Are manners important? Manners used to be important. Why are manners no longer important? Remember Miss Manners?
She got killed in a landslide. Of modernity. By Millennials, who don’t even realize how rude they are being.
Too much fingering the mobile unit, ignoring fellow diners, no eye contact or attempt at conversation. Why even bother to eat out together? This, dear readers, is BAD MANNERS. It is a long tradition of ill-behaved egomaniacs.
Now in fact it used to be that people cared about each other’s comportment:
(Get this preachy judgment, from back when):
BAD MANNERS AT THE TABLE.
No. l Tips back his chair.
No. 2 Eats with his mouth too full.
No. 3 Feeds a dog at the table.
No. 4 Holds his knife improperly.
No. 5 Engages in violent argument at the meal-time.
No. 6 Lounges upon the table.
No. 7 Brings a cross child to the table.
No. 8 Drinks from the saucer, and laps with his tongue the last drop from the plate.
No. 9 Comes to the table in his shirt-sleeves, and puts his feet beside his chair.
No. 10 Picks his teeth with his fingers.
No. 11 Scratches her head and is frequently unnecessarily getting up from the table.
…and so on and so on…
Oh that’s nothing compared to these Bad Old Days, dear reader. If you choose to take your life in your hands and enter a riotous junk-food joint you have probably seen much worse:
We veer from one extreme to the other. Manners at one time were so important that young people were forced to listen to eminent boring asshole lecturers, droning on about how to hold this fork and which finger to raise when you sip your tea.
The Victorian Era was repressive but at least people were encouraged to behave themselves in public, in consideration for others.
How about having hair from your dead husband woven into your own, dear widow? Or getting dentures made up from the mouths of corpses (or animals)? Oh those Victorians were a RIOT.
We used to have a ‘Manners Gestapo’ to grab young people and force them to be nice. At gunpoint.
Remember Emily Post? She lived in an age of great repression and severe formality. Young ladies were sent off to ‘finishing school’ to learn how to walk, dress, hold themselves, make the proper facial expression and speak perfectly. If it sounds horrible it’s because it probably was, but because that was then and this is now – how can we say…
Emily was tall, pretty and spoiled. […] She grew up in a world of grand estates, her life governed by carefully delineated rituals like the cotillion with its complex forms and its dances — the Fan, the Ladies Mocked, Mother Goose — called out in dizzying turns by the dance master.
Aw shucks Emily – even if what you say is true, you make it sound like such a CHORE. Lighten up, baby.
Now times do change, in terms of what you can and cannot do in public. Today it is millionaire girls like Paris Hilton uploading videos of her getting rogered, one click away on the internet. No style. Low-rent. Even if she comes from a zillionaire family (Hilton Hotels).
Those who do care about the proper way to behave in a restaurant, and correct table manners, and how to make a positive impression on others, will appreciate what Simon Kim has to share:
Who do you want to impress? A girlfriend, a boyfriend, their parents, an employer, fellow workers – Asians understand the importance of such behaviour, to set a mood and make an impression. Is it going to come back in the West?
Then again for some folks it’s more important to be funny than it is to be polite
The famed Amy Vanderbilt: her elegance began with the basic ingredient of what it takes to be totally mannered: lots and lots of money.
And then she went and wrote book after book about the dos and the don’ts of etiquette.
We veer from one extreme to the other.
The lesson is that you do not have to have schooling or money to be elegant and refined. All you have to do is watch those around you whose behavior clearly superior, and imitate them.
Is this what they mean by ‘learning by negative example’?
No, not like this, not at all.
No and no and no again. Where’s the polite behaviour?
You want to see an environment that encourages manners? Drop around to Yaudah Bistro and feel the mood: Euro-polite it is. We encourage people to enjoy themselves, but with dignity and refinement.
Just like the food: dignified and refined.
So dig in. And drink up. And party on. Politely.