Amazing isn’t it, how things can change in just a few years, things I and I’m sure many readers were taught when we were young and which appear to have little or no value today.
They were the little courtesies we learned, rules for living, arrived at over many, many years, but which governed the way we all behaved in a civilised society. Rules that helped to make our passage through life easier and which took into consideration all the other people around us.
They were little things certainly, and individually they meant little to any of us, but string a few of them together and they start to make sense.
The sort of rules I am thinking about are along the lines of these:
- A gentleman gives up his seat to a lady on public transport or anywhere else there are too few seats available, for everyone to sit down.
- Don’t eat with your mouth full. A very sensible rule, this one, especially if you have had the misfortune to be sitting across a table from someone who insists on showing you a mass of half-chewed food every time they speak to you! In fact, another part of this rule stated that you shouldn’t open your mouth at all when there was food in there.
- A gentleman always leads when going downstairs with a lady, but follows on the way up – a simple rule that means the lady gets caught if she stumbles, instead of falling headlong to the floor below!
- Always lay your knife and fork side-by-side together when you have finished eating, as a clue to whoever is clearing away that you have finished.
- The man should always be on the outside of the pavement when walking with a lady, so that any splashes from passing vehicles hit him instead of that nice dress she’s wearing. (This is a very old one, dating back to the days of rough roads and horse-drawn carriages.)
- If someone buys you a drink at a bar, it is mandatory that you offer one back when your glasses are empty, even though your companion may decline – it’s the making of the offer that is important!
- Apart from shaking hands at the first meeting, a gentleman should never touch a lady in any way, especially at the first meeting. Minor familiarities may be allowed on subsequent meetings and as friendship grows. Even a light touch on a comparative stranger can be construed as an assault!
- In public places, such as restaurants, etc., never make an exhibition of yourself by shouting, bothering other people or being a general nuisance. This is just bad manners and makes you look a boor!
These are just a few of the many basic rules most of us were taught as kids, many of which are now being left behind by the younger generation. I’m rather old-fashioned I suppose, but I do feel it’s sad that these things are happening.
I know the etiquette is of no real importance in today’s fast-paced electronic world, but even so these are the rules which made us a civilised society, creating boundaries which we know; they are the ‘two-times-table’ of living, rules so ingrained in most of us that we don’t even know we are using them, but they are there, guiding us all the time.
Old-fashioned ‘manners’ are going the same way as many other old rules. Spelling and grammar in schools are often considered to be unimportant, as are mathematics and history, but these subjects are the basis upon which everything else rests, I must confess it all worries me a bit. I just hope it all turns around soon and starts going back the other way — towards the life we loved.
Can you add to Brian’s list? What courtesies of your youth would you like to see return today?
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