Friday, March 26, 2010

Thank You, Ma'am

It doesn't matter if you are a WASP, a Betty, or a Junior Leaguer. If you are a girl in the South, you were raised with a certain level of manners, or have picked them up as you grew up. You give up your seat on the train for an elderly woman. You hold open doors for people coming in behind you. You write thank-you notes and bring hostess gifts. You say "please" and "thank you," and "ma'am" and "sir." Country-wide, America is a very polite nation. But I think this is especially true in the South.

I actually spent the entirety of my childhood in a cozy suburb of Richmond, VA. Richmond is a fun little town steeped in the traditions and culture of the Old South. We are talking bronze monuments of famous soldiers lining the streets, and Revolutionary War cannons on the grounds by the airport. Now that I am a grown gal, I actually would like to head back there and explore what I have heard are adorable little parts of downtown Old Richmond for the shops and restaurants. Tea sandwiches and iced tea? Yes, please.

Part of growing up in Richmond meant going to Cotillion. I'm not really sure if this is a tradition in the Atlanta area, as I haven't heard too much about it from friends. But in Richmond, everyone went, and not just the debutantes and their dates. 5th graders got all dressed up on a weekend night; the boys put on their sports coats and ties, the girls put on their little white (required) gloves. And we learned how to dance the waltz and the salsa. We learned how to eat at a proper formal dinner and which fork was which. Boys learned how to pull out chairs and open doors, and girls learned how to properly accept an invitation to dance, including a curtsy. At the end of the season, parents were invited to share in the evening with us, so that we could show off our new social skills.

Ok, I admit it. I was (am) a sucker for this stuff. I LOVED it. I already love getting all girly and dressed up, but add in ballroom dancing and yuppy formal dining? Sigh. It forced girls and boys to hang out despite the cooties and realize that acting grown-up could be quite fun.

This morning, I encountered a woman whom I am pretty sure never had a manners lesson from anyone in her life. It was a little thing about cutting people in line at a restaurant, but it spoke volumes about her as a person, just from that brief encounter. I feel that the most successful people in life are gracious and considerate. It applies everywhere -- at a job, at home with family, on the street with strangers. Everyday niceties make a difference.

If you had to pick one thing, what is your manners pet-peeve? What's one etiquette thing you learned that you have never forgotten?

PS. If you are like me and are addicted to the Etiquette columns in the paper, you will like the fun weekly column my friend The Broke Socialite does, Modern Manners. These things really just make you think!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was raised in the South too- and I recently got in "trouble" at work for using too many manners. I apparently called someone (who is my parents age) "ma'm" one too many times in a meeting. I thought I was being polite, my (male) boss thought it was disrespectful. Never had that happen before!

Katherine Malone said...

Haha that's the worst! Some older gent called me on using "sir" with him this week, but I told him it was only fair, he had called me "honey!"

DuffGT06 said...

I always send thank you's! I get in trouble for using ma'am as well.