Available to all
“The rationale that etiquette should be eschewed because it fosters inequality does not ring true in a society that openly admits to a feverish interest in the comparative status-conveying qualities of sneakers. Manners are available to all, for free.”
― Judith Martin a.k.a. Miss Manners
I’m not sure how etiquette came to be equated with formal protocol at state dinners, but Miss Manners sets us straight as only she can. If you hear anyone protesting that teaching and learning correct manners is uppity or snobbish, don’t believe it. Courtesy is always appropriate, and it doesn’t require that we know all sorts of obscure rules that we won’t have occasion to need. It simply requires us to think of others first.
Good manners have never been my personal strength. It’s not much comfort to me that the faux pas I’m most frequently guilty of — interrupting, talking more loudly than necessary, or thoughtlessly and unintentionally going ahead of someone who was in front of me at an elevator or doorway — now seem to be fairly typical of most everyone I observe. The advantage of this general increase in rude behavior is that it’s made me more determined to polish up my own manners. It’s easier to see how offensive something is when someone else does it.
Have you ever heard anyone denigrating etiquette as a bunch of outdated nonsense about which fork to use? If so, you might suggest that they read Miss Manners. Not only is she funny; she is practical and persuasive as she argues for the importance of courtesy as the foundation of a civil society. The idea of etiquette can be intimidating, but if we start with the “Golden Rule” and treat others as we’d like to be treated, we’ll be more than halfway there.
One year ago today: