April 25, 2011

Being Mannerly


I’ve always been what you might call an etiquette junkie. When I was growing up, I found a volume on our shelves called Charlotte Ford’s Book of Modern Manners. It gave me many hours of amusement as I read and re-read it, vowing to be well-versed in the world of mannerly behavior. Had I been invited to meet foreign dignitaries at age 13, I would have known just what color gloves were appropriate to wear.

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I’ve since added other tomes to my collection, including several by Emily Post, Miss Manners and the queen of gentility herself, Ms. Amy Vanderbilt. I love her thoughts on things and find her attitude so refreshing, even though this particular book was published in 1957. I guess good manners don’t go out of style.

As much as I love this area of knowledge, its seems too often we value adherence to the rules of manners over simply treating people well. I think about the scene in To Kill a Mockingbird when Scout’s friend Walter Cunningham joins the Finch family for lunch and wants to cover his entire plate with molasses. Scout knows this just isn’t done, but it’s a chance for her father to teach her about breaking rules to do what is right, in this case, make a guest feel comfortable in your home. I think this is what Miss Amy means when she says “our particular circumstances may permit us to omit them somewhat.” Don’t you know as a Vanderbilt, she saw her share of “chi-chi?” Love that expression!

Happy Monday friends!