Remembering The Pleasantries

retrochick.JPGIvy says:

I watched Becoming Jane* this past weekend and was struck with one thing. People sure used to be a lot more polite than they are now. They went around bowing at each other all the time and I’m pretty sure if someone forgot a “please” or a “thank you”, they would have been considered extremely rude.

Today’s world is a lot different. I’ve been to many a store where the cashier didn’t say a word to me, I’ve had many an occasion where someone let the door slam in my face, and I’ve been told many a time to “Get me this”- no please or thank you. I think my experience is common to everyone, unless you happen to live in the land of cotton candy and unicorns.

While there’s not much we can do to change the behavior of other people, there is a lot we can do by being good examples ourselves and demanding that kind of respect from our children. You can even take it a step further by reading etiquette books to find out what proper etiquette is in certain unfamiliar situations.

I’m not at all proposing that we go back to the world of Becoming Jane and go around bowing at each other left and right, but I do think that with how shaky everything else is in this world right now, that a little politeness will go a long way.

*Manly Home Eccers, feel free to barf all over the place at this reference. Sorry, but I like girly movies!


  1. Kendra K on January 31, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Mom of Three, I’m glad you understood what I meant, since my words got jumbled up.~~

  2. Mom of three on January 31, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for the advice. My Spanish isn’t good enough to have a full conversation, but I don’t want to offend either. I know they spoke Spanish because they were talking to each other as they came into the store. But at least I know I did what was correct. I did smile and let them know I appreciated the help, so I am sure they understood what I meant, even if their English wasn’t good.

  3. Angela on January 28, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Ivy you do such a great job on this site, this was very insiteful and as I have much to say on the topic, I just can not put it into works, but thank you for the great reading.

  4. Kendra Kammer on January 28, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Has anyone spent some time in another part of the world and noticed that what is considered rude depends on where you are? Maybe we should apply that within our own country as well, considering that we have a very large and diverse country. Understanding that, perhaps we should think less about the perfect manners, and more the right manners for where we are. For example, if I went to the south, I know that I’d need to speak more politely and formally (“Mrs.”), but when I’m in my native Colorado I can use manners that are more appropriate for the west – knowing that the 16 year-old host at the restaurant considers it kinder to use the first name, and thinks “Mrs.” is for old ladies (and wouldn’t want me to feel old). Does that make sense?

  5. Kendra Kammer on January 28, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    In response to Mom of Three, no, I don’t think it would have been better to say “thank you.” I have some experience working with Spanish speakers and have learned that it’s ALWAYS VERY BAD when you assume someone speaks Spanish because of the way they look, so it’s best to avoid that at all costs. Also, you don’t want to give the impression that you think they couldn’t understand English. If you have a longer conversation and it becomes clear that they aren’t following very well, it’s perfectly ok to say in English, “I speak Spanish, would you prefer that?” (And sometimes I follow that with the Spanish version: “Hablo espanol si prefiere.”)

  6. Mom of three on January 28, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I love for a man to open the door for me and if he does I always say thank you, so I have an question for you.

    A few weeks ago I was leaving a restaurant with double exit doors, you know you go through one set, there’s a litte area and then another set of doors. This absolutely adorable Mexican family came through just as I was leaving, father, grandfather, and little boy. The father was coming in the second set of doors (my first set and held the door.) I went through and said “thank you.” THe grandfather was coming in the first set, (my second set) and again held the door. I again said “thank you.” BUt I wonder, should I have said “Gracious?” Is it impolite to not speak to another person in their language if you know the words, or was I correct to say “thank you?”

    Granted I will probably never see them again, just wondering what would you do?

    I try and be polite most of the time, so my kids say it too. And I work with 4 year olds, so we say please and thank you to the point where it doesn’t even sound polite any more.

    Which brings me back to high school. I worked at a mini market that was very busy. For one whole day, as each customer left, instead of saying “thank you”, I said “expletive you.” All day. Only one customer noticed and said something. All day.

  7. caryn verell on January 28, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    in my childhood home and in my own home politeness and manners fall under the biblical golden rule/commandment of treating others as you wish to be treated…. those who cant seem to understand or follow that rule are shunned….until they can behave in a civilized manner….

  8. Judith on January 28, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    I was also raised to be polite (in NY / New England) and am sometimes appalled by the way I am treated and the way I see and hear others treated. Politeness is a personal and social necessity —– it helps us be less self-absorbed and more concerned with others and the common good (which we desparately need in this culture).
    My kids were raised this way, too, and as they grew people often remarked on it (because it was becoming more rare among their peers.)
    They were with me once at a restaurant when the 16 year old “maitre d’ ” asked my name for the waiting list. I told him my last name. Sarcastically, like I was an idiot, he said, “No, your first name.” I looked him firmly in the eye and politely said, “Mrs.” My kids laughed out loud!
    We can’t control others, only ourselves, and we certainly can ask polite respect for others from our kids. More parents doing this would make a HUGE difference in our schools, where disrespect and selfishness are rampant.
    Keep up the good fight!

  9. Keter on January 27, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    I was an absent minded professor raised by a wolves, so what I learned of manners was inconsistent to say it the most polite way possible. In fourth and fifth grade I went to a private girls’ school, where all the other girls were from wealthy, socially prominent families, and it was really more like a finishing school. Surprisingly, I mostly got by, but I think it made me very self-conscious and hurt my confidence in the long run.

    Consequently, I welcomed a more relaxed, less hypocritical approach to manners as I got older, but by the time I was in my mid-twenties, I figured “relaxed” had turned into “sloppy” – and by the time I was in my thirties I felt like an old person, complaining about “these rude young people.” Thankfully, the self-absorption that probably was the root of that rudeness seems to be fading, and manners seem to be slowly returning. My two main beefs are the many forms of rudeness associated with cellphones, and people with strollers who will mow you down or take their half out of the middle (including two joggers the other day who were pushing their spawn down the middle of a busy road!).

  10. CharmingDriver on January 27, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    I may not be the nicest person in the world but man do I value manners. Example: My parents have had the same best friends for 40+ yrs, like since before my sister and I existed. 35 yrs later, I still call them Mr. and Mrs. First Name and when my dad passed in December, all of the cards from their (best friend’s) three kids referenced ”Mr. Jim”.

    That was honestly one of the hardest things for me to adjust to in Portland/Vancouver. Lack of pleasantries and people speaking just for the heck of it, hey, how are you etc. and the essential lack of manners, please, thank you, holding doors etc. I just couldn’t adjust. So glad to be back in MS; it’s not perfect but at least it’s pleasant.

  11. Tara on January 27, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    I also can’t tell you how often I see a kid do something in public and think, “My momma would have killed me, given me CPR, and killed me again.” Manners were never an option. Ever.

    At 31 I still say “Yes ma’am” and “No, sir.” The idea of saying “Yeah” to an authority figure makes me cringe.

    So, consequently, I am sure to speak to the children I have influence over in a respectful, polite way. I don’t expect “ma’am”s- it’s just not the thing in Tampa. But I expect to be treated as I treat others, so it’s best party manners at all times- I can tell you that I really notice a difference in the students that I’ve worked with over the years!

  12. Diaper Cake Becca on January 27, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    With three stepsons and two preschool girls at home…..etiquette is a MUST. I was raised in the south and this is something I insist on….my family would be quite upset if they saw rude children sitting around their dinner table next summer!

    Sitting correctly at the table, knowing which side of the plate the fork goes on, not getting up from the table….those are CONSTANT battles at my house (I’m winning, though). Please and thank you are a MUST. I am very proud of my daughters when they say “excuse me” “thank you” and “you’re welcome” in public.

    My sons have friends that can be quite rude, on the other hand. They think nothing of throwing their trash in our yard, talking back to me (ye gads!), burping and farting all over the place. I hate it. But the neighbors say our boys are very polite and they like their kids hanging with ours. So I must be doing SOMETHING right.

    There is definately a place for manners. It shows civility and intelligence. It shows kindness and respect for others.

  13. La Rêveuse on January 27, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    My daughter is 19 months old and says, at appropriate times, “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me”. The latter? When *anyone* farts. (Or if the chair makes a funny noise when you move it. Or the shopping cart when you turn a corner.)

    I guess I’m doing my job?!?! 🙂

  14. Tara on January 27, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    I am huge on manners. As a school librarian, I enforce “using polite words” in the library every day. “Please” and “Thank you” must be said by EVERYONE (grown ups and children).

    I think part of the problem is that a lot of people are not enforcing manners with their children, and they are not modeling them either. I will never forget the night we were having a concert/spaghetti dinner at my school and chose not to refill drinks while the children were singing. A parent asked me why we weren’t and I told her that it was disrespectful to the children. She looked as if the possibility of disrespecting children was completely out of the question, as if they did not deserve respect.

  15. Pam on January 27, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    In these tough economic times it cost NOTHING to be polite and smile.
    Even if a clerk seems to be having a rough day I try to lighten their heavy heart with a smile and a complement…..if they have a name tag I coment on their “beautiful” name….pretty smile……great jewelry etc… is amazing how you can change them eveni if just for the moment. Pam, South Bend

  16. AA on January 27, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    I really didn’t understand growing up why I always had to “be polite” but the older I have become the more I understand. If nothing else it makes *me* feel good to be polite to a cashier and have them smile back.

    Somehow your reference reminds me the time capsule Brendan Frasier movie where he explains that being a gentleman/lady is to make others feel as comfortable as possible in any given situation (or something to that effect – if anyone knows the actual quote please correct me). It makes perfect sense to me – whether that means offering a guest a drink or holding a door open for whoever (male or female) or simply smiling at others. It’s the little things that make a day brighter.

  17. Angie B on January 27, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I raised my children with manners and they knew that there was never an excuse to be rude. They are grown now and still use their “Maams and Sirs” (it’s a southern thang)

  18. Go Jen Go on January 27, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I have 4 boys and raising them to be polite is one of the most important things to me. I can’t believe how rude some of their friends are! Politeness has fallen victim to society as it has changed from community centered to self centered.
    Thank You For a great Post!

  19. JimK on January 27, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    I’m the first guy to square up and get in someone’s face if they do something wrong, and online I’m a filthy, raucous type (my true nature will surface somewhere, dammit) but 99.975% of the time in public I am the epitome of politeness. I say the words, I hold doors, I go out of my way to be friendly and considerate to shopkeeps, strangers and so forth. My plan is that in a Pay It Forward, ripple effect, simple politeness might spread around. If I somehow inspire only one person in a whole year to start being more polite in public…I win. Two? I win the lottery. Three? I’m like the Trump of civilized behavior. If Trump were civilized and not just filthy rich. Strained metaphor? Yes, but I think y’all are gettin’ it. 🙂

    Now let someone cut a line, or bump an old lady or say something nasty to my wife? Civilized veneer off, raging “gonna kick your @$%” mode ON. I find most people don’t seem to have that switch anymore…they just stay in raging “gonna kick your @$%” mode all the time.

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