Madame et Monsieur Part I

So I stumbled upon an interesting conversation while reviewing my Twitter dialogue after work today. One of my friends started a conversation as to manners. Ironically enough, I was just having “this” conversation with my mother. It also ties into a few of my other blog entries.

My sense of manners has developed from the time I was a young child and has been reinforced by my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles since. There are a few basic rules, which are standards. And then there are the secondary rules which are open to interpretation. The basic rules are as follows:

Respect your elders. This of course means that even though Uncle Bill doesn’t always know what he’s talking about, you still have to respect his opinion and not treat him rudely. Conversation may be indulged, but do not insinuate that he is incorrect, let alone argue the point with him. This also means that you will not talk back when reprimanded or told to do something. If Aunt Peggy asks you to get her a cup of tea, you do so graciously.

Speak only when spoken to. This rule was a big one while growing up at the Stone farm. In regard to children, it also equated to “Children are to be seen and not heard.” The general way that things were handled during family events was that the adults normally gathered at the main table for the meal and discussions and children were placed at the “kids’ table” either in the corner of the main dining room or in the adjacent room when gatherings were large enough to accommodate such. As the parent of one of the children, you were responsible for making sure the child was “seen and not heard.” In regard to my mother, my siblings and I learned her facial expressions very well. There was a warning glance and a warning glare, as well as an action glance and an action glare. The warning glance normally consisted of a general look in our direction. The warning glare was a slightly longer look in our direction with the implied intent to stop whatever inappropriate behavior we were doing. If we didn’t stop, we then received the action glance. This was a slightly longer look than the warning glance, and may be accompanied by a slight hand guesture. If the behavior still continued, the action glare soon followed. This glare was normally accompanied by a flaring nostril or two and an occasional blood vessel in the forehead or neck. The behavior normally didn’t escalate from that point. As such, children knew their place. Lines may have been pushed, but not exceeded.

Additionally, children did not offer responses within adult conversations. They spoke only when addressed. Their responses were to be respectful and without any sort of distasteful tone.

Allow your elders to be seated. In the event children were seated at the main table during conversation or meals, and other adults arrived to partake in such conversation or meal, the children automatically moved from their seats to allow the incoming adults a place at the table. This was done without having to be asked. In addition, my grandmother has a specified seat at the table. Grandma has alwas sat in the same chair. If anyone comes to visit, they know not to sit in said chair, as it is Grandma’s chair. In the event of large gatherings, it is not unusual for my generation to stand during conversations to allow our parents to be seated at the conversation table.


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