I’m lost in the sweeping meadows of the countryside of Victorian England while I’m working on one of my historical novels, and as the relationships between my characters play out, I’m thinking a lot about the manners and propriety of that time period (think Austen-esque) and how much things have changed since Jane was writing her much beloved stories.
Chivalry, as we think of it, applies to men. And even though it is gender neutral, we tend to place the burdens of proper etiquette on women.
Some people say chivalry is dead. I hope not. I plan on keeping it alive through my sons.
But what about etiquette? Is it dead?
Etiquette gives guidelines for proper manners and appropriate social behavior with details and events like parties, guests, place settings, thank yous, hostessing, etc…but has Miss Manners gone the way of black and white TV and VCRs?
Do you know your etiquette? I’m mostly posing this question out of my own curiosity.
I’m not just talking about not talking with your mouth full or not putting your elbows on the dinner table, but the proper “rules” for wedding invitations, guests, hostessing, R.S.V.P.s, etc. How many gentlemen still stand when a lady enters a room or excuses herself from a table? Do you require your children to put their napkins in their laps at meals?
I was raised in a household where proper etiquette was taught. I never went to cotillion nor was I actually a debutante, but my mom schooled me in the appropriate and polite points of etiquette that have stuck with me.
So I had a mini charm school in my own house growing up. However, I do not own an etiquette book, and while I practice the basics, I don’t always know all of the nitty-gritty details. (Nor do I usually try to find out.)
For example, when my brother got married, I knew that my mom needed to wait to pick out her dress until the bride’s mother had done so, so that she could make sure she didn’t pick the same color as the bride’s mother. However, I did not know that it is proper etiquette for the length of the bride’s mother’s dress to dictate the length of the groom’s mother’s dress.
I willingly admit that some etiquette rules seem silly. I don’t usually drink my tea with my pinky in the air, but basic etiquette is something I try to practice most of the time.
As I’ve aged, though, I am starting to think that I might be alone in my acknowledgement of etiquette (except for my sister!). The vast majority of people in my age group and younger do not seem to have even the most basic understanding of it, nor do they really care.
It seems that even though (or because) we are in the days of Bridezillas and extravagant weddings via David Tutera, basic etiquette no longer applies.
Is this a bad thing? It is just a sign that times are changing, or are there those out there who still live by these rules? Should we be teaching them to our children? Is learning how to properly set a table a life-skill?
I wonder if young ladies still know the proper rules when addressing wedding invitations, timely thank you notes, or sending wedding gifts. How about setting the table for a nice dinner party or hostessing, or taking hostess gifts? Call me a snob if you must (please don’t), but in my experience, the answer is no.
The one that most annoys me is not acknowledging the common courtesy of the RSVP. Whether it’s hosting events like baby showers, bridal showers, or even my kid’s birthday party, the RSVP is hard to come by.
Even when I include three phone numbers, two email addresses, my Twitter account, my Facebook page, and the required items necessary for sending smoke signals, people still do not RSVP. I’m starting to think that most people don’t even know what RSVP means.
To avoid the lack of RSVPs, I often use “Regrets Only.” That doesn’t work, either.
What about business etiquette? Does it still exist in the corporate world?
I’m not a 100% stickler for etiquette, mind you. I do realize that not all events require the fanciness that etiquette seems to imply. However, proper manners apply in all situations, I think.
Share with me: Is there a difference between etiquette and manners? What are your thoughts on etiquette? Is it just an antiquated way of doing things that has gone the way of the cassette player, or should we still be teaching it? Do you practice etiquette, or are you more relaxed? If you do know the basic rules of etiquette, how did you learn them? Your mom, your grandmother, a book?