What Would Your Mother Say?

I'm big on etiquette. I realize this makes me sound as if I am an aging retainer to the Queen, but I grew up in a country where children are raised in such a way that should they at some point in their life be invited to have dinner with royalty, they can without embarrassing themselves. I don't know if it's a European thing, but there it is. When I was a kid, I ate the proper way with a knife and fork simultaneously, curtsied when introduced to adults (it was the 60s, I'm perfectly okay with this not being the norm anymore), knew that you RSVP’ed to an invitation, were never more than 15 minutes late and called or sent a note the next day to say thank-you for a lovely time. North American society is more casual, there are different rules of etiquette here and I have tried to adapt. However, the older I get, the more incensed I become about bad manners and fully expect that I'll be a nightmare when I'm 80. These days, I manage not to approach ill-mannered people to teach them the error of their ways, but I suspect it's just a matter of time before I become a huge embarrassment.

Monday night, the urge to become the etiquette police was overwhelming. Mor and I went out to dinner to celebrate her birthday and had a lovely meal at our favourite restaurant in the neighbourhood. A couple in their mid-to-late 20s were having dinner two tables over and looked quite enamoured of each other. When they were served their entrées, I noticed that the man was on the phone. I was somewhat shocked, but assumed that it would be a short message and he would soon direct his attention back to his food and his companion. Except, he didn't. He stayed on the phone. Mor and I spoke of going over to the table and whispering to the woman "you can do better", but when she got tired of waiting for him to get off the phone and picked up her own, we decided they deserved each other. By now, both mor and I were aghast, yet hugely entertained by keeping track of how long this nightmare would last. The couple spent the remainder of the entrée having separate conversations on separate cellphones. And it gets better. Once this paragon of gentlemanly behaviour had finished eating, he proceeded to pick his teeth. Not discreetly, with a toothpick hidden in his hands, looking as if he was just sitting with his hands by his mouth - which is still not really done, old chap, but if you must, you may do this for a very short period of time, before you excuse yourself to go to the bathroom where you can pick out the food stuck between your teeth in privacy. Oh, no! This dreamboat did it with his fingernail. Not discreetly, but completely out in the open, while still on the phone. When that didn't work, he employed his fork! Repeatedly. Waving it around in the air, gesturing in between attempts to excavate his teeth. Then he got up from the table, phone still plastered to his ear, walked to the bathroom (still talking) and came back a few minutes later, cell phone apparently not having moved 1 millimeter and still talking! Soon after, they both got off their respective cellphones and kissed deeply - with tongue - for some time.

I'm pretty sure that this little display of…. I don't even know what to call it, would be considered heinous even by a pack of wolves. Hell, what am I saying? Wolves have excellent manners (within the context of wolf society, naturally). The world is in a handbasket, I’m telling you. The youth of today...

p.s. I have finally written up the end to My Sister's Keeper. I'm pretty sure there were more than two people who wanted me to tell them the ending so they didn't have to read the book, but I lost track of the list of names. If you haven’t received a message from me about this and would want to, email me at landers5ATgmailDOTcom and I’ll send it to you.

Comments