My mother kept two books of etiquette on the bookshelf in her bedroom and we actually looked things up in them from time to time. My mother always said that these tomes boiled down to “doing the nicest possible thing in the nicest possible way.”
Over the years Americans have abandoned etiquette like rats leaving a sinking ship, thus making us the ugly Americans we are renowned to be. We have had ample proof that people are not interested in, in even the most formal situations, being civil. Many Americans have become so self-absorbed that they believe that the world is interested in their every move. If we were not, things like Twitter and Facebook would not exist. I admit to using Facebook because it is a place where I find and communicate with people I don’t see daily and maybe haven’t seen in forty years, but I try to refrain from posting my every move. “Stephanie: hasn’t had enough fiber…”
The abandonment of etiquette and manners paved the way for Representative Joe Wilson’s monumental breech of it during the president’s speech to Congress on health care. Regardless of your stand on health care reform, if your mother raised you right you were outraged. Clearly Wilson was standing behind the door when his mother attempted to impart manners. He sure didn’t have my mother.
And then there is Serena William’s outburst. It was shocking when McEnroe behaved like a boor and certainly came off just as bad in this ill humored prima donna. I am happy to say that up until recently I neither knew nor cared who Kanye West or Taylor Swift were, but I hope West’s mother gives him a serious dope-slap the next time she sees him. Crying on Jay Leno’s program doesn’t absolve him from being a lout when he interrupted Swift’s award acceptance speech to say that someone else should have gotten it. Whatever made him think that was a good idea?
The rules of etiquette grew out of the notion of Chivalry during the Middle Ages when society was attempting to be more civil. I am sorry that so few people care about them anymore. It’s the reason we have children who are rude, road rage, and outrageous behavior on Little League fields and in the halls of Congress. It would make the world a much nicer place to live in if we could return to some more genteel behavior.