Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Proper vs. Practical

I almost started this post out by writing, "I miss manners." But I realized that I haven't ever really lived in a time of manners to be able to honestly miss them. I see them in movies and read about them in books. I see them in certain people. I don't mean please and thank you manners. I mean the kind of propriety you read about in Jane Austen novels.

There is something genteel and high-brow about manners.

I have always admired my father's manners. He taught me a lot about manners. More than the average person knows, I believe, because I am always catching other people break the unwritten code of proper behavior. *Sigh.*

On the other hand, a century or two ago, proper behavior could be very confining. Stifling. You could be socially ruined if you didn't curtsy just right or--heaven forbid--ripped one in church.

Proper behavior isn't always practical. Perhaps that is what makes it nice. A little above and beyond. I definitely have mixed feelings and allow myself to be proper when possible and practical at other times.

To give one point to the practical column, I like receiving money (and gift cards) as gifts. Probably my favorite form a gift because I can then go out shopping and get exactly what I want--especially clothing or shoes which is not possible for anyone else to pick out for you. All tradition says that money is not a proper gift. A gift is exactly that--a gift. An item given to a person. It's also improper to request gifts and make lists. Yeah, that's out the window in my house. I grew up with birthday and Christmas wish lists. We didn't get everything on our list, but it was a good shopping guide for my family members.

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Emily Post

On the side of proper, I believe in physical Christmas cards. I haven't sent mine out this year (yet) and I am a little stressed about it. It is a dying tradition. We've only received one so far this year. It's sad. Year-end blog posts and emailed Christmas "letters" do not cut it. I want the card with actual signatures on it. I want your spit DNA on the envelope. I want the forty-four cent stamp in the corner (or however much stamps are these days).

A big manner no-no for me is seeing a wedding invitation with the words "The bride and groom are registered at _____________." Ugh! MAJOR FAUX PAS!!! You can include a card with that information but it is never to be printed on the actual invitation/announcement. But it's so much more practical...more convenient...more cost effective...I think every wedding invitation I have received in history has broken this rule and it gets me every time. I guess I feel that weddings are one of the last bastions of tradition and etiquette.

When it comes to daily manners, those have slackened somewhat too. I don't really judge if someone doesn't have spot-on manners. But I honestly and truly notice when they do. There are the big ones like men removing hats in buildings and in front of ladies; men opening doors for ladies; always placing your napkin in your lap; no elbows on the table. Then there are the more subtle manners: letting the card dealer read their hand before you do; letting the cook (generally the matriarch) take the first bite of the meal; standing at attention (even in an awkward spot) when the national anthem plays; letting a woman walk ahead in a hallway. I don't judge if a strange man doesn't hold the door open for me when I enter the mall, but I certainly notice in a positive way if he does.

What are your proper vs. practical thoughts? What manners do you wish would be more abundant? Which things would you do away with in the name of practicality?

5 comments:

Jewls said...

I won't say much because I am pretty sure I have terrible manners, but I hate list of registry's on wedding announcements...ugh!

Que and Brittany's Adoption Journal said...

Now that we have a child, I have been much more vigilant with my own manners. I've recently been working on no-elbows-on-the-table haha.

That being said, I always cringe when I see the "we are registered at..." printed on a wedding invitation. YIKES.

Jessica said...

I guess I should repent of my lack of Christmas card ways...and I'm pretty sure I was one of the "registered at" offenders too. And here I thought I was a fairly proper person. Can we still be friends?!

Liz Smith said...

it will be a miracle if i get christmas cards out this year. oh well. and i actually like knowing where people are registered for weddings. it helps me out a lot. so i guess i'm just not proper. oh well. there are worst things.

Rachel said...

I often think it would be nice if there were more widely understood/accepted protocol for everyday social interactions. In our casual, everything-goes culture, it's sometimes hard to gauge how exactly to behave in a variety of situations.

I guess this means I would say I'm in favor of practical propriety.

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