Gals Deplore His Manners!
EQUAL RIGHTS Years ago Female Eternal set out to acquire equal rights. She got them, too, in politics, education, the professions. But in the process she torpedoed Chivalry. Etiquette or that part of it governing men's actions toward women, was based on the notion that girls were frailer than boys. When girls stopped acting frailer, Etiquette took a nosedive. Men, of course, still respect women and feel protective toward them; women still want to be respected and protected.
NOT SURE: But "equality" has wrought such confusion men aren't sure what is expected of them, and women aren't sure what to expect. Take this business of lighting a woman's cigarette. Invariably, when a man wants to show off his knowledge of etiquette, he says, piously, “When using a match, never light a woman’s cigarette before your own. The fumes, you know.” He's Wrong. The fumes from modern matches are negligible. If the man lets the match burn a second, he'll neither asphyxiate her nor blunder himself. Then there's the man who, knowing not a jot else about etiquette, knows you should ALWAYS light a woman's cigarette. Seeing one emerge from a purse, he bolts 30 feet across the room to light it. He looks foolish and she feels the same way.
IN BOTH instances the men have good intentions. True, you should spare ladies discomfort. True, you should if convenient light ladies' cigarettes (some nonsmokers, in fact, carry matches for that express purpose). HE GOOFED! Here's a draw. It's a boner, all right, light the lady's first; ask permission to smoke in cars or other closed places; forego smoking when walking with a woman; offer her a cigarette every time you have one yourself. But, unfortunately, a blurring of roles means a blurring of rules. And men, in their bafflement, either go too far, not far enough, or abandon etiquette altogether.
IN SOME cases, alas, equality has not only confused the roles of men and women; it has reversed them. You have, as a result, those familiar types, the Henpecked Male and Domineering Female. This unhappy switch encourages, not poor manners, but no manners. Normal women don't enjoy wearing trousers. Normal men don't enjoy being Dagwoods or Walter Mittys. So the first step toward restoring normalcy, clarifying roles and rejuvenating manners, is for men to practice those amenities that distinguish the sexes.
Q & A on P’S & Q’S
(Q) "We had a party the other night and afterward my wife chided me for lighting another woman's cigarette before her own. Since the woman was a guest, I think I did the right thing." R. T., Boston
(A) You did, technically. However, if your wife is touchy about such matters, forget the niceties and light hers first. By the way, how pretty was the guest? – Don Goodwin’s Male Polish, Copyright 1959
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia