Monday, May 22, 2017

Etiquette, Elbows and Emily

One blogger unaware of her 1937 stance, states that Emily Post's position​ evolved on many subjects but,"There was one standard, she refused to relax, which was the importance of chaperones." In Victorian society which she came of age in, "no proper young lady would risk the damage to her reputation that might be incurred by an unchaperoned trip or overnight stay with a young man. Until the end, Emily Post believed that was sage advice."

The fountains of sacred rivers flow upward, everything is turned topsy turvy. This plaint of Euripides is echoed 23 centuries after the Greek dramatist by no less a modern mentor of manners and morals than Emily Post, whose name is synonymous with etiquette. Mrs. Post is nonplussed by the confusion of modern life, by the way in which the younger generation has taken the bit in its teeth. 

But she is not worried as to the basic goodness of her fellow women, she told a New York audience. Instead of deploring the disappearance of the ancient institution of the chaperone, she chuckles over the interesting problems that have resulted; instead of teaching the conventions to her young readers she finds she must adapt the conventions to fit modern behavior. 

Etiquette means something more important in human conduct than choosing the right fork, a lapse of which Mrs. Post herself frequently is guilty since she is both near-sighted and absentminded; she also, let it be whispered so that your children do not hear, puts her elbows on the table at dinner when she feels like it, and says, "it really makes no difference." 

What does make a difference is eternal vigilance to be considerate of the rights of others, and to be kind. At the moment, Mrs. Post is deep in the study of a great problem; Is it correct for a woman to pay all or part of the dinner and entertainment check? She is brooding about this to the exclusion of all others and will write a book about it when she has completely made up her mind. 

In the daytime in the business world, she muses, a man and woman are equals, work as companions, lunch as co-workers. But in the evening matters are changed, the woman becomes a woman again and the man pays and pays. Is that fair, she wonders, when women are earning as much or more than the men who entertain them? Would it not be fairer if he takes her out once and she takes him another time? We await with bated breath her decision on this vital question. – San Bernardino Sun, 1937

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