We've been through it all. No elbows on the table; children are to be seen, not heard; hold the door for women; stand when they enter a room; relinquish your bus seat to the elderly or disabled. How long ago was it when Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips doffed his signature cowboy hat in the Astrodome because his Mama taught him never to wear his hat inside? How long has it been since you received or wrote a thank you note for a gift or kindness?
Manners, as I knew them, have largely disappeared. While men often hold a door for me and always respond to a thank you, they will likely be the one sitting at the next dining table with a baseball cap turned backward, or not, on their head. How long has it been since women wore hats to church or men a coat and tie to the theater?
Ah, as my dear departed Mom would say, those were the good old days. She would also point out the fact it was a standard of living.
In this morning's Wall Street Journal there was a graphic article depicting the onslaught of the "ugly American" to the theater scene. It speaks of latecomers asking the actors to suspend their lines until the latecomer settled in, how pictures are snapped when expressly forbidden, when bare feet are propped on a rail in front of other patron's noses, and a family passing a bucket of chicken down the front row.
Speculation about these breaches of etiquette ranged from the decrease in ticket prices to attract audiences to exactly the opposite - top dollar was paid and the attendee was "entitled" to behave as he/she pleased.
I don't agree with either. Manners are not the cause and effect of ones dollar value. It's the cause and effect of how one was raised. Period.
The days of casual Fridays drove the point home in the work place. Businesses that cared found sloppy dress promoted sloppy work habits.
In Peggy Noonan's column in the same issue, mention was made of Nancy Pelosi's demeanor at the unveiling of Ronald Reagan's statue at the Capitol's Statuary Hall.
"At public events Mrs. Pelosi always tries to look engaged, a pleasant half smile on her face. This is a courtesy women in their middle years unconsciously give to the world. It is precious and largely unremarked. You see it on the street in small towns."Something taught so well it's ingrained.
You see, good manners are noticed. Protocol and manners are synonymous. They remain, even today, the measure of a person. Our President would do well to recognize this.