Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Of Character And Courtesy

When I was a child, things were a little different than they are today. In some ways it was better, in some ways it was worse. I could go on and on about those differences, but what I really want to discuss today is manners. Because my parents insisted on good manners, I notice them. I also notice when they are lacking.

I suppose part of that is also due to the fact that I live in the South, where people will look you right in the eye and smile while plotting your painful and grisly demise as recompense for some small slight, real or imagined. Gentility is highly prized here in the land of Julep and Jesus; second only to religious piety and devotion.

But sometimes, it's a fragile and tenuous though impressively artful politesse. Sometimes, its quite impossible to determine if the sentiments being so lavishly and elegantly expressed are as sincere as they are enthusiastic.

And yet, it is undeniably pleasant to be on the receiving end of such exaggerated courtesy.

For those reasons, rudeness is all the more conspicuous when it occurs.

Yesterday, I took Pre-Pubescent One to the Orthodontist. The waiting room was strictly standing room only. The reason for this, is that unlike the standard dental practitioner's setup, where the Dentist or Orthodontist sees one or two patients at any given time in private procedure rooms, this office has but one cavernous room. In this room there are at least 10 mauve leatherette chairs, each cradling a reclining child or adolescent, all with yawning mouths, all looking very much like baby birds waiting for a fat and tasty worm. It is a veritable assemply line of orthodontia.

I happened to spy one empty chair and made for it only to be told by the woman next to it that "My son is sitting here."

I was, quite frankly, shocked.

As a parent, to deny another adult a seat so my child could sit is simply unthinkable. And it has nothing to do with hyperbolic Southern convention. I was taught that children stand, adults sit. As a child, I knew better than to remain seated if an adult was standing. All of us did.

Perhaps that seems like an antiquated practice, but I don't think it really is, unless one considers respect for our elders an outmoded concept. In the book I am currently reading, one of the characters says "Respect for our elders is the cornerstone of civilized behavior."

I think there is something to that.

But I wonder if, more than simple rudeness, it's a symptom of a larger social ill; that being the increasingly kid-centric standard that governs our behavior these days.

Growing up, my parents were always accessible, always emotionally available, always invested in us. But their lives did not revolve around ours. They had their own friends, their own interests, their own time together and with other adults. They loved us, but they were not defined by our sucesses or failures. They were devoted to bringing us up well, but not slaves to our every desire.

Looking at my own life, I'm not sure I can say the same. And I suspect this may be true for many other families as well.

But still, I insist upon a certain level of respect for and deference to adults. They know to stand if an adult needs a seat, they know to hold the door for an elderly lady or gentlemen (anybody, really, but especially them), they know that they don't interrupt or insert themselves into adult conversation. They know that to speak disrespectfully to other adults is an invitation to examine the ceiling cracks in their room. And, out of respect for my husband's deeply Southern heritage, I insist that my children address other adults as "Sir" and "Ma'am".

It's just the way things have always been for me and now for my children. I've never thought twice about it, because I was so thoroughly indoctrinated as a child.

You know, it's not that I couldn't have stood for the 20 minutes that we were there. I could have, quite easily. It was, perhaps, the overt rudeness that so thoroughly took me aback. And when I snapped to my son, "Well, I guess I'll just stand", she wasn't the least bit embarassed. In fact, when another woman cleared a chair of her daughters belongings so I could sit, she shot daggers at me for the duration of our stay there.

So whether it was simply lack of manners on her part, a sense of entitlement on her child's part, or unrealistic expectations on my part...something about the entire experience rankled me.

Later Pre-Pubescent One remarked upon the rudeness, and I was glad to know that he recognized it as such. My kids may be stubborn, loud, overdramatic, lacksadaisical and lazy...but they are damn polite.

So, if nothing else, I've left them a legacy that will really come in handy should they decide to make their home in the land of Julep and Jesus.

But I hope it's more than that. I hope I've taught them not only to respect their elders, but to value their experience and wisdom. In an era where youth and beauty are valued above all else, that's a rare thing. I hope I've also done a decent job of making sure they don't get too caught up in their own importance. I hope they can recognize that they are just a small part of a larger, more significant thing.

While they are, of course, the center of my Universe, we don't really need to let them in on that part. They'll find out when their own children enter this world.

And when that happens, I'm sure the little devils will be unfailingly polite and respectful of their old Granny B.A.

Or Else.


  • At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You definitely ran into a bad seed. I think you are hitting a point with this post because I wonder what I would do in such a situation if I was sitting and you were standing.

  • At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I wholeheartedly agree that respect for elders is the cornerstone of civilized behavior.

    I also think politeness for the sake of itself is falling by the wayside in our me-me-me society. I wish it weren't so and I'm going to do my best to make my child(ren) act accordingly. Like you said, or else.

  • At 10:13 AM, Blogger Wendy said…

    I agree. I am so sick of kids running amuck and parents just sitting by.

    I wish we would go back to the good 'ol days when even your friends' mothers corrected you and you were on your best behavior around all adults. Now, the attitude is how dare you say something to my child as he was beating the crap out of your child. Maybe this is just my world of toddler and preschooler. Rudness knows your age limit.

    I would like to blame the yankees, but really we all have a problem.

  • At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a Bitch.

    Is her kid the Dalai Llama? No? He is a regular kid then? Well, around here regular kids give up their seats for adults. Just a little piece of advice for future reference, Lady.

    Sorry. I was talking to the rude lady that whole time.


  • At 1:08 PM, Blogger Avalon said…

    I abhor bad manners, especially from children. I do not want to imagine what type of example that woman is setting for her child.

  • At 2:26 PM, Blogger Foofa said…

    I had never heard of kids getting up for adults until now maybe because I am a northerner. It isn't that I don't know about respecting my elders but that wasn't part of it for me. Generally, I get up for kids because I assume my legs are sturdier than theirs. I always get up for children when riding the train or bus. They are easily knocked over by the movement of the train. Just a different point of view.

  • At 3:11 PM, Blogger Kirdy said…

    I often joke I am doing my kids a grave disservice by teaching them manners. Clearly the majority of their peers won't have them, so wouldn't it make sense to teach them how to cope and adapt?

    Kidding. But I do often wonder what kind of world we will be living in when these catered to kids are in charge. We'll be older then. I hope it's not all Logan's Run and stuff. That would suck.

  • At 5:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am finding that this type of bad behavior is more and more common with parents making their kids the center of attention/the universe. I work at a school, and have gone out of my way to try to instill the practice of "good manners" on all the students that I come into contact with. My own sister is raising her children to believe that everything revolves around them, and they aren't that enjoyable to be around. My three kids are young adults now and all of them, even the one with ADHD and then some, knows the importance of good manners and showing respect for their elders. Thanks for speaking out about the fact that some parents are forgetting to teach good manners.

  • At 11:31 PM, Blogger Girlplustwo said…

    it's a spirit that seems to get lost...the recognizing and respecting our elders is sacrificed to butter up the youth.

    i think it's a mistake. i could go on about the children that drop their parents off at homeless shelters, but i won't, because it's not really the point. and yet it's what it made me think of.

  • At 6:48 AM, Blogger luckyzmom said…

    All I can say is amen sister!!!

  • At 6:31 PM, Blogger Ruth Dynamite said…

    You are correct here, my friend. Stand tall.


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