My wife and I went out to eat recently and as we waited for our server, I noticed that many of the men in the restaurant were wearing hats, mostly baseball caps, and half of them were on backwards. There was a time when wearing a hat indoors was strictly off limits and wearing one at the dining table was unthinkable.
What ever happened to good manners?
For Boomer kids, learning good manners began at home. Children had a strict behavioral code and if that code was broken, punishment was sure and swift.
First and foremost, children were taught to be seen and not heard, especially at the dinner table. Young ones washed their hands, cleaned themselves up and sat in an erect position – no slouching, no elbows on the table and most of all, they were not to speak unless spoken to. There was no “I want some of this or that.” Rather, it was “May I please have some…” or “Would you please pass the…”
These basic mannerisms were set in granite. When a child finished eating, he or she said, “May I be excused?”
To say “Huh” or Yeah” to an adult invoked a near-death penalty. For our family, it was “Yes ma’am or No ma’am”, or “Yes sir or No sir”. It only took two or three knuckle thumps on top of the head to ingrain those responses in our collective brains.
As children became teenagers, a new set of manners kicked in, especially during the dating ritual. Dating was expected, even encouraged. It was a tool to begin the process of picking a lifetime partner and it was a way to develop social skills. Boys asked girls out, not the opposite. Girls gave an immediate answer, never “Can I call you back?”
Any young man who even thought of pulling up to a house and tooting his horn for his date to come out was “road kill”.
The young man was not only prompt, but also generally showed up a few minutes early to spend time in conversation with the young lady’s parents. During the conversation, the boy laid out the evening’s plans, including the name of the movie, if any, and the exact time of the return. 11 PM meant 11 PM, or there would be no future dates with that young lady.
During the date, the boy always sat on the outside and walked closest to the curb. The young man opened the door of the car and any other doors for his date. If a young lady stood up at a table, so did the young man. Boys were expected to hold chairs for them, help them with their wraps and pay the bill. Always. Girls were to be attractively dressed and pleasant company at all times.
Good manners were also taught and reinforced in school. The teachers were addressed respectably. Honor was a sought-after quality. Children attended school in neat, clean clothes.
Well-mannered children and young adults reflected well on their parents and their upbringing. They helped reinforce the status of the family
Even today, adult male Boomers always give up their seat on a bus or train if a lady doesn’t have one. Men hold doors open for ladies or elderly people without a second thought. And whenever possible, Boomers in automobiles still pull to the side of the road during a funeral procession.
Aaahh, but the times have changed.
Maybe so, but not necessarily for the better. If given the choice, who among us would not choose to live in a world of good manners?