Thursday, 16 December 2010

Mind your manners

I'm done!  As of about ten minutes ago, all of my work for the semester is finished!  That includes my seminar paper, one big exam, and a collection of my translations for the ridiculous workshop I have written about here before.  Done, done, done!  And, as usual, the moment of elation at finally being free to take a break has been quickly replaced by a discomfiting sense of aimlessness:  what in the world will I do now?  Well, for starters, I'll update this blog.

I've been thinking lately about manners.  What are they?  Are they a codified set of rules for conduct that remain the same, from the time your mother teaches them to you all the way through adulthood?  Or is it proper that they should degrade as we get older, and that the strict manners that we learn when we are young are simply intended to form our character at an impressionable age -- therefore, we can discard these manners when we become fully-formed adults?  I ask these questions rhetorically; I am staunchly in the conservative camp when it comes to manners, and it bothers me that I feel increasingly in the minority as I notice more and more frequently all sorts of rudeness and vulgarity in my daily life, not to speak of the evanescence of some basic niceties of etiquette.

I spend most of my day at the university, where I've noticed a general flaunting of what I consider to be basic standards of politeness and proper conduct in that environment.  Am I just old-fashioned, or is it in fact incredibly rude and classless to use foul language in front of, or towards, your professor (e.g., responding to a professor's correction of your Latin translation with the d-word)?  Or to leave class in the middle of a lecture to go to the bathroom, walking directly in front of the professor?  Or to eat during class -- whether a muffin, a sandwich, or -- are you kidding me? -- soup?  I observe all of the above on a regular basis.

I find it amusing to imagine what would have happened if I'd try to get away with any one of these offenses, even in its mildest form, as a third-grader, say.  I'd have been dealing with quite the talking-to from my teacher or a heart-to-heart with the principal.  For good reason then, and for good reason now.  Although I realize that I sound like someone's grandmother to say so, the basic principle underlying all of the rules of conduct we obeyed at school was simply respect for our teachers and, secondarily, our fellow students.  I don't think respect is any less essential when you're twenty-five than when you're five.

I'll leave this topic to rest here, because I don't like feeling my crotchety old lady self coming out, even though I know that in this case, she's right.  In any case, the holidays are a good time to make a special effort to be gracious, both in the special rituals of the season and in day-to-day interactions.  Let's all make our mamas proud.

No comments:

Post a Comment