Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Mannered Performance

It seems to me that somewhere along the line, women forgot how to be ladies. As a New Yorker, I see women every day who would be otherwise beautiful were it not for their piss-poor manners. I grew up in the Midwest, and was raised by the kinds of parents who pretended not to hear me if I a) spoke a sentence using less-than-perfect grammar, or b) dared to ask for or accept anything without saying please or thank you. My impression after several years of living in New York is that one must choose between being a lady or a New Yorker. I choose to be a lady, but there are few of us here.

The standards of etiquette were laid down most famously back in 1922 by Emily Post, pictured here, and the Emily Post Institute has ensured that those standards evolve with time to include manners with regards to mobile phones, online friending, skiing and more. It may seem silly to spend time researching etiquette, but I assure you it is not and I myself intend to devote more web time to refreshing my memory. In my definition, a proper pinup acts like a lady and commands that respect, but this is difficult to do if she appears to have been raised by wolves.

For starters, you should always use "please," "thank you," "you're welcome," and "excuse me." None of these words are difficult to utter, and unless they are spoken with great sarcasm, I cannot think of a situation where they are hurtful. People here are constantly rushing and busting by others, but a simple "excuse me" at least demonstrates a small amount of consideration for other people. I don't think it's fair to take waitstaff and salespeople for granted, or to treat them any differently than you would a dear friend. I spent many years waiting tables and working retail, and was happy to oblige even the most outrageous request if it was clear to me that the other party considered me to be a human being and not a slave.

Be nice at the table. We all get sloppy, including myself, but proper table manners are key in your personal and professional life. It's worth it to watch your language and generally be on good behavior, even though it's difficult sometimes. My man, wonderful as he is, is sometimes lacking in the table manners department, eating off of his knife or performing stunts like pretending to snort his cutlery up his nose. I don't have a problem with it when we're at home--one of the things I love about him is his goofy sense of humor--but when we're in a restaurant I have to say something. There's a time and place for everything.

I could go on, but won't for fear of exhausting you and sounding like too much of a priss. It all really comes down to treating others in a way that you yourself would like to be treated. For example, I don't want to have to listen to your cell phone conversation any more than you want to have to listen to mine, so put the phone away at the table, on a train or in a bus. (I recently spent a weekend with someone who could not stop herself from texting on her phone, no matter where we were or what we were doing. I love her to death but found it rude and annoying nonetheless.)

I'll leave you with this poem, "Time Tested Beauty Tips," often attributed to Audrey Hepburn but in fact written by Sam Levenson for his grandchild. It was, however, one of Audrey's favorite poems, and read at her funeral. I think it does a good job of summing up the importance of manners in beauty:

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge you'll never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody.

Remember, If you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows!


Clare said...

Lovely post. You may enjoy reading my blog that is along similar lines...

victory regained said...

Beautiful post and only too true. I believe that society in general is going down hill when it comes to manners. I live near a school and see children walking to and fro. Rather than laughing and joking like I did, they are listening to music and not talking at all. I think technology is having an adverse effect on social skills. When was the last time you saw a man open a car door for a woman? I got stared at last week for helping my girl put her coat on after we had eaten dinner. Is it really that rare? Oh well! I could go on for hours but I shall not. Thank you for sharing that poem. When the day comes for me to have kids I will raise them by that exquisite piece of wisdom.

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