Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Manners and Decorum et al

As the world enters a new stage of trying to cope with a pandemic, it obviously affects everyone in many ways. I am choosing to continue my mulling (here) and writing (on WORD) as before, even as non-virtual life is changing by the hour. This space is the COVID19-free space. In front of the computer screen, this particular contagion is not a factor.

So on that ^ Note, allow me to reflect as before on what someday (hopefully soon) will once again seem central to sharing our public space.

When I was five years old, my father tried to persuade me that it was fine to eat a chicken drumstick with one’s hands.

“Even the queen of England does it,” he said.

Well, if she does it then it must be okay. We all know the royals set the standard, at least for table manners. So for the next ten years or so, I felt just fine picking hard-to-cut food off the plate using my hands.

Turns out, he was wrong. My father might have been thinking of her Majesty’s ancestor, Henry VIII (as depicted by Charles Laughton in a movie made long before I was born) who ate drumsticks with much fanfare in a scene for the ages.

But the queen, heavens, does not do that. At least not in public. My father gave me the wrong advice.

“So,” you say, “What’s the big deal? You got to eat with less sweat, after all.”

As I reflect on the matter of manners, I realize it is a big deal. It seems more pertinent now than ever, with the significant deterioration in public life of polite decorum. Disrespect starts somewhere in the heart, and once it’s allowed to seep into the waters of public discourse, there’s no slowing this gusher. We’re flooded, and drowning in our own muck.

This is just one of the reasons I don’t use four-letter-words and avoid hotheads when I can.

Teach them well, starting by example. Keep fingers clean. Learning to use a knife and fork takes some time and effort, but the result is a slowing down and added deliberate thoughtfulness. It’s what civilizing is about. That goes for all conduct.

And you know what? Everybody will get to eat while digesting more slowly.


Vijaya said...

Lol, Mirka. It's so funny that your father invoked the queen mum! We always ate with our fingers and when Michael first came to our home for dinner, he was surprised how cleanly we could do this. Of course, we had forks and knives for those who prefer to use them.

You make such a good point about respect. It begins in the heart. I was reading a study done about marriage and the very observant psychologist can pick out who's in trouble because they can discern the signs of contempt in their faces. And where there's contempt, there's no desire to mend the marriage.

Mirka Breen said...

"...It's so funny that your father invoked the queen mum!"

Well, it was actually the current queen of which he spoke. I'm not that ancient, though by the CDC guidelines I'm soon to be getting there. ;)

Barbara Etlin said...

Ha! Seems Queen Elizabeth is invoked a lot when it comes to etiquette standards. When having pizza at my future mother-in-law's, she said that it was okay to eat pizza with your hands because the queen did. (I still prefer to use a fork.)

Janie Junebug said...

Respect is more important than ever during this brummdrumdoodles (I respect that this is a C-free space). I'm quite concerned about increases in domestic violence because people will spend so much enforced time together.


Jenni said...

I agree that respect comes from the heart, and manners aren't really about which fork you use or don't use, but thinking of others and not just yourself. I think if you can keep that in mind (which is hard to do), you will be fine. I think the other thing I've learned over the years, which works well in close relationships as well as with strangers, is to always assume the best of people and be humble. You just might be one who's wrong once you hear the whole story.
Thanks for keeping this a COVID-19 free space!

MirkaK said...

Remember Aretha Franklin. She belted it out short and loud, to the point: "R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me."

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Uh oh, I always eat fried chicken with my fingers. No other kind, just the fried. And pizza. I can't imagine eating pizza with knife and fork, where's the fun in that, although I've seen many people do it.