walk like a proper young lady. 

The first big book that I read cover to cover was The Complete Guide to Etiquette by Emily Post.  I read it cover to cover and then again.  I memorized every page and knew exactly how many footmen that I should have at a dinner party.  I had no idea what footmen were, but I knew that if you were hosting a proper party, they needed to be in the dining room.  

I learned that you serve from the left, and clear from the right.  I knew that if you did not have a staff, it was appropriate to serve things buffet style.  I am still not a fan of the buffet, but it does make for a much more relaxing party.

Being that it is rare that a family sits down to a meal together, well less sets a table, we have lost a lot of the magic that existed around meals and general  human interaction.

I am no saint, I use language on occasion that Saint Emily most certainly would not approve, but I do try to avoid being selfish, unless it involves self-preservation (most days). I have found that in this got to have it now, I have to win, and the "mine, mine, mine" mindset, we have lost common courtesies that were once a mandatory part of being a part of society, a part of our human community.

What am I talking about? 


Emily Post probably would have said something like:

When borrowing serving dishes for entertaining, always make sure that your staff returns said platters in pristine condition.  Make sure to send a thank you note on an engraved invitation, and make sure that a home baked gift is sent with the platter upon its return. 

Translated into today's vernacular:

If you borrow your neighbor's Pyrex, don't break it, don't lose it, don't let someone else borrow it, and make sure she gets it back to the person who brought you the food.  OR  If  you break something that belongs to someone else, replace it and maybe throw in a roll of cookie dough.


Or how about phone calls, my biggest pet peeve these days.  When you call someone and they answer, it is polite to say "Hi Mary, this is Holly.  I hope I caught you at a good time?  Do you have a few minutes to talk?"  

"This is Minerva.  We have a problem, what are YOU going to do about it?"  
Minerva never even gives you a second to answer her questions while she is railing on you for something that she doesn't even know is a result of something you did or did not do, because Minerva assumes things. Minerva is a bitch.  Don't be like Minerva.

We live in a very assuming society these days.  My Grandfather always said "You know what happens when you assume things?  You make an ass out of you and me."  He was right.  I have been very guilty of being judgmental without truly getting to know people, but I am working on that daily.

Last manners lesson today and probably one that irks me more than anything else...


If you are invited to a party, an event, a social function, or to be a part of a social club or group,  unless your invitation says plus one, it means just you.  That means, you don't show up to the wedding with your bestie if only you were invited on the invitation.  It means that you don't get to sneak an extra person into a banquet that only has seating for you.  And, you don't get to invite extra people to be a part of a social club or group  that you were invited to be a part of without consulting the people within your club or group- that makes it awkward for everyone involved and creates underlying resentment long-term.

Let's all try to be nice this week and put our best foot forward, shall we?

Love y'all,

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