|Oh dear... playing with one’s food is not on the menu! —“In any case, they show the most profound indifference to the forms of good breeding as established by long custom And the most unmitigated contempt for their mother’s visitors.”|
On Young People’s Manners...
and Parental Neglect of the Gracious Art ot Good Breeding
In some homes the belief in the ability of youth to guide itself aright is carried to the extent of forbearing to teach the very rudiments of good manners. It is assumed that contact with their fellows and the self education resulting from social attrition will turn the young people out at length as finished ladies and gentlemen Meanwhile they are allowed to be as objectionable as it pleases them to be, and no one lifts hand or voice in warning, in correction, in teaching. The boys slouch into the room, their grubby hands in their pockets, their caps on their unkempt heads. Perhaps they whistle; perhaps they shout, two or three in chorus. They are not checked, not taught better manners, not interfered with in any way. The girls, maybe at the awkward age when it is difficult to make them well bred with the greatest pains one can take, come ramping in with their brothers, giving the impression of a babel of voices, a forest of heads, a maddening group of windmills, whereof the sails are arms.
If of the more studious kind, they “flump” themselves down in an easy chair doubled up in a half hoop and bury themselves in a book laid on their crossed knees. They take no notice of their mother’s guests, not even to say the usual formula, “How do you do?” or to answer “Quite well, thank you.” If frivolous, they snicker and giggle and talk in whispers one to the other; if quarrelsome, shout and wrangle. In any case, they show the most profound indifference to the forms of good breeding as established by long custom And the most unmitigated contempt for their mother’s visitors. How should they not? From the earliest days when they came in to the “5 o’clock,” where they demanded all they saw, yelled for cake, interrupted the conversation, were soothed when they ought to have been snubbed and indulged when they ought to have been expelled—from that time to now they have been suffered to do as they like. They have been taught nothing better, poor things, and the mistakes they make are due to ignorance rather than to direct intention and to thoughtlessness rather than design.
Cognate with these rude forms, this high treason against that thing we call manners, is a certain kind of impoliteness, of negligence to which the young are prone unless made to do better and taught the more gracious way. They do not acknowledge the kindnesses done them, as those who have been duly taught that gracious art of good breeding know they ought to do. Chary of letter writing, they accept tickets for a ball or a theater, with thanks galore doubtless in their hearts, but never a word on paper. They spend a charming time at a friend’s house, then let weeks elapse before writing their thanks and expressing their pleasure, after which they wonder at the coolness which springs up between them and their quondam hostess and think themselves hardly used, being very sure they have done no wrong. — San Jose Herald, 1893
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia©️ Etiquette Encyclopedia