Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Mama Taught Me Right

Maybe it's because I'm Southern.  Maybe it's because I was raised in a military family.

Maybe I'm just polite.

I put a high price on good manners.  It's how I was raised.  It's how my mama taught me.  Well, and my daddy too!  When I began to date my husband, I was not much removed from my college graduation, but I'd quickly been made all too aware that he could potentially be The One (lucky for me, he was!) and I discovered quickly that dating wasn't just about having fun anymore.  It was sort of a job interview.  I made the decision that the moment I realized he was not The One, I'd end things.  No use wasting anyone's time.

Well, that moment never came with my husband!  Likely due to the fact that he was raised similarly to me (well, and a slew of other wonderful things).  He may not have come from a military family, but he did come from a Southern one (well, you decide if you want to call Kentucky Southern or Midwestern, both groups are known for their hospitality and graciousness).  Either way, my husband was polite.  And he wanted to please me.

Over the course of our young (four-year) marriage, we've learned a lot from each other.  We've taught each other many nuances and tid-bits and mannerisms that now seem like second nature.

And now we have a son.  And I have two goals (well, for him:  To not be a picky eater and to be polite.  (And to be happy, and successful, and happy...).

So here are a few of the "Everyday Manners" my mama taught my brothers and me that have become second-nature over the years:
  • Appearances do matter.  You never know when you might meet someone pivotal to your life or career, so dress the part.  Wear appropriate clothes for the occasion.  Exercise good grooming habits (wash behind your ears).  Don't slouch.
  • Be on time.  Being "fashionably late" is not fashionable.  If you have to be late due to unforeseen circumstances (traffic, emergency, etc) call the hostess and let her know.  Do not call your friend, who's at the same party, and have them relay the message; ensure you speak to the hostess.  If you truly can't control your tardiness, you have nothing to be ashamed of, so just pick up the phone and call.  Don't show up late just so you're not the first one to arrive; if everyone did that, think about how late the party would actually get started.  This is especially important at family dinners where little children might need to be fed early, before they hit the "witching hour"!
  • In the same vein, don't show up early, unless you're best friends with the hostess and she's asked you specifically to come early to help with last minute preps.  I once hosted a baby shower and a guest arrived over an hour early!  In that hour I was trying to prepare food, set the table, and ensure my ice bucket was full.  I simply didn't have time to entertain a guest (one whom I didn't know, at that) for that last magical hour.  Luckily, she took the hint, excused herself, and came back at the appointed time.
  • But also know when it's time to go.  Don't leave before the guest of honor.  Don't linger all night long.  Be aware of the time (for instance, if you run over to have a glass of wine with your neighbor, be aware of the impending dinner hour, and leave before she's forced to ask you to stay for a meal).  And when it's time to go, thank the host/hostess and say goodnight.  Then leave!  No 15-minute conversations at the front door.  Just. Go.
  • Learn how to give a good handshake.  Not too hard; not too soft.  If someone offers you their hand, shake it.  If you have a cold, smile and just tell them you're sick, but don't ignore the handshake altogether.
  • If you're seated and being introduced to someone just walking up to the table, stand up.  Sit again after introductions are made.
  • In church, at a ball game, at a concert, when someone needs to get passed you, stand up.  Don't just swivel around and make them climb over you.  Stand and scoot back as much as you can so they can get by without awkward body parts touching.
  • Teach your husbands to offer their seats to ladies and elderly folks.  I see this all the time at restaurants while waiting for a table.  The worst was when I was nine months pregnant and there was a college-aged guy sitting there all relaxed while my beached-whale self was trying to stay upright. Where was that kid's mama to teach him the right thing?!
  • Here's some more to teach your sons and husbands:  Men should open doors for women and allow them to pass through first.  Unless the door leads into the dark or down steep stairs, in which case the man should go first.  Men should get a heavy revolving door moving for ladies.  When walking on the sidewalk, men should be on the outside (closest to traffic).  Seat ladies at formal restaurants and meals.  Help them into and out of their coats.
  • Name-dropping is not cool.  Same with being a know-it-all and monopolizing the conversation.  Know when to quit.
  • If you interrupt someone (whether by accident or not) immediately apologize and make an effort not to do so again.
  • It's a sign of strength to apologize.  Know how to admit when you made a mistake.  If you broke something or spilled red wine on a white carpet, offer to replace, help clean, or pay for cleaning.  Say "excuse me" if you bump into someone...and mean it.
  • Don't get roped into "always the guest; never the host".  When people invite you to dinner, repay them in the same manner.
I think that is enough for one day...  I hope you're enjoying our little etiquette lessons!  If you have a specific question, feel free to ask!  My name's not Emily Post, but I'll try to find the answer for you!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Kate! I enjoyed the reminders of this dying art of good manners. Here's to a speedy revival!
    Sarah Rose