Wednesday, December 16, 2009

16 December 1955 “Manners: Then and Now and Christmas Ideas”

Let’s start with some films on manners from the time.
This next film is to teach school age children to behave at lunch, however, this should be used for adults on how to behave in the world at malls and restaurants, public bathrooms and lines at movie theatres. Such sage advice. It is odd to me that so much is expressed today to children about being fair and loving our differences but manners should go along with this. What better way to appreciate one another than to be considerate? 
You will even notice in this film such things as when the little girl takes the last milk, rather than shouting or demanding more or arguing with the little girl, he politely asks for if there is any more. How nice would this simple action be in a retail store or grocery store! Also, like most things, politeness can be contagious and you want to emulate. However, today there are endless reality TV shows that glamorize and reward the rudest and most wretched behavior. Even famous chefs are now to be exemplified by their ill mannered shouting and harassing of others. Isn’t it amazing how much actual real life knowledge there is in these films. They may seem campy and over the top at first, but don’t you think sitting with people who are polite and thoughtful more fun than someone shouting, putting their feet up on things and spreading crumbs and filth all over? Also, good posture is just medically sound. You are less likely to have back problems and such issues from merely elongated your spine and keeping your feet flat on the ground. Simple and easy, yet now scoffed at and seen as ‘old fashioned’. Also, it is medically sound to wash before and after eating, cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and yet I rarely see this in public and I am sure the public schools are the same and we wonder at the spread of the H1N1. That is why often ‘good manners’ are merely ‘common sense’. Even a lady wearing gloves summer or winter in stores protects herself from the germs and can wash those gloves at home. Much courtesy is also for our won benefit as well as those around us!
I also find it interesting now that many people would view this movie and think how controlled everyone had to be, lorded over. But, honestly, in public the freedom to do what we want is a gift, how we chose to express that freedom should be in that we, as a free people, choose to make it nice for others around us and therefore also for us. With the choice, we choose to make a neat kind considerate world for all in which to live. Some how ‘freedom’ has been replaced with ‘I do what I want!’ in a dogmatic way. As if your personal actions are of a greater value than those around you. We are all told how wonderful and special we are that we don’t care about others who have to clean up after us or live in the world with us.
In the introduction of my 1954 “Everyday Etiquette” by Amy Vanderbilt we get a view that things are changing now in our ‘modern’ world:
We are in the midst of a social revolution. Manners are changing but the essential need for manners of some kind remains the same. Good manners are the traffic rules for society in general-not in the purely ‘social’ sense. Without good manners, living would be chaotic, human beings unbearable to each other.
A knowledge of what constitutes good manners makes us comfortable within ourselves and with other people. Automatic good manners under difficult circumstances increase our security and our ability to help others achieve social poise, too. Reduced to a phrase, good manners is consideration of other people in respect to their feelings, their safety, their privacy and their full social rights and privileges.
                                                                                                -Amy Vanderbilt
Under the chapter ‘Courtesies of Everyday Living” I found this interesting. Here is the question:
What do you consider the important “don’ts” for a man or boy to remember?
DO NOT-(remember these are what NOT to do)
Enter a room before a lady unless it is dark and you wish to make it ready for her
Seat yourself while ladies are standing
Speak or bow to a lady before she has given some sign of recognition
Smoke without asking permission of the lady you are accompanying or sit so near (as in a train) that the smoke might annoy her.
Call any but your contemporaries, servants, or children by their first names.
Keep your hat on while talking to a lady (unless asked to replace it) or fail to touch your hat or to lift it when necessary
Take a woman’s hand, nudge her, or take her arm except to help her into or out of vehicles or across the street
Fail to pull out a lady’s chair for her or fail to serve her or to see that she is served first
speak of repulsive matters at table
criticize another’s religion, belittle his race or country, or refer unnecessarily to his color in his presence
Enter any place of worship without removing your hat (if its removal is expected) and without speaking in reverent tones.
Laugh at the mistakes or misfortunes of others
Fail to give due respect to a clergyman of any faith, to a woman or any religious order.
I found an interesting question in this book about a woman who leaves her baby in its pram outside the store while she is shopping only to find someone cooing over it. I found out that at this time, in the 1950’s this was often done.  A woman would leave her child in its pram outside a store. Such a world did exist where others new their town and neighbors well enough to know that that child would be protected BY her community. Can you imagine that today? That says SO MUCH about our current society.
Here is a good list for children.
Can you give me a list of the important “don’ts” that might serve as a guide for my two goys, aged eight and ten?
Well, they don’t-(remember this is what they should NOT do)
scratch , pick the teeth, spit, comb the hair, or tend the nails in public
chew with their mouths open or with obvious noise or lip smacking.
Leave a spoon in  a cup, or eat with a knife, or tuck in their napkins or suck their fingers instead of wiping them on a napkin.
Sit down to a meal unwashed and uncombed or improperly dressed.
Fail to greet others in the household when they arise or return home.
Tilt chairs or lounge on the dinner table or put their elbows on it, except between courses (and then preferably one elbow at a time, if any.)
Go up and down stairs like elephants and bang doors after them.
Pass in front of others without excusing themselves.
Use a flat “yes” or “no” in answer to questions. Instead, “Yes, Mother,” or “Yes, Mr. Roberts (or Sir)”.
Swear in a way that is considered offensive.
Put more than a manageable mouthful in their mouths at one time.
Burp, sneeze, or cough without attempting to turn away from others, and then only behind the cupped hand or a clean handkerchief.
Behave noisily and conspicuously in public places.
Enter a room whose door is closed without knocking and waiting for permission to enter.
Interrupt a conversation except for an important reason and then only after asking permission to speak.
I know I am always appalled at the manners of children in shops. I think it funny how so many are worried for their childrens safety and won’t let them play or do things alone, but the second they step foot in a store, off they run and the parent cares less. Then they race in front of you, never say excuse me, kick parents and shout “I hate you” while the parents ignore them or they bribe them or use empty threats “You won’t get this toy if you don’t behave” two or three times meanwhile the kid is wailing and screaming.
It seems even in 1955 the ‘new’ permissive nature of upbringing was upsetting to some. As there is a question in the book from someone about the ‘so called permissive method of upbringing”. The thin end of the wedge I suppose. Although every generation was taught less respect and manners and then their children do less then that and so on and so on so here we are.
Now this book has far too many things to give more examples. I could talk about it more in later posts if you were interested or you could also ask for a great vintage book and get this yourself. I am sure it would be a few dollars at a local used book shop.
So, I think it is a safe assumption that people were, over all, more polite then than now. Of course one could then pose the question, given the technology we have now to those then, how long would it take before they merely were like us: talking on cell phone while being waiting on in a line in a store, saying hateful things anonymously online, cutting in front of others and strutting about in pajamas and messy hair? Who can say.
I have a theory, of course. It seems to me that what we, as a people, had come to at that point in time were already acting impolite in ways to the older generations who lived before the wars in corsets and ‘ladies at home’. Yet, there still seemed a civility of sorts. I think this decade really saw the last time in a long run of history (really since the Renaissance when the concept of courtly graces and ‘manners’ really came about, but that is an entire other post, or rather a year long project!)when a unified code of ‘what is right and wrong’ existed.
Now, rather it was driven by a Christian base or not, those who were not Christian still followed the sort of ‘social code’. It is true that I do not want the inequality back, I like and think that in our country, really in the civilized world, we should allow equality for all. If others think or act or live differently than we, it should be none of our business, but then in a public setting we should be tolerant but simply not forgetting our manners. What I don’t understand is the hate. The hatred of those we disagree with or don’t approve of has a sort of life of its own. It has become a sort of public god that many worship by shouting and holding hateful signs. Honestly, someone form 1955 would find it appalling and crude and wonder at it.
Again, if we were merely more decent people at the heart of it and held to common sense and manners, there would be no need to over throw and shout and hate. Yet, we well meaning masses allow those with the most extreme opinions and it seems loudest voices stand for the majority and than we end in riots, and shouting and just ill behavior all round.
I know that we may never, as a people, be those well behaved conscientious people who think before we act or accept that we may not all believe the same, but I thought the reason for founding and growing this country was to live together in harmony of our differences. Yet, why can’t we when in the shared public sector of living have a unified code that is for all? Nothing based on religion or beliefs other than the belief that kindness, calm rational thought, and manners will always make for a better living environment? Privacy at home and public actions out in the world. It should matter little if I think one way and you another, if we are kind and considerate of one another than we could coexist. Yet, privacy and what is best left ‘at home’ is now the majority of what is on tv and media. Privacy is no longer as ‘news’ programs delve into for hours and days on end what so and so did with whom and how often. How does dragging it out and incessantly showing it make it any better? Can you imagine Walter Cronkite talking all day long about Tiger Woods and if he did or did not cheat on his wife and his opinion of it?
When thinking about this post I began to see how many ways I could break down the various ‘break downs’ in manners. Just the way we act in stores with sales help and to other customers is almost an entire post in its own right. We have become so demanding so needful of what we want right now at our time and pace and at the lowest price, be damned the economy, it doesn’t affect me! Not realizing, of course, that we are ALL the economy.
I know I am going back to the big box stores example, but Wal mart and its ilk is probably one of the worst things to happen to our country and the world. We have been taught to only want what is cheapest and easiest without caring about the local business and the physical landscape of our town. I don’t know how it was done so smoothly, but people honestly act as if it is not in their power and it is not their towns that are being taken over. How many more years before the majority of the American landscape is just a Wal-Mart and a few houses clustered about and the dead empty streets of downtown crumbling? All of these things lead to bad manners! For what is more selfish and ill mannered than demanding what you want at a low price no matter who is hurt or how it affects others?
And I think that is the root of manners today right there solved. To have manners is to think of others first. Plain and simple. There is no secret potion nor formula, it is merely think of the person next you BEFORE yourself. If we did that would we be chatting away on the cell phone and shouting at the sales girl that this is not the price you thought it should be? If we consider the consequences for the situations in public that make us angry before we act or voice or ‘opinion’ than we would be well on our way to returning manners and civility.
Now, that is the second point in manners. One’s opinion. WE have come to believe, today, that our opinion is like a great lump of gold or handful of diamonds. What we say  is so important that it needs to be shouted over others opinions, for it surely is more valuable. Of course, this is being said from someone who writes her opinion almost daily for others to read, but I don’t feel I shout them at others nor shove them down their throats. I think because we can so readily text and tweet and i.m. and call and share our opinions today without repercussion nor hearing others opinions that we have come to think we are the best thing since sliced bread!
Even so called ‘news’ programs are merely people shouting their opinions at one another. Where is the subjective manner driven world that allows a person on TV to state the facts of a news story and leave their opinion at home? There are entire news channels devoted to nothing BUT opinions. They shout and rant how right they are! The very epitome of rudeness. These are the sort of things that are on all the time on newsstands and on TV and the internet and we wonder at children’s bad behavior today? It seems the example is always a better learning tool than merely informing, so children go out and live in a world where there is shouting and ranting for news, people are pushing and screaming at one another in traffic, on phones, wanting more in stores, crashing through large wal mart with grouchy slovenly dressed people, wanting and needing and shouting their way through life. Is it any wonder the quiet civility of the past is gone? We have asked for it. We demanded to be heard and now we are all so busy shouting out our opinions that none our heard. WE must simply gather into our camps of shared opinions and shout the louder.
I do feel sometimes that we have raced back in time to the middle ages, tossing aside Boccaccio and Courtly manners and shouting, living in filth and mud, and clambering to be heard. Good bye centuries of collected knowledge of learning to live together. Hello screaming masses!
I don’t know if we could ever get back that sort of civility that existed because to do so we would have to give up some of our convenience. The ability to call anyone anytime at any minute. The chance to get that lower price on that product. The need to get your point across and dogmatically want it enforced upon others, these are such easy and luring prospects that most will opt out for that than to slow down, think, and act in a way that would be more pleasant for all. Perhaps we have gone over that brink. It is interesting that most of ill manners is simply fueled by the greed to want more and have more even though we rarely need half of what we get. How many years ago was it that none of us could contact anyone until we got home and picked up the phone? So, I am afraid, in some way, that manners have gone the way of the dinosaur. They cannot live and thrive in this climate of noise, incessant media, and selfish driven ‘me first’ mentality.
We want the pill to make us thin, the low cost without consequence to other people or our own town, we want the biggest fattest cheapest meat regardless to how the animal is treated, we want easy and instant. Well, we were told that is what we want and so we think we do, but do we really? Perhpas the process of making or doing the things we have so easily exchanged are part of living. It cost us more to have the instant life. We have to work more as we buy more of it. We give up on our towns and communities to have the big store where you can go and get it all cheap and fast, but maybe, just maybe, the time to go out into a community to get your needs met, meet your neighbors, or even prepare and make some of those things with a base set of ingredients IS living more than always getting what you want. Have we sold our actual living our actual LIFE away to make it easier for us? And what do we get with the ease? Are we happier as a society as a whole? Do we spend our extra time when not at work gleaned from the convenience of not having to do anything loving our family and sharing in our community?
I know and hope many of you out there would like a return to manners, but do you think you could (if you do not now) increase your own use of manners? I know I want to and always try to be more considerate than I have in the past. I sometimes cringe when I think of the old me and had I the chance would love to slap myself straight across the face and send myself to bed without any dessert.
Yet, we can move forward, we have to really, but will we move forward mindfully? Can we step into each day feeling we DO control it and want to change for the better: shop locally, let another cut in line, put off that phone call until you are at least in the car, smile to others, not care if this or that is on sale, but either do without or be kind and go and learn the names of the workers in the local shops? Give up our seat on buses to older people, gentleman to ladies? We can do it. Each of us are NOT actually controlled by the tv and the corporation, though we often act as we are. We DO NOT NEED the new flat screen TV or the latest video game console or the newest car or the biggest house nor to be inline first or to text and call our friends every minute about the simplest things, “I just went into the book store LOL” and so on. We CAN slow down and quietly take the world in at a pace we want. The modern world has allowed us the ability to have and make choices and yet we have become so mentally lazy that we would rather let the media tell us what to think. ‘Oh, we need that car, video game, TV, outfit,’ or ‘oh, we hate those people now and think ill of these people’. We CAN change, but will we?
A modern case in point of such a media happening is this Tiger Woods situation. I can’t but not hear about it. I should know nothing of it here in 1955, but good luck not hearing about it. Now, rather or not this person is guilty of adultery, why should it matter to all of us? I also heard he makes the majority of his insane wealth from sponsorships. So, here we live in a world where money is made by being allowed to become a commercial. What does that tell us about who we are? That commercials and advertising and fame drive our lives. Honestly, why should any of it matter. I don’t condone his behavior, but I also don’t know him nor his wife nor any of the circumstances. Yet, every ‘news’ program will be talking endlessly of it. WHY? Because, honestly, there we are again, in the middle ages milling about the gallows waiting for the blade to fall or the rope to swing so we can smile and beam at the death and destruction of our fellow man. “He thought he was better than us, Ha there you go fall and crash and burn!”
Have our lives become SO empty that the downfall of someone great (only made great by our own buying into it mind) takes a few more thoughts of our own pointless lives away from us? We can stop thinking for a moment about the job we hate and the messy house we must go home to and that wretched dinner to make, better buy more prepared food, the rude attitude I will receive at the store, oh I have to go buy this and that. We have allowed ourselves to fall into a life that is, at its roots, empty and shallow and though our mindful conscious bit of us try and peek out every so often, we can simply ignore it with the latest thing I can buy cheap, or the newest, or the latest scandal. We can silence that inner voice that knows better and really has our best interest at hand.
I am not sure why we feel the need to give up on our own lives and power so easily, but it seems this feeling of mindlessly caring about that cheap t-shirt or that scandal is more important than just slowing down and enjoying our own life! Buy less, use less, have more time, use that time to think, read do whatever you like and your life WILL be better. That is the great SECRET TO HAPPINESS, but our modern world will not let you ever think that. So, we continue to feed into the hate and need and greed and ill mannered way to our own demise and that of our children.  Really, having manners third point is being mindful or thoughtful or simply THINKING. Such behavior cannot coexist with the modern world the way it is because it would come about that we would begin to see our emptiness and bored attitude and feeling of sadness is simply tied into our pointless buying, spending, wasting of our time. Stop, talk to your  neighbor, share the cost of dinners with friends, buy less, mend what you have, work less, learn to make and sew and knit, share ideas and thoughts, read books from the past when things were a way you like and take what you can and implement it into your life now! Even personal style can belong to you, you don’t have to just covet the glamorous lifestyle of stars, make and buy lovely things and care for them. You don’t HAVE to wear jeans and a t-shirt everyday or to the store. Perhaps if you care for your appearance a little before you go to the store, you will see the polite and ready service you receive. No need to shout or push. Well dressed and groomed and mannered people often are very well treated. 
That is another aspect of our modern world, we must never want what is old, for if we covet something from the past it is simply packaged new and made a repro vintage object to buy. We long for the 1950’s because we want civility, calm and family but instead we buy a novelty toy or a book with old adverts and funny sayings and put it in the pile of growing items and stuff. And you know what, you don’t feel better because it isn’t the kitschy past we want, it is the smiling mother and wife, the happy and smart dad with his pipe and answers to questions because he reads books instead of just watching tv, a warm meal made to please you because someone cared enough about it, the smile and chat with your neighbor because you both care how the other is and what they are up to. And you know what? YOU CANNOT PACKAGE THAT. It is NOT easy, but better for the effort. You can’t sell happy lives even though everyday we are told that is what we are doing.
So, here again I have learned in 1955 another element we all long for and would love to get back simply lost at the root of commercialism and consumerism. Yes, it’s easy, but does it make you happy? Are you happy right now? Do you feel good inside when you have pushed your way in front and shouted to get a better price? Do you smile when you get home from the big chain knowing you save 10 bux but drove another nail in the coffin of the local business and your neighborhoods appearance and supported yet another dollar to communist china and allowed that little girl to make your shoes so you can have another pair for less money?Are you glad you can call someone and tell them what you are doing while you are driving? Does it make you feel good and happy with yourself? I think quite honestly who could say in many circumstances we, as a modern people, are not a happy people and therefore we must take it out on others. Certainly it is their fault. And that is how we get to the fourth element of Manners ACCOUNTABILITY. It isn’t my fault I am unhappy, it must be because I want to buy more, that is on sale, the salesperson is so stupid, that idiot on the road doesn’t know how to drive, that stupid waitress didn’t get my order right! I am fat, Sad, Broke, In Dept, Lonely, Bored, but it is not MY fault.
To have good manners one MUST be accountable for their actions and thoughts. Is it really the salesperson’s fault that you cannot find what you are looking for?
I have also come to find that many of the ‘secrets’ that that snake oil salesmen on TV sell for the thinner you, happier you, is really rather a simple solution. YOU take control and eat less, buy less etc. I do think there are many who could have a calmer richer life if they only CHOSE correctly. Parents will complain about their children and the noise and chaos of today and then buy them all computers, phones, video games, as if they have NO CONTROL, “Well, I can’t NOT buy these things, right?” That is what it has come to we HAVE to buy. There is NO question, we just get up in the morning trudge off to our hateful jobs to make more money to pay down the debt. But we DON’T have to! We can slow down. We could work less if we do without things or maintain the things we do have.
I always use the example of taking a person from 1955 and dropping them in Starbucks. Can you imagine the look of horror on their face when they realize a 10 cent cup of coffee (in our current money) is 5 dollars or in their adjusted rate of expense in 1955 a 35 dollar cup of coffee! But, we do it. We spend it. It’s easy. It is all so easy, but, another lesson learned form 1955: is easier better or does it make you happier? Most of the time it is not, it does not.
Even in 1955, when our modern world really began, you were constantly shown in magazines and TV this is better, your life will be better if you use this electric stove or own this toaster etc. You were not as bombarded by it as today, because there was far less tv being watched and fewer outlets for it, but it was starting. That is why I often now say that the 1950’s are a touchstone to our modern world. WE can look back and really see ourselves in them, but there they have a clean slate. They have not yet gone down the rabbit hole or through the looking glass after Alice. They still have a chance; they still have choices. So, let us look back, it is easy enough, then let us make choices. We may not be able to change all those around us, but by being groomed, kind, and well mannered, you will be surprised how those around you respond. Instead of trying to be ONE OF THE CROWD and the COOL KID, why not make yourself happy and enjoy life and see how soon you look like a unique individual that others will want to emulate. “How can she be smiling? I mean look at what she is wearing, she is driving that car? Oh, that outfit is so last year’” Because, when it comes down to it, the nicest most expensive clothes and cares are merely you trying to belong to some group, but do you honestly admire the tenets of that group? Does its philosophy really make you happy. Isn’t it better to worry LESS about what others think of you and THINK MORE about others so you can be kind and considerate and make yourself happy in your own style? It is doable and so worth it. I cannot tell you how much happier I have been this year than ever before in my life.
Manners may be gone from the day to day, but we are still in control of our lives and can still set examples for our children, friends and strangers. Let’s say goodbye to the endless grown babies that want what they want when they want it and to ridicule and taunt others for their not being ‘cool’ and really begin to live our own lives fully and happy. When you do that you will be surprised how easy it is to allow another in front of you in line, to hold a door, to say excuse me and please and thank you, for you will really mean it. You will be happy and honestly care for those around you.
Now, i do like to always get down from my soapbox and then share some practical tips. Here are some fun Christmas ones!
First, here is the recipe for those lovely pies I pictured in an earlier pie recipes (click on image and it should open large enough to read.)
Here are the instructions for those darling pie tin decorations.
decorations how to 2 decorations how to 1
xmas candy There are so many candy recipes that I think I will leave those for my next post.
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