Saturday Night Nostalgia: The simple etiquette that made life nicer

In this day of technology it would appear that rudeness and bad manners are on the rise.

Though we seem to be attached to our ‘smart’ devices, our use of such technology somehow has many acting a little less intelligently. It would be unfair to assume that technology is the sole reason people are demonstrating bad manners. There are a number of cultural changes that could be added to the list of responsible causes.

When there once was a time when people were considerate, inclusive and focused on more than just themselves, today’s society appears quite the opposite. Of course, there is a difference between etiquette and good manners (or good behaviour). Etiquette is defined as a set of rules or protocol that can vary in different countries and can be learnt. It’s also true that just because you know and respect etiquette doesn’t make you a good person.

All that said, when we think about the demise of compassion and niceness, we sometimes wish the etiquette of earlier years would make a reappearance.

For example, we might recall that in the ’60s the reference to a person’s surname was quite prominent, even among adults. It was considered common etiquette to address others as Mr or Mrs and even Miss. Using first names and having that general familiarity we use today really only started towards the end of that decade and the use of the surname – even in a business sense – was dropped entirely by the 1980s.

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Men would stand when a woman approached or left the table, and if you happened to be the person seated closest to her you would also pull out her chair so that she may be seated. How sad that the statement ‘chivalry is dead’ holds a certain amount of weight today. Wouldn’t it be lovely to see the men of today remove their hats, hold the door, remove a lady’s coat, and pull out her chair?

It’s not just about the men though. Women would excuse themselves to ‘powder [their] nose’; men used to ‘wash [their] hands’. Today it doesn’t seem to be as common with many just excusing themselves to go to the toilet or the bathroom, or something even more frank, and we don’t seem to bat an eyelid at that.

Remember receiving an invitation in the mail? It’s probably a fading memory, what with the introduction of email and text messaging, or social media like Facebook. However, there was a simple elegance and beauty about sending a formal invitation for every occasion. Often such invitations were carried in person if practical and they always included detailed dress instructions. People didn’t need a ‘Save the Date’ for a wedding, and when you sent your RSVP for an occasion you never changed your mind at the last minute about going.

Getting dressed up for Sunday mass, going to the movie theatre, even a quick trip to the shops. We wore gloves to the airport or on the bus or train.

If we were heading out on a date, a boy would turn up at the girl’s house and it was important he say hello to her dad. There was none of this honking the horn from the car and the girl racing out to meet him. That was frowned upon. Oh, and if a boy said he was going to call, he usually did. No girl was going to call him though. My, how things have changed!

What bits of etiquette do you remember from the ’60s and ’70s? Would you like to see them return today?