When I was a teenager, my friends and I laughed at the phrase “good manners.” We knew there was a famous book by Emily Post on the rules of etiquette that offered instructions on how “polite” people were supposed to act.
The book, we’d heard, was filled with directions on how to select the proper champagne flute and where to place a caviar spoon. That was all we needed to know. Etiquette and manners were for the very rich and the very old. It had nothing to do with us. Obviously.
Despite this irreverent attitude, most of us complied with our parents’ basic instructions on how to behave. We said, “please pass the salt,” at the dinner table (instead of simply reaching), shook hands when introduced to strangers and wrote thank-you notes when friends or relatives sent us birthday gifts. We grudgingly accepted these minimal rules. They were easy enough to follow, and they seemed a small price to pay for our future admission into the adult world.
The new—but surprisingly familiar—etiquette
That was back in the days of embossed stationary and thank you cards—before email, texting and other advancements. Emily Post is long dead, though a revised version of her book lives on. And there is no doubt etiquette will never be the same.