Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Etiquette and the Faux

From the 1935 film of the same name, the social-climbing “Alice Adams,” is doing whatever it takes to promote an appearance of grace, wealth and a lofty social standing to woo the handsome young man, who somehow finds her fascinating. Hiring a maid to serve at their ill-thought out dinner party, and tossing out French bon-mots while putting on airs, Alice’s facade-building is thrown into overdrive with the help of her mother and from the fear she’ll be exposed as a fraud. The charming Arthur Russell, seems to be aware of what’s going on, but only has second thoughts when Alice’s family, including her shady brother, can no longer continue on with the charade.

In 1938, someone had good manners confused with rules promoted by those who talked and wrote about “Best People” and “Best Society” 

Our Artificial Life

We boast of our modern civilization, and in many respects, it is very wonderful. But it is also cluttered up by a lot of flubdub which reflects no credit upon the courage or intelligence of the average mortal. Out of deference to innumerable foolish customs, conventions and caprices, our lives are largely artificial and restricted. We must make ourselves uncomfortable in ridiculous clothing; we must become identified with enterprises in which we have no interest; we must pretend to enjoy things we loathe; we must submit to being bored stiff by tiresome people; we must bow to the decrees of self-constituted dictators in matters of etiquette or be classed as barbarians. 

Our actions are largely governed by inhibitions. Many of them trivial and without any bearing upon true character or morality, but nevertheless considered binding upon all who would appear civilized. Were these rules and regulations established by leaders possessed of superior morals or intellect, they might be observed with better grace. But if such were the case, the rules would probably be quite different from what they are. In the eyes of some of our arbiters, it appears that a breach of table manners is a more heinous offense than a violation of the moral code, to wear out-of-date clothing is more reprehensible than defrauding a creditor. But most of us lack the courage to rebel, because we must be regular and standardized if we would be classed among the “best people.” – LaHabra Valley Star, 1938

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

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