Manners. Etiquette. Good behaviour.
There are many theories as to how "Mind your P's and Q's" came to refer to manners, but in the end it hardly matters. Today's offering is about manners and etiquette and good behaviour. The topic is one of my favourite hobby horses, so I'll take care to reign myself in (haha!), and stay on point.
What's the big deal? We live in a casual, informal society, right? Yes, we do. But I believe there is always room for politeness. First of all, good manners are a way of practising, or living out, charity, because they cause us to focus on the 'other', rather than 'me'. Manners are more concerned with the comfort and dignity of other people ahead of ourselves. There is a line from the movie Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood that niggles at my memory. I don't remember it exactly, but it goes something like this: a daughter asks her mother about love. Wise Mama responds, "Honeychild, whatever else love is, it ought to begin with good manners." I agree! If I care about you, I'm not going to stare at you when your hair is sticking up, or whisper about you to someone else, or ignore you if you're sitting alone in the lunch room, or not introduce you to the other person I'm talking to, or stubbornly hold to my side of the sidewalk when you're coming toward me, baby in tow.
Manners are a useful thing. They guide us through awkward or unfamiliar situations, giving us templates to follow. Again, they remove 'me' from the equation. It doesn't matter if I'm shy, or feeling cranky - when I meet someone, I say hello, how are you, or Pleased to meet you or a variation thereof. If I need to pass by, I say Excuse me, and always say Please, and Thank you. Even when you don't mean it. And especially if you're Canadian.
There used to be very complex and rigid rules of etiquette. In the upper classes, they were so convoluted there was no hope you could learn them all if you weren't born to it. I'm glad we don't go to those extremes anymore, but I do think we've lost something when we decided to do away with practically everything. We tend to look down on the finer things like gentility and chivalry - perhaps as being soft and snooty - which is too bad. Because of it we have loud and personal conversations on cell phones in public, to name just one obnoxious example.
Thank you for reading.