I was taught to say “please” and “thank you” and “your welcome” to the extent that those responses still roll off my tongue automatically to this day. Nope, this little girl never had to be nudged and told “what do you say?”
Sunday was always a dress-up day as I attended Sunday school, so I wore a dress, hat and white gloves.
As soon as I was able to feed myself, I was handed a knife and fork by my father and told I must use these utensils for eating everything from that point on. He was German and it was the European way to always eat with knife and fork. At first it was awkward, and my food would get cold while I struggled to manipulate those utensils, but gradually I got the hang of it.
Even as a young child, there were never elbows on the table, and I had to lay a napkin across my lap to be picked up occasionally to dab daintily at my mouth.
We weren’t rich, but it was all about having good manners from the time I was knee-high to a grasshopper as that saying goes.
As part of my early childhood upbringing in Canada, I learned how to curtsy. I never questioned what practical purpose that curtsying had in my life, but I was told I should practice and perfect my curtsy “just in case” the situation came up. My mother had some medical issues that prevented her from being able to squat or bend at the knees and I recall my grandmother showing me how to grab the sides of my dress and do a petite curtsy. I was giggling at her as she offered me pointers.
I must say that I have not thought about the “curtsying lessons” in decades.
Until this week.
The Royals were visiting New York for a whirlwind three-day trip last weekend. Now, Will and Kate are modern-day Royals, and often appear in jeans or casual clothes – heck, Kate showed up sunbathing nude a couple of times in the tabloids a few years ago.
But, New Yorkers were warned in advance not to look grubby or unkempt when they swarmed around the Royal couple to greet them.
And, then there was the unfortunate issue of the post-basketball game photo op with King James. After the Cavs and Nets game, which Will and Kate attended, LeBron James seized the opportunity to gift the couple with specially made jerseys for little George and his parents. He stood close to Kate, still sweaty from the game, and placed one big hand on her delicate shoulder. She didn’t flinch, but posed stiffly next to him. The next day the Brits lambasted LeBron for his familiarity, which they found despicable, as no one is supposed to touch the Royals, especially a future Queen of England. They said “don’t you know, people are supposed to bow or curtsy to royalty?” Poor LeBron didn’t know, but Michelle Obama likewise put her arm on Queen Elizabeth’s back at Buckingham Palace which raised the British hackles as well a few years ago.
I am amused by the whole episode.
At least American presidents may mingle with the crowd from time to time. President Obama claps people on the back, scoops up youngsters or kisses babies; he even broke bread with the rest of the lunchtime crowd at Zingerman’s Deli when he last visited Ann Arbor, Michigan. President Obama is not a stuffed shirt by any means and he wasn’t campaigning either.
The LeBron James faux pas and minding your manners has been on my mind and percolatin’ along, just enough to turn it into this post.
Minding your manners is important, and I am grateful for whatever social graces I learned when I was young – I carry them with me. Maybe too much sometimes, because …
I went grocery shopping at Meijer this morning. I always use the U-scan and check my groceries out myself. Sometimes an older gentleman store clerk helps me pack or we pass the time of day. For some reason, he thinks my name is “Catherine”. He only occasionally has called me by that name, and not wanting to be rude, and remembering to “respect my elders”, I have never corrected this kindly man. Today, he was calling to me: “Catherine – have a Merry Christmas and celebrate Jesus’ birthday” … I heard someone talking, but was oblivious, as I mumbled under my breath when I snagged the wooden box of Clementines along my index finger and got a sliver. He came right over next to me and looked me in the eye and repeated his words, then he said “you’ve got that big hat pulled down over your ears and you couldn’t hear me” … I just smiled (through gritted teeth).
I left the store and walked through the parking lot to my car. As I was unloading my cart, who comes along but the elderly fire-and brimstone preacher who passes out tracts and preaches in the parking lot to anyone who will listen. I listened one day while loading up my car with groceries, and silly me – he asked my name and I gave it. Then he gave me his card, and told me about his website where I could go to donate to him. I threw away that business card. He is a regular fixture, this parking lot preacher, and I see him every time I go to the store. He always calls me by name – my correct name. After the first time, I pretended I didn’t hear him. He came over and said “Linda, don’t you remember me?” … I shook my head “no” and said “you must be confusing me with someone else – have a nice day”… so now we have this conversation nearly every time I go shopping and he is there.
Dear Abby: I don’t know whether to feel like a fool or that I am deceptive with these people. But I mind my manners and am polite to these strangers.
So … it is duly noted Mom and Dad that I paid attention all those years ago. I still mind my manners, respect my elders, write thank you notes when appropriate and I will just quietly play “The Name Game” … though it makes me weary sometimes of the charade.