Saturday, April 23, 2016

Etiquette for Boarders

Are there any folks with boarding house manners? As a an unpleasant type, let me present the lady who is afraid of Mrs. Grundy.

Sometimes I think there aren't any, judging by the way in which men and women— and especially women, I grieve to say — conduct themselves as soon as they become "paying guests," the manual of etiquette for the boarding house must be still unwritten. 

There is the young person— she deserves the scornful epithet— who considers the house and all it contains simply the happy hunting ground in which she may support herself. She flirts with all the men, eligible or otherwise, sometimes under the eyes of their mothers or their wives; she monopolizes the conversation at the table, interspersing her vacuous remarks with affected giggles and long-drawn-out snickers; she demands always all the attention, all the care, all the favoritism, that are to be had. 

Often she travels in pairs, and she makes the night hideous with her attempts at piano-playing end her too uproarious gayety. Then there is the fussy woman, who lives to find fault, and whose idea of entertaining the assembled company is to complain of the way the eggs were cooked that morning and the wretched bed that kept her from sleeping the night before. She it is who must always have her food cooked a special way, who insists on spring water to drink and a particular window to sit by. 

Moreover, she is the lady who strolls out into the kitchen to cook her own steak just right, and who dries her hair over the stove and usurps the parlor whenever she has company. Finally, she is the obnoxious creature, who criticises everybody and everything in the place, and whose gossip drives all self-respecting persons away from her vicinity. 

As a third unpleasant type, let me present the lady who is afraid of Mrs. Grundy. Not that I am urging lack of proper dignity and care— far from it. But this person— usually a girl from the country— is so afraid of doing something improper that she will do nothing at all; never speaks, never joins in any general plea of amusement, never has been known to laugh and turns a deaf and stony ear to all advances, however well meant. 

Of all these types, she is the only one deserving of pity; often she is very lonely and afraid to trust the dwellers in even the best recommended of boarding houses. When, however, she acts in her own peculiar manner simply because she considers herself better than her neighbors, then she merits nothing but scorn, and one cannot help getting impatient. 

In any case with the girl who will not I even say "Good morning," who addresses her landlady in monosyllables and passes one on the stairs with a glassy stare. She does not realize that her passion for propriety is leading her into absolute rudeness; or she does realize it, which is worse. 

There are many others, including the "butter-in" on other persons' business; the selfish woman who takes the first and best of everything, and the girl who has no regard in her actions or speech for the good reputation of the house. 

And there are men too, who have never learned boarding-house manners — "fresh" men; disgustingly rude men, who bolt their food and knock women off their feet in their brusque rush by them; men who belong to all the types condemned already in women boarders. But, as I said, women are, for some reason, in the majority as bad boarders, and many landladies will not have them at all, through sad experience.  

There are hundreds of well-kept, happy, homelike boarding houses in this city; but rest assured, they are not the ones in which the unpleasant boarder finds an abiding place. San Francisco Call, 1910

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia