In generations past, etiquette was a complex and intricate code of behavior that held a society together. Today, as our culture becomes ever more public, and our emphasis shifts to our “virtual” interaction, basic manners have begun to vanish.
But no matter how technological our society becomes, there are some manners that should never disappear.
In the age of feminism, opening a door has become a controversial act. Some women have confused good manners with chauvinism and passed along this misconception to their menfolk. Rest assured that a gentleman opening a door for a lady is never out of fashion, especially in the South. Whether it be the office door for a stranger or a car door for your wife, it is considered good manners to open the door and allow her to go first. And while we are on the subject of gentlemanly manners, when walking on a sidewalk with a woman, guys should always be on the side next to the street as protection from wayward vehicles. We as women do not surrender anything in the way of feminism by allowing gentleman to be gentleman.
If someone takes the time to send you a gift, the least you can do is show your gratitude with a thank you note. To do otherwise is just considered bad manners. Send the note within a week of receiving the gift. It does not have to be lengthy, a few lines will do. Mention what the gift was and add a touch of the personal. Example: “Thank you so much for the lovely gravy boat. It was so kind of you to think of us. We can’t wait to use it at Thanksgiving.”
The “Bridal Registry” was first implemented by Marshall Fields in 1924. Since then it has ballooned into a lucrative and seemingly acceptable enterprise. However, there is no difference between inviting your friends and family to your “gift registry” and simply asking people for gifts. It is bad manners no matter what term you use or how you dress it up. Let your friends decide if they wish to generously purchase a gift. But, if you are going to participate, by all means do not include anything over $100 on your registry.
Unless there is an emergency, guests should always remain until the final course has been served. This is usually desert and coffee. After dinner conversation may last from 20 minutes to an hour. If you do need to leave early, inform your host privately and as early as possible. If the party has a guest of honor, you should stay until their departure and then begin your own preparations to depart. To leave prior to the guest of honor is considered extremely rude. If there is no guest of honor, your host will cue your departure by clearing the table or inquiring politely about each guests transportation home. Prior to leaving, thank your host for a lovely evening and follow up the following day with a phone call and/or a thank you note.
In our increasingly technological age, we have lost the distinction between Public and Private. The grocery store, the mall and the city street is not your own private living room. Everything you say can and is overheard by others. This is not the time to discuss your martial problems or the results of your last OBGYN appointment. Whether you are on a cell phone or talking with friends of coffee, speak and act with discretion. If you simply must discuss something private, do not use the real names of the people involved. You never know who is sitting at the next table.