Original photo, detail: cc Jonathan Rubio, thanks! Art direction: The Magazine of Yoga
Observations of a Fifty Something Housewife
Elbows Off the Table…Please!
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST MORA HECHT
Namaste, my teacher bows.
The traditions of yoga sit well with my Southern sensibilities. Conventional wisdom once relied on has become somewhat blurred in today’s society. In light of recent events, I wonder, are we going to hell in a hand basket?
Over dinner the other night my son commented that while attending a funeral a group of friends walking from the chapel to the gravesite asked, “Can we text now?” They have grown up plugged in. Perhaps they are a microcosm of the world at large; the rules of propriety not yet catching up to technology.
Chatting with a fellow guest at a dinner recently I complimented her on how well she looked. She responded with a sweeping hand of indignation and replied, “No, I don’t.”
My father often reminded me a compliment is a gift and should be accepted with the gracious spirit in which it was given. Mine was summarily rebuffed, rejected and kicked to the curb.
I’m on a roll…
Not too long ago I paid a condolence call to an acquaintance. I brought along baked goods and as I presented my gesture of sympathy I was startled by her commentary. “I have so much food,” waving her arm like Vanna White, “I don’t know where to put it all.”
If I could have stuffed the box of cookies up my shirt I would have. Feeling shamed for my good intentions was a humiliation of inconsiderate proportions.
There are just times when no good deed goes unpunished.
Emily Post Hotline!
I like to think I know a thing or two about etiquette. My daughter calls for advice on such matters, even on behalf of others. My mother was a stickler for protocol, and often directed me to the Emily Post book on my shelf, for everything from thank you notes and invitations, to the correct order of introductions.
And I’m still not sure, is it oldest to youngest, or youngest to oldest?
My sister-in-law wondered about the attire for a dinner we were attending together; both of us commenting that anything goes. She told me they had just been to the opera.
“We were dressed nicely, jacket and tie, and a dress and heels for me. There were women in evening dresses, cocktail dresses, skimpy sundresses…there were even men in shorts and sandals. Do dress codes exist anymore?”
I am well aware that requirements as to social norms are often subject to customs, religion and even geography. Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances to every rule; a host of grays, in varying shades. When we were newly married, with barely two nickels to rub together, gatherings with friends was often pot luck. However, if you are the invitee to a dinner, the responsibility shouldn’t lie with you to provide the meal.
I was once invited to a “gourmet dinner,” which the hostess went to great pains to plan out. I replied that we would be delighted to attend and then was informed what dish I would be bringing.
If you require your guests to contribute, why not pull up a chair at their dinner table? From where I’m sitting, arms wide open with generosity is the cornerstone of genuine hospitality.
When it rains…
Don’t get me started when people fail to acknowledge cashiers while talking on their cells, or make eye contact with wait staff at restaurants. It is offensive and demeaning. And the dinner table is no time to share war stories from the emergency room.
Not long ago a guest seated next to me regaled me with her hemorrhage experience just when the main course was being served. She didn’t seem to notice as I turned an ashen shade of green, sliding down deeper and deeper into my chair.
The seemingly lackadaisical disinterest in decorum is a sad commentary on today’s culture. It is what separates man from beast; the civilized from the uncivilized.
Emily Post said it best,
Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.
So, as I begin my practice of yoga I am comforted by the centuries old belief that each of us are deserving of gratitude, honor and respect. Regardless of the changes of the twenty first century or lack of enlightened consciousness, thoughtfulness is always in vogue.
Take that to the mat.
Read Mora all month long, blogging with her pearls on, at Is Anybody Else Hot?
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.