At the threat of sounding older than my years, I miss the thoughtfulness we used to extend to each other, exemplified by everything from everyday table manners to the way we park our cars. When I was little, every mother in the neighborhood insisted on at least one class in “cotillion,” including attendance at a formal dinner, lessons in proper posture, and instructions for ladies on graceful ways to enter and exit a sports car.
My mother sent me to ‘charm school’ operated during the summer by Montgomery Wards. There, I learned how models stand, how to maintain posture with a heavy book on one’s head, and the ways to insist gentleman callers came inside to fetch me rather than honking their car horns in the driveway.
It seems so quaint all these decades later, but when I went to my junior prom I thanked my lucky stars that I’d been drilled to know which fork to use at a formal dinner.
Unfortunately for everyone, common courtesy, impeccable manners, and even the rules of the road are no longer top-of-mind for anyone, including world leaders, celebrities, or CEOs. Here are some of the situations that make me yearn for days gone by, and cause me to lament, The Death of Shame:
* When a customer continues a phone conversation while being waited on, or guests insist on taking personal phone calls while dining or in the middle of private conversations.
* When businesses look the other way when a key leader is unethical or even compel employees to act unethically.
* When families no longer take meals together, eroding the family and causing a disconnect between vulnerable kids and their distracted parents.
* When social media makes it easy for preteens and teenagers to bully an individual, leading to suicides.
* When the internet is used for nefarious purposes, including spying on exes, or by child abusers and sex offenders.
* When it is acceptable for profanity to lace communications in the workplace.
* When profanity and nudity are an accepted part of every TV show, comedy performance, stage play, and film – even if they detract from the story line.
* When professional athletes, movie and TV stars, and other celebrities become pregnant first and then choose whether to marry as they raise their child.
* When children increasingly become collateral damage as parents choose divorce over the hard work of marriage.
* When illiteracy, lack of proper punctuation, and grammatical errors are no longer considered egregious in professional communications.
* When it’s common to be placed on hold for indeterminately long periods, then quizzed by a robot which may or may not provide access to a human being.
* When customer service is no longer valued at commercial establishments, including drug stores, supermarkets and retail stores.
* When drivers ignore turn signals or fail to use them, ensuring traffic mistakes, chaos, and accidents.
* When drivers and passengers fail to extend common courtesy to others on the road.
* When people don’t use please and thank you in any situation.
I could go on and on citing many different examples of the ways social niceties are crumbling, but I’m more concerned by the lack of attention to manners and courtesy demonstrated by people who should know better. This inevitably will trickle down through the generations and we may never again revere politeness and thoughtfulness.
In short, I wish for the time when consideration for others was a valued trait – rather than the mark of a sucker.