Where are the manners?

Every now and then an email comes in that’s the exact right email for what’s going on in my life. That happened Friday. I’d had an incident earlier in the day that had me seething with rage, and his email hit right home. So, first, the email, then I’ll tell you what happened, and then you’ll get my two cents. Sounds like a plan, no?

I was wondering if there was a certain age where teenagers or adults realise that manners are important and can learn to appreciate them? Because I’ve been trying my whole life (I’m still a teenager, but still) to be a gentleman (opening doors for others, asking if the elderly need help, speaking politely, etc.) and to be helpful as much as possible, but it seems that it is not appreciated at all. So far throughout a few years of high school, I’ve tried to help others boost their marks with assistance on their homework, but they can’t seem to understand that others have morals and won’t cheat for them. (again, turning into a rant i suppose..)
I guess I’m really just sending this email to ask another’s opinion about manners and whether or not it is truly appreciated in today’s society. I’ve asked a few teenage girl friends and they say that it is good to have manners and it’s something important they look for, yet I see them going out with lowlife guys who are despicable and need to learn manners. Is this just a teenage thing to do that you overcome later on and realise it’s importance and learn to be grateful for it? Or is it completely dependant on the people’s standards they’ve set.

Now, what happened to me the other day was when I was riding over to my brother’s place. He and I live in absolute opposite ends of the city — he in the most northeastern section, I in the most northwestern section. I work smack dab in the middle, downtown, and between there and my brother’s is 30-square blocks of what’s essentially some of the poorest and most underprivileged in Canada. If you know where to avoid, you can go without ever seeing any of these people.
I don’t try to avoid it, I just go through. I always see really tragic things when I do and it keeps me appreciating the little I have. This time, though, I was stopped at a light and this old guy, about 70, was in a wheelchair, completely unable to use his hands, and could only pull himself forward using the toes on his right foot. He was literally moving about 2 feet a minute. Naturally, the light turned red with him in the middle of the street, and I got a solid green light to go. Meanwhile, he’s stopped, looks like he’s about to cry from exhaustion, just can’t go any further, and all these fucking people are walking past, ignoring him.
I was in a RAGE. I pulled my scooter over, got off, cursed, “You people ought to fucking help! Where the hell are manners gone?” Then I leaned over to the man and said, “May I push you across the street, sir?” And he went soft with relief. He just sighed, “Please?”
I had a bit of an argument with a couple punks on the corner after that, who seemed to think I was flaming them, and yeah, you know, I was. Just fucking standing there, doing nothing.
When I got over to my brother’s place, I saw my nephew standing there, and I sat him down. I said, “If you ever see a little old lady or a little old man who can’t get across the street or they’re taking too long, you HELP them. You hear me?”
I made sure he knew the distinction between “stranger danger” and helping a senior citizen who really does need the help. After all, that’s how I was taught.
In MY world, I was raised to help people. I was raised to give a hand and do the right thing. I was taught to say please and thank you, and I was told to hold doors open for others.
And I KNOW life moves fast, and I KNOW people are more rushed than they used to be. You know what? I don’t give a fuck. *I* find the time to still be polite. I find the time to thank people and make pleasant small talk. Why the hell don’t they?
So, kid, I say keep going. The thing about being a polite person and not behaving politely just because you’re not getting it in return is that you start to get bitter about it. It changes you. Cynicism finds you and apathy makes a home in you. Stay true to the person you are. Help others, be polite. You’ll one day be surrounded by a better class of people, by people who appreciate that in who you are. It will be a deciding factor on the kinds of engagements you’re invited to and the kinds of experiences you have. You’re still a kid, you’re in high school, and you’re stuck in a social world you have little say in. In a few years, that all changes.
I know I will not date a man who has no manners. I will watch how he behaves and treats others, and I’ll note whether he expresses gratitude for the little things I say and do for him, and if I don’t like what I see, I will walk.
Life’s too short to be with people who just don’t understand basic human decency. I figure that eliminates about 60% of the world from eligibility for my bed, but whatever. I’m fine with having high standards. Are you?

15 thoughts on “Where are the manners?

  1. Randle P. McMurphy's Older Brother

    Your story reminds me of a similar situation I used to see every day on my way to a contract job I used to have.

    I like your site a lot. You’ve obviously got more energy and time for yours than for mine; I wish I could write more, with the sort of energy you use.

  2. theAxe

    yea i agree with you on the manners thing,it makes societ a happier place when people are polite. An idea for a post for you: Being a dude, I don’t know how true this is, but one of my professors told the class last week “guys, i can gaurantee you when your partner is coming, she isn’t thinking about you.” Needless to say this caused some discussion with some friends after class, I was wondering what your take on it is. Hope your depression’s clearing up ~Axe

  3. Anonymous

    stef…great post. I too am appalled by the lack of manners out there. But you know, I’m a firm believer in the “do unto others” thing and I’ll keep being polite and helpful regardless. And maybe because I’m a smartypants, I’ll throw a biting quip in the ignoramous’ direction sometimes.

    theaexe…Just because your prof seems to be a loser doesn’t mean he can speak for all guys. When I’m in bed with my bf ALL i can think about is him. How he smiles at me, the way he feels, smells etc. I’m not thinking about anyone else, I’m 100% into him and us. I truly think he feels the same. But then we have an awesome intimacy level. If “you’re” some guy banging some drunken college girl for a laugh I guess that’s different.

  4. Beth

    Rock fuckin’ on, girl!
    During my last relationship, in the oh-so-snowy winter, we were in my car and this adorable little, older woman was trying to navigate a sidewalk slope to cross the street, but the snow hadn’t been cleared well. I turned to him and said, “You should help her” (I was driving) and he said, “Should I?”
    “Yes,” I said. “You should get out and help her.”
    So he did. And I drove around the block because I was tying up traffic, and when I picked him up, he said, “I didn’t think to help her until you said that. You make me a better man.”
    Sheesh. I was glad he was grateful for the little lesson, but how have so many people been raised by so many wolves?

  5. Anonymous

    you would be surprised how many smiles I get just by saying to every cashier/waiter/ etc that I come across, “thank you, ___ “

    …their name is RIGHT THERE on their lapel, after all

    can’t we all get along?


  6. theAxe

    actually my professor’s a woman, and she was referring to partners in a relationship, not just a drunken party hookup. Its nice to know she was wrong though, I don’t see how a long term relationship would work if that was the case.

  7. Spicy Little Pi

    i couldn’t agree more!

    i’ve noticed that most kids these days aren’t very polite and on top of that they’re ungrateful.

    good for the kid for trying, keep it up!

    no manners, no class, no pass.

  8. Anonymous

    In reply to SG’s comment above, I think using someone’s name when you don’t know them is quite rude and intrusive. It’s bad enough that they’re forced to wear their name on the front of their clothes, like a child. Ever noticed that professionals and executives don’t wear name badges? That’s a clue. It’s a totally unequal power relationship – you know their name, they don’t know yours. I would never address a waiter or cashier by their first name, simply because I can read it off their chest. Of course I agree that people should treat others better and have better manners, but I make this point to show that not everyone agrees on what it means to have good manners.

    And as for the kid who emailed you, Steff, I’m going to be completely honest with him instead of going “yeah, good for you, keep it up”. From a moral perspective, yes by all means carry on opening doors for people and speaking politely – too few people do that in this world. But don’t be under any illusions. You will never get a girl friend (if that’s what you want) by having good manners. No teenage girl, in my experience, has ever realistically listed ‘good manners’ as something they look for in a potential boyfriend. I’m being honest with you because you sound like a really nice person and you deserve an honest answer.

  9. Anonymous

    PS. In reply to theaxe, there is something in what your professor said. I’ve been with my partner for nine years, and when I come, I’m often lost in fantasy and not thinking about him specifically. It doesn’t mean I don’t love him or that I’m not attracted to him – I wouldn’t be in bed with him in the first place – but that’s what gets me to the actual point of climax. It doesn’t take away from our relationship – I don’t mind if fantasies drift through his head either. I thought Nancy Friday had done a great job of getting women (and men) over the guilt of fantasising while in bed with their lovers, but judging from anonymous’s hyper-defensive comment above (“When I’m in bed with my bf ALL i can think about is him. How he smiles at me, the way he feels, smells etc. I’m not thinking about anyone else, I’m 100% into him and us.”) a lot of people still have a problem with it.

  10. Anonymous

    anonymous, every person that I thank using their name perks up, and smiles at me. And furthermore, they are usually in posession of my credit card, and say “thank you Ms. SG.” – so they DO know my name too.

    I’m not patronizing them or talking down to them, I’m recognizing them as a person worthy of respect and courtesy.

    also “you will never get a girlfriend by having good manners”?? –give me a break!! Lots of girls expect/ demand it


  11. scribe called steff

    I’m not gonna go out with a guy BECAUSE he has good manners, but I’ll fucking walk if he doesn’t. It isn’t on the list of qualities I seek in a guy because it’s EXPECTED to be there. Period. Not negotiable.

    Old-fashioned? Maybe I am.

    As for using people’s names, why the hell not? Yeah, it’s lame they’re stuck with name badges, but c’est la vie. I’ve never had problems with using someone’s name.

  12. scribe called steff

    By the way, Axe, I think your professor’s being a bitch of a bitch with that statement. There’s no guarantee that a chick isn’t thinking of the guy she’s with — or that she IS. But then, why should that be a big fucking shocker? If you told me every guy was thinking about me when I helped him out with an orgasm, I’d call you a liar. Our minds wander. What’s the big newsflash there? Ain’t no gender gonna bring relevance to that statement. We’re built to be distracted.

  13. MrManicDepressive

    I’m teaching my kids the same thing. Thankfully, they’ve taken my and my wife’s suggestions to heart. They help folks out and make sure any little kids that want to hang with them or play sports with them are invited to do so. Manners are really lacking these days. It’s all about me, me, me. Too bad, because you can really make someone’s day giving them the help they need.

  14. Anonymous

    SG, maybe the name thing is a cultural difference. I’m from the UK and no-one has ever addressed me by name because they know it from holding my credit card (or because I’ve booked a table, called a taxi, or whatever). Maybe using a stranger’s first name has a different resonance in Canada / the US. In all seriousness I would advise you not to do it if you visit the UK, because I don’t think that many British people would respond positively to it.

    As for the “girls want good manners” thing, I was aiming to give an honest answer to the guy who emailed Steff, who asked very specifically “Is this just a teenage thing to do that you overcome later on and realise
    it’s importance and learn to be grateful for it?” In my previous response I referred specifically to “teenage girls” NOT grown women such as me, you, or Steff.

    Also, there’s a big difference between what people SAY they look for in a partner, and what they actually end up choosing. As the bloke who emailed Steff is discovering (“I’ve asked a few teenage girl friends and they say that it is good
    to have manners and it’s something important they look for, yet I see them going out with lowlife guys who are despicable and need to learn manners.”).I didn’t see any point intelling him the ‘correct’ but evidently untrue answer: “yes, teenage girls choose their boyfriends because they have good manners”. He KNOWS that’s not true, he sees it every day. So I was trying to respond truthfully, the way things are in reality, not what they would be in an ideal world.

  15. NoWin

    My parents always instilled manners into us; it is the oil that smooths the running of the public machine. It is my legacy and one I am proud of. Well done for being a well-mannered woman; there are few of us around!

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