Emily Post – we need you now !!! For those of you to whom this allusion brings blank stares, let me fill you in: Madame Post was the guru of etiquette and manners for what is now the geriatric generation. She died in 1960 leaving a legacy of written material — books and columns – stating with no equivocation, the rules of proper behavior. As far as I can tell, no one questioned her credentials in this regard, and most everyone who was anyone willingly acceded to her stipulations.
Fast forward to the world of today when concern for manners and etiquette are either at the very bottom of one’s “list of social reforms which I endorse” or they are the butt of parlor game jokes and Bill Mahr monologues.
In the world of body tattoos, nose and tongue rings, and cleavages by the acre, little attention is paid to personal image, common courtesies. table manners or offensive behaviors. A long time a-coming, but table manners is somewhat my theme for today.
Okay – so I acknowledge that table manners evoke images of dining – as opposed merely to “eating,” which is often done from a standing position and/or from a takeout card board container reminiscent of pretty nearly every sitcom where the protagonists sit on a couch in front of a TV mostly with chopsticks slurping down intermittent swigs of whichever “cola” the networks get paid for doing “product placements.” Dining however, occurs when real people actually come together for social reasons in addition to gustatory reasons.
So my question concerns the “social reasons”: can “texting” (or phone fiddling) at a dinner table be categorized as anything other than bad manners? And indeed, why is it so universally acceptable? Answer? because it is so universal an activity – as in: everybody does it.?
Well, I don’t! And I find it extremely offensive when others do it. Half the time, they are responding as if the person on the other end of the call is holding his or her breath and, that response-time were factored into their emotional well being. The other time they are scrolling — unsolicited-ly — for pictures in anticipation of a few faux appreciative expletives in praise of appearance.
And it is so all-pervasive, this intense concentration on a small hand held inanimate object that is close to containing all that matters to us in our lives. How scary is that ??? And how scary is it that this is fast becoming part of our DNA?
It is also — fast becoming an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” game. And this is what has thrown us so off kilter.
The other day, I was one of four people dining in a restaurant. The other three, during a break in service between ordering and receiving our meals, whipped out their smartphones. One was answering a call that was anything but an emergency and was engaged in a “regular” conversation. The other two were scrolling for a reference to some subject we had been discussing. These were not “dumb” people, nor were they in any other way oblivious of social mores or were they thoughtless inconsiderate people. They were dear people and good friends who had totally succumbed to the cult of join-the-crowd behavior. Is it like climbing the mountain because it is “there?”
Where will it end? Emily Post, I’m afraid you are toast.