by EBB on Sunday, January 10, 2010
Holding doors, standing up when an elder enters the room, or giving up your seat on public transportation are just a few 'old school' manners rarely practiced these days. Possibly (sadly) with good reason. No one should risk physical or verbal abuse for the sake of good behavior. Apparently some people get quite hostile when offered a seat on a bus "Are you saying I'm old? You're no spring chicken yourself." (Social Graces, Town & Country, January 2010 by Joanne Kaufman) Others get angry when a man holds a door. As one woman wrote to The New York Times "For years, I’ve gritted my teeth at the office when men insist that I enter or exit elevators before them — often adding “Ladies, first!” I believe it’s rude to call attention to my gender this way, as if I were a member of a weaker class." (Social Qs, The New York Times by Philip Galanes, October 29, 2009) In such situations discretion is the better part of valor. No need to end up in the emergency room just for trying to be considerate. So where does this leave the well mannered mother as she attempts to teach the next generation how to behave? "Edward, always hold the door for a lady as long as she is wearing lipstick and heels. Phoebe, it is polite to offer your seat to an elderly lady on the bus when she is not dressed like a Kardashian or packing an umbrella." Maybe not. Perhaps the best tact to take is for the well mannered mother to do what feels right in a given situation and then explain her action to her children at a later time (once the violent/hostile/grateful recipient of such social grace has left the scene).