Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Some years ago I ran onto an old book at my grandmother’s house. I believe it was called Answers to Questions (printed in 1926). There was an entire section on etiquette. There were questions such as:
Does a woman precede or follow her escort down a receiving line?
When stepping by people already seated in a theatre, should a man face the occupants of the seats or the stage?
When a couple leaves a street car, should the woman go first?
Should a young lady ask her escort to come in when he brings her home from the theatre or from a party?
How long should a formal call be?
These were only a few of the questions and when I first read through the book, my thought was that they were the oddest things to worry about. But then I pondered it awhile and I realized two things. The first was that, most of the answers were simple logic—for anyone concerned about others. The man in the theatre should avoid knocking knees with those already sitting. When leaving the street car, the man should get off first so that he can help the lady down.
In 1924, there seemed to be a concern about the rule, but not so much about the why of the rule. That was interesting to me as well. But when I thought about it, it seemed that in many cases the answers were not necessarily straight forward. Should food be passed to the right or left? I realized that one important advantage to observing protocol is that reduces the chances that any person is inadvertently embarrassed. Again, something very important to someone concerned about the wellbeing of others.
I think that what we have lost over the years is actual caring for our fellow man. We may claim it. We may send $24 to an orphan in Africa or help out at the homeless shelter now and again, but what do we do to protect the feelings of others every day? These are concerns worth revisiting.

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