City Pulse

By Raine Marlowe Graves

Are your manners lost in the dark ages?

In the days when dinosaurs pounded the streets of Gotham, how you behaved towards your fellow cavepeople wasn’t too much the issue. You needed strength, and perhaps a bit of cro-mag sex appeal to perpetrate the species. Not much else was available so nobody really would have noticed if you talked with your mouth full of brontosaurus or cut the waiting line at the local unemployment pit.

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As history marched on, we learned there were ways to conduct oneself. Respecting your elders, keeping yourself neat and clean and not stealing the last piece of bread on the table were known to be minimum standards that a person of “quality” would abide by. It soon became easy to determine a person’s social status: offering your seat to a person elderly or “with child” – you were most likely a valued part of the community. Wiping your running nose on your sleeve (or worse, with your hand!) might easily demonstrate your contempt for the accepted rules of the tribe.

We are lucky to live in an age where birth does not determine our lives path, regardless of station the rules of good conduct are available to all. Today, there is no excuse for acting inappropriately, or more importantly, rude. EVERYONE KNOWS that it is impolite to stare, that it’s courteous to keep your voice down in public and that it is totally unacceptable to not offer an apology when stepping on someone’s foot. Of course no one today would dare use their mobile phone while dining or attending a performance, speak inappropriately to a salesperson or make demands on their assistant without the minimum expressions of “please” and “thank you”. We are far too evolved to even imagine that anyone would party-crash or (horrors) arrive late without a good explanation.

True, sometimes graces fall by the wayside – a moment of uncontrollable anger at the the arrogant waitress, the urge to bash your boss with your Birkin after yet another sexist remark, keeping your absolute disgust hidden when your cab driver spits out the window – these would press anyone’s behaviour buttons. A personal mantra at this time might help you avoid turning yourself into what you hate most – a decorum deficient. Take the necessary deep breathes and repeat after me:

Manners maketh the (wo)man.


Etiquette Exam: Are you living up to your politesse potential? Ten quick checks:

Answer True of False

1. Its perfectly acceptable to make a racist remark, if the situation warrants it.

2. Not phoning to cancel an interview is fine if you changed your mind about wanting the job.

3. Flirting with you friends boyfriend is A-OK – if she can’t hold on to him it’s her fault!

4. Humiliating your waitresses for mispronouncing blanquette de veau is for her own good.

5. Using “colourful” language at your Grandmothers 90th birthday celebration will liven up the party.

6. Thank you notes went out with the 1950’s.

7. When driving, it’s every man for himself – you’re a busy gal, who has time to be nice?

8. “No Smoking” signs are just a suggestion. You have rights!

9. Yelling out in the theatre is an expression of movie enjoyment.

10. Pushing your way onto the subway is necessary – even accepted- at rush hour.

(I hope we don’t need to tell you if you answered true to any of the above you need some reflection time! There is no excuse for rudeness.)


Having a manners moment? Don’t know a curtsy from a cocktail fork? Send me your burning behaviour dilemmas and BeautyNewsNYC.com will make sure you don’t wind up a propriety pariah! Email madamemanners@beautynewsnyc.com for our new EMILY POSTS column!

Originally published August 2007
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