Things that aren’t pretty: Failing to say “please” and “thank you”. Slamming doors in a person’s face. Interrupting and talking over others. Speaking loudly on your cell phone in public places. Cutting in front of others in line. Smacking your gum. Failing to excuse yourself when doing or saying something inappropriate. Flipping over dinner tables à la Teresa Giudice…
Suffice it to say, there is nothing quite as unattractive and unstylish as bad manners and lack of social graces – and if anybody understands this, it’s the empress of etiquette Emily Post.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland on this day in 1872, Emily enjoyed a privileged childhood and as a young adult wrote society columns. She put manners on the map when she penned her first book (a best seller), Etiquette – the Blue Book of Social Usage, in 1922, followed by a string of other manuals.
Emily would be horrified by the lack of manners and decency in society today – from failure to R.S.V.P. and skipping introductions – to the crude insults and brash behavior exhibited on the fields of little league games, in rush hour traffic, on the streets, in various public venues, and in the social media universe.
Emily emphasized that social good form isn’t simply knowing which fork to use for salad, but how to treat others graciously in daily life. So rather than rant about rudeness and ugly behavior, let’s do our part and promote the pretty, please.
Gracious Beyonce shines over rude Kanye
In the meantime I thought it would be fun to share some gems from Ms. Post’s etiquette advice from back in the day, 1922…
When making an introduction – the younger person is always presented to the older or more distinguished, but a gentleman is always presented to a lady, even though he is an old gentleman of great distinction and the lady a mere slip of a girl. No lady is ever, except to the President of the United States, a cardinal, or a reigning sovereign, presented to a man.
Conversing – to say you have read a book and then seemingly to understand nothing of what you have read, proves you a half-wit.
Fashion – one does not have to be dowdy as an alternative to being too richly dressed. It is not unheard of for a New York woman to spend a third of her husband’s income on clothes.
Vulgarity - the woman of uncultivated taste has no more sense of moderation than the Queen of the Cannibals.
What your clothes portray – If you are much stared at, what sort of a stare do you usually meet? Is it bold, or mocking, or is it merely that people look at you wistfully? If the first, change your manner; if the second, wear more conventional clothes; if the third, you may be left as you are. But be sure of your diagnosis of this last.
When golfing – shirt-waists do not sound very conservative, but they are mercifully conserving to arms sensitive to sunburn. Young Mrs. Gilding, whose skin is as perishable as it is lovely, always wears orange on the golf course.
Formal wear for men – your handkerchief must be white; gloves (at opera or ball) white; flower in buttonhole (if any) white. Wear patent leather pumps, shoes or ties, and plain black silk socks, and leave your rubbers—if you must wear them, in the coat room.
Etiquette of Engaged People – often it so happens that engaged people are very little together, because he is away at work, or for other reasons. Rather than sit home alone, she may continue to go out in society, but she must avoid being with any one man more than another… It always gives gossip a chance to see an engaged girl sitting out dances with any particular man, and slander is never far away if any evidence of ardor creeps into their regard.
As far as common decency, an Emily Post-ism that still rings true today: “No one should do anything that can either annoy or offend the sensibilities of others.” Society may be changing, but good manners, common courtesy and gracious behavior are forever in fashion.
Now keep it classy, ladies.