By Caitlin Kelly
From The New York Times (on Trump):
the most distinctive aspect of Trump’s presidency, which is his complete and consistent rejection of the conventional etiquette of the office — of public comportment that speaks to the best in us, not the worst.
The other presidents in my lifetime have at least done a pantomime of the qualities that we try to instill in children: humility, honesty, magnanimity, generosity. Even Richard Nixon took his stabs at these. Trump makes a proud and almost ceaseless mockery of them.
And while I worry plenty that he’ll achieve some of his most ill-conceived policy goals, I’m just as fearful that he has already succeeded in changing forever the expected demeanor of someone in public office.
We need etiquette more than ever before — from the French word for ticket — to grease the wheels of our discourse and behavior. When we use agreed-upon rules of polite interaction,we can just get on with life’s many other challenges.
E.G.: You don’t wear white to a (North American) wedding. You probably wear black to a Christian funeral. You shake hands when meeting someone and look them in the eye and say” “Pleased to meet you” or something similar.
In France, and some other countries, you greet someone with a kiss on the cheek, possibly multiple times, or shake hands with them. (I love how personal that is.)
I recently attended a funeral where one woman — in her late 40s or beyond — arrived wearing workout clothing. My husband thinks I’m being a snob, (entirely possible), for thinking this was rude, but to my mind, a funeral is hardly a spontaneous event you just show up to in Spandex and sneakers.
It’s meant, I think, to be a time of sober reflection and support for the family, even if celebratory as well. Show some respect!
Another friend just lost her much beloved stepfather, and heard some incredibly rude and stupid things at his funeral. Like adding to someone’s grief is an intelligent or kind thing to do.
I was trained, and still do, to write thank-you notes, promptly, on paper and send them through the mail. However ancient this may seem to a generation accustomed to texts and emojis, a hand-written note on lovely stationery — whether a thank-you for a meal, a visit, a job interview, a wedding or birthday gift — remains a much-appreciated touch.
If you ever get an invitation with the letters RSVP, also French, they mean Repondez S’il Vous Plait, (answer, please!) Having to repeatedly email, text or call would-be guests to ask: “Are you coming?” really ruins the pleasure of entertaining.
Even as so many us wander about in comfy techno-isolation, wearing headphones, staring into our phones, we’re still sharing space on the street, in cramped airplanes and slow-moving subway cars, in open-plan offices with no privacy, in crowded, poorly-designed classrooms and stores.
That’s why we still need ways to smooth our passage through work, life and major events, to feel safe in knowing what to expect of one another and to be able to rely on that.
Keep your shoes on!
Don’t tweeze your chin hairs!
Don’t clip your nails!
Speak quietly (if you must speak at all) on your cellphone.
Offer your seat to a pregnant, elderly or visibly exhausted person, regardless or their age or gender.
Don’t shout at people working low or minimum-wage jobs like food service, hospitality or retail — their lives are already difficult enough.
Have good manners helped smooth your life?
Do you see considerate behavior these days?