Saturday, January 29, 2011

Manners: A Decidedly Good Practice!

"Good manners are just a way of showing other people we have respect for them." So quotes the character of Troy in the film BLAST FROM THE PAST, referring to what he's been told by the character of Adam.

I love this quote. It is exactly my idea of why we should cultivate good manners and use them, every day, in every interaction with family, friends, and strangers. No one should be immune to our employment of manners.

Sadly, because most of the world focuses on its own bellybutton and being "authentic" is so very in, manners have come to be regarded as extra baggage no one really needs. Not only are basic good manners foreign to most people, but the recognition of when someone is being polite also seems (sadly) foreign to us all. We do not even recognize when someone has been polite to us by saying "Thank you" or "Excuse me" or "You're welcome." We are all privileged and therefore entitled to other people's generosity or courtesy.

This includes such tiny things as holding the door for someone or acknowledging that they have done so for you. Allowing someone older or weaker or pregnant or burdened to have your seat on the train, a space ahead of you in line, or simply a hand with packages. An arm across the drive in a parking lot for goodness sake!

We think of them as something aristocrats used to make themselves elite from others, and us democratic folks don't need 'em. We're all equal, so manners are fooey.

When I was a kid I found these books of teenage manners (below), written in the 1940s, in my grandmother's house. My mother and aunt had them. (These below, for sale on Etsy, are sort of flashcards, but the illustrations are from those original books.)

Funny and straightforward: and yes, manners are how we each show our respect for other people. Is respect out of fashion in our diverse and democratic society? God, I hope not!


  1. We fight a constant battle with this on our campus. Increasingly teachers are treating like the student's employee. I had one student last semester who couldn't be bothered to come for her final...because she wasn't prepared? She could not understand my ire at having to work an extra afternoon as a result.

    I recall a little cartoon in the old Highlights magazine that gently emphasized manners, but I cannot recall the name.

  2. I always liked when Dumbledore met the Dursleys. He conjures couches, and slides them under them, murmuring something like, "there's no need to ignore the niceties." Class.

    When Liz Taylor gained weight (I think during the Private Lives tour with Burton - or when she was married to the senator), it became a national joke. Joan Rivers threw the first punch on Late Night. Later, when Rivers' husband died, Liz sent her flowers and a heartfelt condolence note. Class.


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