I’m not sure when good manners became as anachronistic, as, say, picking up a woman’s dropped handkerchief.
But clearly, manners have a minimal place in our current world.
Take thank-you notes. My sister-in-law taught my nephew to write them for any gift he was given, starting when he was a little boy. I loved receiving those just-learning-to-write notes of gratitude in a child’s scrawl.
Now that he’s in college he writes them himself and probably without prodding. They might arrive a little later than they used to, but they are charming and mannerly.
And sent by snail mail.
(As etiquette maven Miss Manners has said: You glance at an e-mail. You give more attention to a real letter. Of course, the post office is going under, but that’s another story. )
What teenage boy does this today? Kudos to his mom for teaching him and to him for keeping it up at college.
In fact, today, very few people write notes sent through the mail. And few kids are taught that kind of courtesy, fostering more of that “entitlement” syndrome.
How about RSVPs? I don’t know about you, but when I get an invitation, I promptly check my calendar and respond. If I’ve got something pending that might interfere, I’ll respond with that information and promise to firm up my response promptly. It’s only courteous.
And yet, many people ignore RSVPs completely. So RSVP– repondez s’il vous plait — means “respond if you please. Whether you can attend or not.
(“Regrets only” means only contact the host if you can’t be there.)
There’s a good reason for RSVPs. Party-givers have to plan and prepare. That preparation could involve catering guarantees (which means committing in advance of the party to the number of meals you’ll purchase) or buying liquor or preparing a menu or choosing a venue.
It’s only good manners to RSVP promptly. And yet….
I had a little experience with this last winter and I was more than a little surprised.
I’m wondering why the common courtesies seem so rare these days. Is it another symptom of our “all-about-me” society?
My guess is that if the non-responders were the ones needing a catering count, they’d be pretty outraged at those who don’t respond. Maybe more aggravated than I was.
Because it looks different when it’s all about them.
We’re seeing too much of this, lately, in everything from politics to parties.
Common courtesy and good manners —which require thinking about the needs of others –seem to have disappeared in our me-focused society.
We could use a few more of those hallmarks of civilization these days.