Monday, October 5, 2009

Etiquette and the American Teenager - Not a Pretty Picture



I had so much fun reading through my mother's old book of etiquette by the grande dame of good manners, Emily Post.  So many antiquated rules of behavior, like how to hold balls and dances, the duties of debutantes, proper table settings for teas and luncheons, are a lovely reminder of how refined we once were in some respects as a society years ago.  I found her first book online, originally printed in 1922, and had to laugh when I read this from her chapter on conversation:

"IDEAL conversation should be a matter of equal give and take, but too often it is all “take.” The voluble talker—or chatterer—rides his own hobby straight through the hours without giving anyone else, who might also like to say something, a chance to do other than exhaustedly await the turn that never comes...
No conversation is possible between others whose ears are within reach of his ponderous voice; anecdotes, long-winded stories, dramatic and pathetic, stock his repertoire; but worst of all are his humorous yarns at which he laughs uproariously though every one else grows solemn and more solemn.  
There is a simple rule, by which if one is a voluble chatterer (to be a good talker necessitates a good mind) one can at least refrain from being a pest or a bore. And the rule is merely, to stop and think."


There's no doubt that what was considered good conversation in 1922 would be quaint and funny to us today, but the basic principle of showing consideration to those listening to you, and choosing topics interesting to others, seems to be less than common among many young girls and women I  know.

Knowing how to converse with people of other ages and backgrounds, of different educations and professions should be a skill that continues, especially among Christians who carry the command to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of God.  Communicating and reaching out through words is essential!  But if I pick out a random sampling of young people in church under 25, nine out of ten will not know how to look me in the eye and say a simple "good morning" with a smile.  I know - I've tried.  Asking a simple question about what they think of the latest movie will at best get you a, "I dunno, I liked it I guess," while staring at the wall and fidgeting.  Makes you want to slap somebody, but then of course you don't because Emily Post would not approve,

Which makes me think its time to bring back the old finishing schools of the past that taught manners and polite behavior - Victorian England here we come!  Not that I feel that the world needs more debutantes and tea parties, but a fear that perhaps some Darwinian laws are actually coming into effect and the American teenager is devolving back into primordial slime...

For those young women whom I personally know (yes, you do come under the 9 out of 10 example), send me your feedback.  What would you think of some classes in communicating skills?  I eagerly await your response!  

9 comments:

Janet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janet said...

When I was young we had "charm" classes, but conversation and communication seemed to be missing. I learned a little from my more outgoing and confident friends whom always greeted my parents appropriately. I think that if I had more help with communication, I would have had more self-confidence.

Fundamentally, I think the more self-confidence a girl has, the easier communication is. There are many girls who are still overcoming the oppressive words and situations that have been dealt them in life. I'm glad that girls are in the church seeking freedom from what has tormented them in the past.

Bruna said...

I agree with Mrs. Janet confidence is what girls need this days, I remember not having confidence when it came to communicating with others and would often end up saying everything wrong! although now I have more confidence than before...

But some classes of communicating skills can really help us all (including me) but online classes would be better I live in California just incase the Mrs herself plans to have communicating :-)

suLma said...

YES! YES! YES!!!
I would love to have those classes Mrs. Evelyn!
The things you describe are exactly the things I do.. I don't mean to do them...they just come out naturally...

Plus, these classes would help me for...ever!

But really, Mrs. Evelyn, that would be neat! =D

Thais said...

That is a wonderful idea, Mrs. Evelyn. Though I've never had etiquette classes, my parents taught me how to communicate and behave well with others mainly to show respect, which I believe is very much lacking nowadays.

Evelyn Higginbotham said...

Sulma, we'll see when we can do something soon. I'll talk to you in church this week, OK? Sorry for others not in Houston, maybe I can post a video blog about this...we'll see! Thanks for your comments, waiting to hear from more of you. By the way, Janet, keep up the charm, I can see the class sure done you good:)

Chris said...

Yes, please please please post a video blog. It would be great to watch and to show to others. xxx

Lillian said...

Yes! That's a great idea and would really help many of us here in Houston, hopefully the classes start soon, I can't wait :)

Rebeca R said...

Etiquette classes, sure, sounds helpful.=) They really did have good manners back in the day. I love Pride and Prejudice... Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy... Just leave the ruler at home please!
If i lived back then, I would of probably had my wrists slapped everyday! Lol jk, whoops=0 I mean, how comical and just kidding.
... I guess I should be the first to sign up for the class.=)