The baby boomer generation, perhaps more than any other, has seen incredible change in society and the way we live our lives. Some changes have been fantastic, technology for example has revolutionised the way we live! But others haven’t been quite so positive. One of the sad changes is the demise of basic manners and the art of “being polite”.
So what happened to our manners? As our lives have gotten busier, some have declared themselves in too much of a rush to take a few seconds or minutes out to do something kind. Perhaps it’s that technology has in fact become our main mode of communication and the human interaction – which manners are a large part of – has become redundant and therefore so have our manners.
Or perhaps it comes down to education and society as a whole, we’re focused on casual lifestyles with less formal occasions. We’re focused on teaching our children how to be smart and intelligent but put less importance on being thoughtful and polite.
Whatever the reason is, most of us can admit it is quite sad. So today let’s reflect on a well-mannered time – these are some things people used to do that have gone out of fashion.
Read through the list of polite actions that we once treasured and tell us, which would you like to see come back again?
Rules about white
Do you remember your mum telling you not to wear white to a wedding? Go to a modern wedding and you’ll see plenty of guests in white dresses. And it used to be expected that second-time brides shouldn’t go down the aisle in a white gown and veil.
Dressing up for dinner or a flight
We all love our trackie daks but many of us can remember a time when you would leave the house looking respectable, every time, no matter if it was for a duck to the shops or a fancy dinner. Nowadays you see men and women in just a pair of shorts and t-shirt in a nice restaurant and they haven’t run a comb through their hair!
The same goes for plane passengers – many wear thongs and singlets.
Writing and sending thank you notes
There was something so special about receiving and sending thank you notes. It was a way of showing someone that you truly do appreciate what they’ve done for you and with just a few moments for each letter, it was a few moments out of your day that contributed to someone else’s happiness. Saying “thank you” is still around but actually showing thanks is long gone.
Remember when people gave actual RSVPs about their attendance to events and functions and hosts didn’t have to assume, follow up or cater for a larger number, just in case?
Baking for new friends or neighbours
When a friend moved house, when they were sick, when they were looking after other people or when they simply had something to celebrate, we once would cook a meal, some muffins or a cake and deliver them in person. It was a way of showing that we cared and was a simple, cost effective way of simply doing something nice for someone else.
Holding the door open
No matter where you were, if you were walking through a door, the person in front of you would hold it open or at least hand it over to you so there were no doors slammed in faces. These days, people seem to be on a mission to get to places quickly and very rarely do this.
Taking your hat off indoors
It was the polite thing to do – you wore hats outside, for sun protection! And if you were inside, unless you were at a wedding or a funeral, the hats were always taken off and placed down. We’re not sure why or where this tradition went but it definitely doesn’t happen any more!
Men opening car doors
Men are not taught to look after women as they once did and this means that they don’t often jump ahead to open a car door for someone. Some of this coincides with the fact that women began to object to this behaviour as part of the feminist stance that women are equal to men and deserve no special treatment. Regardless, it was a polite thing to do and respected women as ladies.
Keeping the elbows off the table
The entire suite of manners at the dinner table that we once saw every day has diminished to very little. It is rare to walk into a restaurant and see a family use their cutlery correctly, eat their food with proper etiquette and keep their elbows off the table. My father would always say, “no uncooked joints on the table!” and that seems to be a lesson somewhat lost.
Keeping money and politics out of conversations
These were two topics off limits however now some wear their opinions and financial position like a badge of honour and actually use them to distinguish between company they’d like to keep and company they aren’t fond of.
Standing up when people enter the room
This was a favourite of mine, it was always a pleasant way of greeting people and it was a sign of respect, ultimately the thing we’ve lost most. Sadly, very few people are taught to do this now and it’s become a thing of the past.
We were always taught it was very rude to be late for an appointment or meeting but now people are often late or don’t show up, without so much as an apology.
Offering your seat to the elderly, pregnant, and/or anyone who needs it
This is not just something left behind because it isn’t necessary: we still need this kind etiquette today however not many people seem aware of it.
Just simple pleases and thank yous seem to have gone out of fashion. It can really startle you to hear these nowadays.
Pushing chair in
Did your parents ever nag at you to push in your chair if you were leaving the table? Look at anyone leaving a restaurant today and they rarely push in the chairs.