Etiquette: Job #1

Sep 26, 2010

Suck it up and learn to dance!

As a Mother of Boys — or a MOB — I feel like I have a duty to prepare my sons to take their place in society someday as informed citizens, productive employees, and really excellent dates. While teaching them about voting and completing chores may seem more important than, say, the art of small talk, I hope that the mothers of daughters will appreciate my effort in the area of etiquette.  Old-fashioned? Not all all!  I’m a futurist when it comes to etiquette. I am thinking of you, future young women of America, as I instruct/harangue my male children daily.

Because you can take the boy out of the cave, but you can’t always take the cave out of the boy.

In my house, I focus on three areas of good manners that I hope will pay off when my sons are out in polite society, if there is any polite society left by the time they hit dating age.

Practicing Good Table Manners We try to eat dinner together as often as their sports schedules allow at an actual table. This is the key to teaching table manners. Eating on the couch or in the back seat of a car does not reinforce some of the key tenets of table manners, like an upright posture, correct elbow position below the table top and the all-important asking for the butter instead of reaching for the butter.  While at the actual table during dinner, I encourage conversation that does not revolve around cars, bodily functions, or the classic male debate of Batman vs. Superman.

Holding Open the Door Yes, I know this particular affectation has been up for debate, with women taking up positions on both sides of the Hold Open the Door Debate. But, my feeling is that it is better to teach my sons the gesture of door opening than to have them never learn it at all.  Let their empowered girlfriends set them straight someday. I want to make sure that somewhere in America, two men still remember how to hold open a door for a woman. So they open my car door, the front door, and, of course, they spend hours in front of an open refrigerator door.

Asking a Girl to Dance And the corollary, Dancing when Asked by a Girl.  I confess to making my sons go to dancing school, because you never know when knowledge of the Lindy Hop is going to come in handy. A willingness to dance is the ultimate in date-catching good manners. In this day and age, when hanging in the corner with a sideways baseball hat on your head and a Bluetooth device in your ear has become standard operating procedure for young men, the guy willing to put himself out there on the dance floor is going to impress a lot of ladies. And their maiden aunts who are also at the wedding.

Teaching etiquette to our kids is a good long-term investment. My reasoning is that if my sons are good dates, they will make good relationship matches and find meaningful work, leading to a long and fruitful life. I know, that’s a lot to ask from etiquette. But my hope is that someday — at least a decade from now — my sons will bring home smart, accomplished women who will factor into their futures. And these young women will gush, “It was the way he passed both the salt and the pepper that won my heart.”  Then I will know I have done my job.

Lian Dolan is the author of the upcoming novel Helen of Pasadena, a Satellite Sister, and the blogger and podcaster behind the Chaos Chronicles, on which this piece was originally posted.

1 Response for “Etiquette: Job #1”

  1. KL Wall says:

    For the author this is wonderful. I hope her counterparts (the MOGs — Mother of Girls) will be equally firm & include NOT calling some guy like a stalker! A lot of the girls out there aren’t just be “assertive,” they’re very aggressive (NOT the same thing). Good table manners are essential for both sexes when some company manager invites you to lunch at “the club” or a a restaurant to discuss hiring you or buying your product. You come off as some kind of sheltered throw-back & that’s exactly what’s going to happen — you’re going to be thrown back/out.
    Basic etiquette is lacking in even the most casual encounters today. To the author — Bravo! Continue! To the MOGs — Are you listening?



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