Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Social Graces

Emily Post's world, this is not.

Long gone are the days of calling cards and white gloves. In many cases, this is a great blessing.

So much of yesteryear's formality was overwrought with social classism and a severe disparity of wealth that got in the way of much of what America truly values - hard work, ingenuity, tenacity.

The thing is, social graces were designed with the idea of showing respect for another, and that's not an entirely bad thing.

Previous generations went out of their way to show deference to their elders. Today, people rarely give those with senior status a passing thought. Whatever happened to the grace that inspired others to lend a hand to a grandmother crossing the street? Whatever happened to the kindness of courtesy?

In the not-so-new millennium, we're so quick to think of ourselves - and yet we sometimes forget to bestow kindness to those around us.

Today, men and women alike can hold doors for each other. It's not a genteel move borne out of chauvinism. It's a gesture that shows polite respect.

The world needs more of that.

Ditto for how we treat our servers, our bartenders, and the many other people we meet daily who are tasked with the charge of offering a service with hospitality. These people make their livelihood by taking care of us, and they deserve respect and appreciation in return.

To take advantage of their position or to shortchange their livelihood for personal financial advantage is tacky and in poor taste. People working in this industry have reasonable expectations about their income, and we treat them unfairly when we diminish the value of their service.

Speaking of poor taste, I am swift to admit I am not infallible. While I place great thought in the gestures I make and the words I say, I make gaffes large and small. Tons of them.

When my words and acts are measured and well thought out, it doesn't leave much for interpretation. It's when I say things that are off the cuff that I get into trouble, and I suppose that goes for all of us.


Social graces aren't about high class, low class and everyone in between. They're about treating people - all people - with fairness. In so many instances, this genteel deference has gone out the window.

Society is quick to judge, swift to be selfish, and short on paying respect to perspective.

We're all guilty of it. Myself included. Every single day.

But damn it all, I am working really hard on it.

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