Old Fashioned Manners—Where Have They Gone?*
Some of my past posts have focused on nostalgia and how things used to be. I’m sticking to that theme with this post as well, but in a little different vein. My remarks are not meant to be critical; piteous, perhaps, but not critical. My purpose is only to compare certain things as they occurred in the past to what I observe happening today.
For the last several years, I’ve noticed a certain degree of familiarity toward elder customers by young working people in their late teens and early twenties. Some of this might be attributed to a growing business trend; a trend that is alleged to have been started by Disney. I’ll call it the “Disney Project” for want of a better term.
This policy consists of having employees engage their customers to supposedly help make the business relationship more friendly. I have no problem with this, except in one area. I’m inclined to believe, that these employees are being told by their employers to address their customers on a first name basis whenever possible. This, too, is fine under certain conditions. However, I’m wondering if employers are failing to stress to these young people, that out of respect, it’s better to address their elders of more than ten years by Mr. or Mrs. or Ms., rather than their first names.
Now I’m not a prude. I don’t mind having young people address me by my first name, but only after they know me better and I have given them permission. But to have them address me on a first name basis after one business transaction is unacceptable to me. Maybe I’m too old fashioned for today’s world; still clinging to many tenets of yesteryear.
When I was a youngster, addressing an elder by his first name under any circumstances, was an unacceptable breach of etiquette, and would surely bring the wrath of our parents—and our elders—down upon our persons. Even as we entered into the adult world of early twenties, we never would have considered addressing someone who was a generation older than ourselves by their first name; at least not until we knew them well, and were given permission by them to do so. It was not until we came into our late twenties, or early thirties, that it was permissible to address a person more than ten years our senior by their first name. This was especially true with regard to women who were our elders.
I also sometimes wonder if we in the U.S. are becoming a wee bit too casual in other areas of manners and etiquette, as well. For instance, when we are sitting, are we men becoming too casual about standing when we are approached by women; are we too casual about holding a door open for women, or opening the car door for them; too casual about not removing our hats when we enter a building? There was a time in my young life when we carried our hat in hand inside a building.
As a society, are we becoming too casual in our dress when we go out to dinner at a fine restaurant; or attend functions such as the symphony? Does not attending the symphony dressed in anything less than a coat and tie for men; and a dress, or at least dress slacks, for women, show a certain lack of respect for the symphony and its members? (I’ve actually attended symphonies where people came dressed in plaid shirts and shorts or jeans. Are they actually too lazy to dress up, or do they really not know better?) I’ve also attended symphony performances where people showed up five minutes before, or even at curtain time expecting to be seated.
They say “you can’t go back,” but maybe there are times when we should go back. Call me old fashioned, call me an old fuddy duddy, a stuffed shirt out of touch with the times, but to me, there are a few things that should never become out dated. Simple etiquette and proper manners are among them.
If you like to reminisce the old days, perhaps you might enjoy my little book Buddy…His Trials and Treasures. You can click on the free download link on my homepage and receive a free copy of the prologue and first three complete adventures of a young boy growing up in rural America during the 1940s. Buddy is not unlike Tom Sawyer in that he often finds himself in hot water for his actions, and for which he must pay consequences. Unlike Tom, however, Buddy’s misdeeds are without much forethought. They happen because Buddy is…well…he’s just Buddy.
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