Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Family Etiquette and All It Implies, Pt. 1

Never fail to be punctual at the time appointed, in keeping every engagement.
The permanence of a courteous manner is the test of its sincerity. If one is polite invariably everywhere but at home, one's politeness is as superficial as a disguise, and as easily penetrated by the discerning.
Unselfish consideration for others meets its sternest discipline in the home and in family relations, and becomes, under that discipline, a reliable guide, instinctively consulted in every emergency.
Without manners at home, it is impossible to preserve the real nobility and unselfishness of character which make a man or a woman socially desirable. 

The marriage relation has some little etiquette of its own which adds to its happiness.
Obligations of the Married

The marriage relation, while based upon certain fundamental principles, and not to be preserved without adherence to them, has some little etiquette of its own which adds to its happiness.

The solemnization of marriage is a sacred ceremony and should be observed in a reverent spirit. To partake of its home intimacies for the first time as of a sacrament, and to perpetuate that same spirit on the anniversaries of the day, will do much toward making it a holy and a happy union.

Every marriage should be at least a perfect friendship; so a married couple should observe with each other the same little courtesies that they would observe if still only friends, being as deferential in greeting one another in public, as careful of each other's feelings, and as observant of each other's preferences.

A woman should remember to accept from her husband, as her due and without surprise or awkwardness, the little attentions which she expects and receives in society. A man, also, should expect, and not be disappointed in receiving, the graceful little appreciations and courtesies which the woman of charm extends to the man of achievement in her social circle.

The difference between the appreciations of society and those of the family is mainly that, in society, only the men of mark receive them, while, in the home, every man should receive his due; for there his efforts are known, even though they are not signal enough for society to recognize. As equality is the only basis upon which the authority of the home can happily rest, so a complete union of interests is the only basis for the successful financing of a home.
           
In America, a wife never shares her husband's titles.
While all the virtues of good management of her household, economy in the expenditure of money, taste in dressing herself and her children, and promptness and charm in fulfilling her social duties are expected of a wife, and should be fulfilled to the best of her ability, there are some minor things which make for happiness which should not be neglected.
Although present together at a function, husband and wife are not paired off together in their entertainment. He takes some other woman out to dinner, and she is escorted by some other man.

The wife who shines socially should remember that her family needs the charm of her presence more than society does, and it should be a daily household quality rather than for use only on state occasions.

The wife should confide in her husband on every matter of importance. She should not trouble him with trivial things, but, if a matter is of concern to her, she should not fail to let him know about it, and get his advice upon it. The cement of love is mutual confidence.

If a wife takes pains to understand her husband, to be his companion, and to do her full duty by him, by her children, and by her home, she cannot fail, under the ordinary circumstances of the American home, of winning happiness and making her husband happy. It is in the lack of desire to understand and love that the real menace to the happiness of the home lies. The deep-hearted and thoughtful people approach nearest the ideal of love.

It is taken for granted that the husband will perform the major duties of his relation, such as being a good citizen, a good business man, and hence a good provider for his family, and that he will in all things seek the mutual happiness of his family and himself.

He must be considerate to his wife if he would keep her love and respect. He should confide his business to her as far as she, in her inexperience, is able to grasp it, and he should teach her the things about it which it is important for her to know. Through his conversation alone she can get the rudiments of a good business training, and she will at least be able to comprehend the changes he may make or the difficulties in which he may find himself, and, seeing their cause, thus be able to sympathize, and not to blame, if reverses come. He should so train her in business ways and methods that, in case of his death or disability, she could attend to the business of his estate, even though she could not, or need not, earn money for the family.

The wife who shines socially should remember that her family needs the charm of her presence more than society does, and it should be a daily household quality rather than for use only on state occasions.
The work of adjusting the labors of each to those of the other, so that there shall be time for recreation and social life together, should be a matter of mutual effort, and should not be dropped until solved to mutual satisfaction. If the members of the family cannot move in the same social circle, and together, a serious breach of family happiness is threatened. There is no marriage license which gives the right to constant harping upon one another's faults. In this, as in all other respects, the rule of friendship should prevail.

A husband should not open his wife's letters, nor should a wife her husband's.

All invitations are sent to a husband and wife jointly, except those for such occasions as a stag dinner, or a luncheon or "shower" to which ladies only are invited. If for any reason either the husband or the wife cannot attend a function, the other also must decline. The exceptions to this rule are those cases where a man or a woman of particular talent moves in a circle the interests of which are not especially enjoyable to the other one of the couple, or where the health of the one precludes the possibility of attendance upon affairs of which the other should not be deprived. Too long or too frequent use of the excuses which cover these exceptions, reflects seriously upon the marital happiness of the pair.

Although present together at a function, husband and wife are not paired off together in their entertainment. He takes some other woman out to dinner, and she is escorted by some other man.
Even at dances and balls it is not good form for them to dance together too frequently, except at public dances where they are two of a private party of four or six, in which case rotation of partners would bring them together more frequently than if a larger number of their personal friends were present.

In America, a wife never shares her husband's titles.
Neither husband nor wife should confide family matters to any one but each other, nor discuss each other with any other person.
 Consultation and advice together on everything which concerns either is one of the privileges as well as the duties of marriage.
To reproach for errors which were made with good motives and the best of judgment available at the time is always unjust. Always to greet and to part from each other with affection is the source of much happiness.

Neither parent should be overambitious. Their personalities make the home, and if they are overworked and crowded with care, the home is not happy. The mother should always remember that home comes first, and should not absent herself from it save at those times and for that length of time when she is really not needed there.

Neither husband nor wife should confide family matters to any one but each other, nor discuss each other with any other person.

Companionship means the willingness to let one's own mood be dominated by another. Therefore, if they would be companionable, a husband and wife should meet each other's moods halfway. For what is lost personally now and then, far more of greater mutual value is obtained; and it is largely by a habit of companionableness that the happiness of the home can be made so satisfying that there can arise no question of its permanence.

To keep one's self up to one's best standard of speech and conduct is necessary, for only thus can the family standard be kept high. An arbitrary disposition in the home ruins the comfort of all. Companionship and mutual authority and helpfulness are the only foundations for a happy home.

General Rules of Conduct

   
If a wife takes pains to understand her husband,  she cannot fail under the ordinary circumstances of the American home, of winning happiness and making her husband happy.
Seek the companionship of the refined and the gentle-mannered if you would be the same. Move in that society in whose ways you are versed and whose rules you practice, if you would be appreciated or met with like courtesy.

Never fail to say kind words to those in distress whom you meet. The kindness, however, must be genuine, and come from the heart, never in stereotyped and hollow phrases.

The courtesy which offers attentions should be met with graciousness in receiving them. Surprise is a sign that one rates one's self lower than did the person who showed the courtesy. Attentions should be warmly accepted, and the gratitude expressed should be of the sort which does not forget.

A woman, when in the presence of the men of the family, should expect that doors will be opened for her, that she will pass through them first, that packages will be carried, and errands run. She should not, however, let these little attentions be paid her by her father or an elderly relative.
Enter a room filled with people in a dignified manner and with a slight bow to the general company. "We all do stamp our value on ourselves" is true enough, and our private stamp is never more conspicuous than when we confront a roomful of people. If we show modesty but intense self-respect in our bearing, there is no one who will not raise his personal estimate of us no matter what it was.

The head should be well up, the body squarely erect, the chest out. Self-consciousness at such a time is a mistake, if natural, and shows the actual littleness which one is trying by an upright bearing to conceal. One should train one's self until the meeting of people, no matter who they may be, whether singly or in large numbers, is a matter of no particular concern as to deportment. Never enter a room noisily, nor fail to close a door after you, without slamming.

Never take another's seat unless you give it up upon his return. Dignified postures in sitting are marks of respect to yourself and the company you are with. A gentleman does not sit astride a chair, nor with legs spread out, nor a lady with her legs crossed. Never put out your foot, in the street car or elsewhere, or place it where it may trouble others in passing by.

When several people enter a room in a private house where you are sitting, always rise, especially if they are older than you. When an elderly person enters the room alone, it is always a graceful show of deference for all younger than he to rise and remain standing until he is seated.

The greetings of night and morning are due to all members of one's household, and should not be omitted. The one who enters a room where others are assembled gives the salutation first. "Good morning" is the appropriate greeting 'til noon. "Good afternoon" and "Good evening" are the greetings for the later hours of the day. "Good-by" is, however, the common and most acceptable form of farewell.
A woman, when in the presence of the men of the family, should expect that doors will be opened for her, that she will pass through them first, that packages will be carried, and errands run.
 After an evening's entertainment, it is permissible also to say "Good night" instead. "Good day," "Good afternoon," and "Good evening," used in farewell, are provincial.
"I beg pardon," spoken with an inquiring inflection, is much better than simply "What?" when you do not hear what is said. The abruptness of the latter savors of rudeness.

Whispering is not permissible in company, and it is not necessary in private. Therefore, whisper not at all, especially not in a sick-room or in church, where the whisper is far more penetrating than a low, distinct tone.

The calling up or down stairs is inconsiderate, for you attract the attention of two floors of people, as well as publish your message. To carry on a conversation over the banisters is also equally bad. Even a word of inquiry should usually be spoken at short distance in a hall which leads to several rooms, and where many people may hear or be disturbed by the noise. Such calling should never be permitted to servants or children, for once begun its convenience will demand its continuance.

Interrupting another's conversation is a serious breach of courtesy.

Finding fault is a very disturbing feature of home life, no matter how glaring the faults which may be criticised. Faults have to be remedied, but every effort should be made to do it skillfully, and not make the remedy worse than the disease.

Do not open your letters in company, except in case of emergency, and in the latter, ask the permission of the company to do so. Never, under any circumstances, open a private letter addressed to another. If the one to whom it is addressed is near enough to give you permission to open it, he can usually open it himself; if he is not by to give permission, the letter should go to his legal representative, who then acts according to the law.
    
The close friend and the distant and far less welcome relative are entitled to equal courtesy.
Politeness as well as pity impel one to be especially polite to the caller or visitor who is uncongenial, or stupid, or unattractive. By even an excess of hospitality one should try to make up for the inevitable slight which society always puts upon such a one.

Impartial courtesy is the right of all guests. The close friend and the distant and far less welcome relative are entitled to equal courtesy.

The holding of a grudge, and the failing to forgive a slight for which apology has been made, are the height of discourtesy. It is invariably true that the same spirit with which you mete out social slights will be shown you in return. Resent each one, whether intentional or a mere oversight, and you will surely crush the spontaneity out of all attentions shown you, and be met only with distrust.

When applied to for a favor, if you intend to grant it, grant it graciously and readily; if you intend to refuse, refuse with equal civility even though firmly. None but the unmannerly will urge a request when the slightest token of refusal has been given.

A gentleman may offer personal service to a lady, if there is need, tying her shoe, or hooking or buttoning her dress, or doing any other little act which she cannot herself do.

In a company of people, it is the height of rudeness to call attention to the form or features or dress of any one present.

In using a handkerchief, always do so unobtrusively. At the dining table it should be used very sparingly.

Better retire than be obnoxious to even the most fastidious.

Never look over the shoulder of any one who is reading or writing, whether in the home, of in a car, or at a concert, or anywhere else.

Do not touch any one in order to arrest his attention, but address him.

To lend a borrowed article is an appropriation of it which is next to stealing, unless one has permission of the owner to do so.

Self-control in excitement of any sort is a most valuable trait. It always makes for comfort of one's self and of others, and often for safety.

Do not pass between two persons who are talking together, if avoidable. If it is not, then apologize.

Never refuse to receive an apology. Courtesy requires, no matter how unforgivable the offense, that an apology should be accepted. Friendship may not be restored, but friendly courtesy should always thereafter be maintained.

Never neglect to perform a commission which a friend intrusted to you. Forgetfulness denotes lack of regard for the friend.

Never fail to be punctual at the time appointed, in keeping every engagement.

To make yourself the hero of your own story, or to speak much of your own performances, denotes deep-seated self-conceit, and may be very distasteful to others, who also have achieved.
Never question a child or a servant upon family matters.
One's social obligations should never be neglected unless one is determined to drop out from one's place entirely. To acknowledge one invitation and not another is surely to be discredited with all.

Never question a child or a servant upon family matters.

Fulfill your promises,—or do not promise.

Deaf persons should be treated with special consideration. Act as though they could hear what is being said, yet without laying the burden of reply upon them, and without permitting it to be conspicuous in any way that they may have lost the drift of the talk. It is well to talk both louder and more expressively when they are present, but always more distinctly, and somewhat more slowly. Never shout at them, or attract their attention by touching them suddenly. This latter is not polite to any one, but the stronger impulse to do it in case of the deaf must be withstood. It is always better to come within the range of their vision before speaking to them.
                   

From Edith Ordway's 1918, "Etiquette of Today"