I once wrote a post on Fetlife about manners and etiquette. I wrote that I have seen a decline in these things over the years and how it saddens me. Manners are how we behave in regards to one another. Etiquette is a code of acceptable behavior; it tells us how to respond and interact with others. I described a wedding I didn’t attend because I was never mailed an invitation. Unbeknownst to me, and several others, if you wanted to attend the wedding you had to go to the couple’s webpage and select RSVP which would then prompt the couple to mail you an invite. I was told about the unorthodox arrangement the day before the wedding. Someone commented on my post that she didn’t need “my” stuffy rules and codes. She doesn’t want people that need those “things” in her life. I replied to her rather critical comment by telling her: When we all dictate our own rules we cannot expect others to know our rules. We also can’t expect others to conform or accept our rules.
A majority of people hear the words manners or etiquette and think stuffy and pretentious. They envision people holding a pinkie in the air while sipping a beverage, shunning them for drinking beer out of a can or not knowing what fork to use. It is so much more than that. These are social cues that help us interact with one another comfortably in all settings. Did you ever get “the look” from your mother while in church? You knew the minute you saw the stern look upon her face that you were behaving in a way that was not appropriate for the setting. Another example is receiving an invitation to an evening wedding and showing up to the church in a ripped t-shirt and jeans with a baseball hat on backwards. Even if you don’t own a single suit you know hats in church are not okay and you probably have one t-shirt that does not have holes in it. That isn’t being a rebel, it is disrespectful especially to a bride who has spent hours getting ready.
When we moved to the southern US my parents had to explain to me why the children in my neighborhood were calling me Fish Eater and Mary Worshipper. I was told I was not allowed to hit them, anymore, but instead would ignore them or ask them why they believed what they were saying. They also told me I was an ambassador. I needed to show through positive behavior and manners that Catholics were good people and not the pagan godless creatures our Baptists neighbors believed us to be. It is like being on a company trip and getting smashed at the bar where your meeting is and dancing topless on the piano where all the other attendees are having a late nightcap. You wouldn’t have a job the next day because you are the face of your company and that is not the image they wish to project.
Last week a family of three generations came to my office for an appointment. Only one person had an appointment out of the six who arrived 30 minutes early. The case was complex so the appointment took longer than normal. In total the family was here for 90 minutes. In that time the two young boys threw toys, kicked the walls, screamed numerous times, went into private rooms, and knocked anything on a flat surface onto the floor. No adult reprimanded the children. No one cleaned up the messes left in exam rooms and the lobby. One child who witnessed the spectacle asked her mother what was wrong with the boys assuming they must have behavioral or mental issues to act in such ways. Not only was the staff relieved when the family left but numerous patients complained and related what they saw to their provider. A few said that the family obviously had different cultural ideas on how kids should behave in public. Sadly a few said that is why “we don’t need those kinds of people here. They should go back to their own country.” Did the family not recognize that the children’s actions were making everyone around them uncomfortable? Did they know but not care? Did they think letting boys be boys was their parenting style so everyone else should adapt to them?
Sometimes we don’t look at ourselves from the outside. Maybe I don’t like canned beer but showing up at a coworker’s BBQ with a bottle of champagne and then complaining about them not owning proper glassware doesn’t make me look classy. It makes me look like a snotty bitch. Taking my kids or a date to a wedding that they weren’t invited isn’t about my wanting to include my guests in your happiness but about my selfishness and disregard for your wishes. (and your wallet.) My kid is kicking your seat for the last hour? Sorry but I don’t want to parent and tell him to stop because then he will annoy me until it’s time to leave. Better you than me.
And that is what it all comes down to: you and me. Are you an ambassador or does mom need to give you the church look?