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The Upper Crust Must Indulge In A Return To Manners! – The Awl

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byJake?

Tuck

IntheintroductiontoAmyVanderbilt’sCompleteBookofEtiquette,firstpublishedin1952,theauthorasks:“Whoneedsabookofetiquette?

”Heranswer:“Everyonedoes。

”Thequestionhasnotagedwell。

Sheshouldhaveinquiredofthefuture:“Whoneedsthis60-year-oldetiquettebook?

”Theanswer:“Societypeoplein2013,becausetheyweartennisshoesoutsideoftheracquet?

club。



Ms。

Vanderbiltwastooaccommodatingtothemarchoftime,asthe1962editionofherbookincludedasectiononbowling。

Perhapssheshouldhavealsodetailedthepropermannersforyouthswhowishtopassdrugcigarettesaroundtheunisexbathroomwhilstbetweenframes。

I’mfairlysureitgoestotheleft,buttheproceduremayvaryregionally。

Anyway,Idon’tmeantobecomeangeredatMs。

Vanderbilt。

Shewasfightingthegoodfight,but,beingdeadsince1974,shedidn’thaveopportunitytoseetheawfulplacetowhichtheuppercrustwasheaded。

Forexample:whohasn’tnearlyfainteduponhearingaviscountaddressedbyhisfirstname?

Peoplewhoaren’taroundviscountsoften,butwe’renotworriedaboutthem。

Thetrueconcernisthatpeoplewhosewholepurposeinlifeistocarrytheflameoftraditionhaveforgottentodoexactlythat。

No,youmaynotriseuntilafterthefruitcourse,orareweinanarmy?

mess?

Themoreobvioustransgressionsofpropriety?

—?

low-hangingdungarees,tattoosonthenon-Māori,lindy-hopping?

—?

arenotworthaddressing。

Weneedthemassestobeimpropersoastobetterdefinethemanneredclass。

Imagineifeveryonehadstarchedcollars。

Howwouldwefigureout,basedoncollarstiffness,whoismeanttocontroltheworld?

Thesituationtoday,ofcourse,istheconverse:everyone’scollarsarelimpbecausethosewhooncestiffenedthemnolongerdo。

(ThisactuallyoccurredduringMs。

Vanderbilt’stime:“Arevolutionhastakenplace…inthematterofthepropershirttowearwithadinnerjacket。

”)Ideally,wewouldputtheaveragebluebloodinatimemachinesohecanrelearnthenotionsthatoncesethim?

apart。

Ifthoseofuswithtruemannershadourdruthers,wewouldwindtheclockbacktotheAncienRégime,butwhateverdruthersare,wedon’thavethem,sowecanbepracticalandretreattoMs。

Vanderbilt’stime?

—?

“thedayoftheelectricdishwasher,thediningell,thedeepfreeze。

”Tobefair,inthaterapeoplewerestillloudlyproclaimingtheirracism,anti-Semitismandsexism,allofwhichseemtohavebeenoffthemark。

(Atdinner,Ms。

Vanderbiltwrote,amanmustnever“criticizeanother’sreligion,belittlehisraceorcountry,orreferunnecessarilytohiscolorinhispresence。

”)Havingpropermannersdoesn’tmeanexcludingpeoplebasedonrace,religionorsex;itmeansexcludingpeoplewhodon’townascots。

Sowe’renotadvocatingdoingawaywithsocialprogress(althoughI’mstillnotconvincedwomenshould’vebeenabletobecomenursesintheCivilWar;themenwerejustsobloodyand?

dirty)。

Butwhat,areturntosomethingsodated,youask?

Notallmannersoftheperiodareso?

foolish:

Amantoucheshishatbutdoesnotlookmorethanbrieflyatawomantowhomhegivesuphisseat。

Hethenstandsasfarawayfromheraspossibleanddoesnotlookinherdirection。

Itiscertainlynotexpectedthatatiredbusinessmanrelinquishhisseatinacrowdedconveyancetoanywomanwhohappenstostrap-hangoverhim(butlethisconsciencebehisguide)。

Butdecencydictatesthathegiveituptoatiredmotherwithayoungchildorababyinherarms,toapregnantwoman,ortoanoldorcrippledoneortoanoldordisabledman。

Therelaxingoftheruleshasledtotoomanymenjumpingupforprettygirlswhocanwellstandontheirowntwofeet,whilewomenwhoobviouslyneedseatsareleftstanding。

Theproblem,ofcourse,occurswhentherearetwostrap-hung“old”or“crippled”women,oneveryattractive,onelessso。

Towhomdoesthedecentmanofferhisseat?

Theonewhodoesn’tlooklikeshemightsupportorganizedlabor,of?

course。

Nowlet’sgetspecificandseehowwemightdistinguishourselvesinthecontextofafamiliarscenario:you’reamanwithadinnerengagement。

Firstofall,wearatleastacoatandtie。

Ifyoushowupinjustablazer,youarespittingonthegravesofpastnoblemen。

“Suchdeshabille,”Ms。

Vanderbiltwrote,maybe“toleratedregionally,”butnotinEasterncitieswherepeoplearespecial。

Second,ifyousufferfrom“thebluejowl,”donotgiveyourselfashavingholidayorapplyanypowder。

You’lleitherlooklikeacavemanorakabukiperformer。

Ifyouareabachelor,consideryourselflucky,forasMs。

Vanderbiltwrote,youare“asrareandwondrous…asthecigarstoreIndian。

”Ifyouhavealady,however,thingsaremorecomplicated。

Thereisthematterofyourescort’scorsage。

Thisisn’ttheseniorprom,yousay?

Fine,butifyoufailtoprovideyourladywithflowers,don’tbesurprisedwhensheislatermistakenforaserf。

Don’tgooverboard,asMs。

Vanderbiltpointedout:“Amanwhoislayingsiegetoagirl’sheartdoeswellnottosystematizehisflower-sending。



Onceyou’reoutside,inpublic,pleasedonotkissyourlady,unlessyouenjoystrangersvomitingonyou。

“TheVictoriangentleman,”Ms。

Vanderbiltwrote,“shookhandsgravelywithhiswifeandfamilyifhemettheminapublicplace。

”Shewentontoapprovekissinginpublicforusmoderns(“Ofcourse,ifamandoesgreetawomaninpublicwithakiss,hemustremovehishatentirely”),probablybecausesheowedananarchistafavor,butonthispoint,let’stakeitbacktotheVictorians。

Peopleyouloveshouldberegardedasifyou’realwaysatafuneralandyoubarelyknowthem;thatway,thenearbywretchedconsumptivestragglerdoesn’tfeelleftout,andisremindedofthedeaththatawaitshim。

Onconversationaltouching,however,Ms。

Vanderbiltholdstrue:“Nevertouchawomaninacourseofaconversation…excepttohelpherupintooroutofvehicles。

”Ms。

Vanderbilthasgivenyoumenawindowforgroping?

—?

takeadvantageof?

it。

Atthedinner,offeryourrightarmtoyourescortandleadherintothediningroom。

Ifyouaretheguestofhonor,youenterlast,makingsuretoraiseyourchininpride,butnotsohighastoseemBritishand/orwar-disfigured。

Atthetable,seatyourladytotheright。

Ifyoucan’tgoright,justnodtowardthechairandshewillfigureitout。

Onceservicebegins,makesuretobeawareofthefootmenandtheprocedurethey’refollowing,takingyourportionsastheycome。

AccordingtoMs。

Vanderbilt,aschooledguest“nevercarriesonaconversationwithevenanoldfamilyretainer。

”Neverassistinserviceinanyway;donotstackplates,raisethemtothefootman,orspinthemlikeyouareinacircus,evenifthatisyouractualvocation。

Secondportionsmaybetakenifoffered,butifnooneelseisindulging,youmayappearaglutton。

Theproperguestmusttakealittleofeverything,evenifhedoesn’tintendtoeatit。

“Thisisdone,”Ms。

Vanderbiltwrote,“sotheattentivehostorhostesswillnotimaginehehasbeenoverlookedinthepresentationofdishes。

”Usedsilverisplacedontherightsideoftheplate,knifebladefacingtheinside,forktinesup。

Oh,utensilplacementdoesn’tseemtobeabigdeal?

Thenhoweverdoyouthinksocietyspotsdeviants?

AsMs。

Vanderbiltwrote:“itisverydifficulttoovercomeslipshodtablemanners。

”Onemistakewillhauntyouforever,suchaswhenmycousinMillicentfumbledthehandledsoup,agaffeasinfamousasMerkle’s?

Boner。

Whenthemealisover,ladiesrise,leavingthementocigarsandliqueurs。

“ForonerobustiousLothariotomakeoffaftertheladiesisconsideredbadconduct,”Ms。

Vanderbiltwrote。

(Although,remember:“Awomandoesnotrefertoherselfasa‘lady’tohersocialequals。

”)It’sfine,youwillhavetwomoregropingwindowslater,whengettingintoandoutofataxi,sostayputandconspiretobetlongonbeetfutures?

—?

justmakesuretheladieshaven’tfedyoufalsecropreportswhileconcurrentlybettingshort。

Donotunderanycircumstancesleavebeforetheguestofhonor,unlessofcoursethereisamoreauspiciouspartytogoto。

Onthewayhome,makesuretosuspectsomeoneofbeingacommunist。

Butperhaps,tobefair,noteveryminuteoftheclockneedsturningback。

Forinstance:



“Nothingfrightensamanmorethanpresumptiononthepartofawoman。

Ifeverawomanneedstobeobtusewiththemaleitiswhenheiscourtingherbuthasnotyetdeclaredhimself。





“Theveryimportantwomanisatemptingtargetforajealousmaleassociate。

Sherubshimthewrongway,threatenshisposition,overrideshissuggestions,andtramplesonhispride。

Sheforgetsthefemininegracesandcajoleriesandtriestomeethimman-to-man。

Thisleadstoinevitabledefeat。

Ifwomeninbusinesswouldonlyrememberthattheyarewomeninbusinesstheywouldmeetsomuchlessresistancefrom?

men。





“It’shardtofacethis,butnowomancanfindhappinessinputtingcareeraboveherhusbandand?

family。



Surelytherecanbeareturntouppercrustmannerswithoutanattendantreturntocave-man-ism。

Afterall,toresistofficecajoleriesfromwomenistoresistthetrueAmericanspirit。

Althoughperhapssomethingshaven’tchangedinhalfa?

century:

Agirllivingin,say,NewYork,afterbeingbroughtupinasmalltown,cangrowverylonely,waitinguntilsheisaskedoutbytheall-too-fewunattachedmalesshemaymeetinherofficeorelsewhere。

Ayoungmanneednotbeevenpassablyattractivetohaveasmuchsociallifeashewishesinsuchametropolitancenter。

Thecompetitionforhim,atleastasanescort,isverykeen,evenifhisprospectsaremeagerandhisspendingmoneyminuscule。

Asrareandwondrouscosmopolitanbeings,mendeservetotreatthemselvestoareturntomanners,tobehaveasapropergentlemanfromnotsomanyyearsgoneby,justassomuchofBrooklyn’sservantclasshasreturnedtobeardsandsuspendersanddatedhats。

You’reprobablythinkingthatbehavingwithsuchrecently-retiredmannersisridiculous,thatpeoplewillthinkyou’remethodactingorjustanincredibleasshole。

No。

Youarerestoringtraditiontothosewhomustcarryiton。

Andyouarebringinggraceandpleasuretoallalongthe?

way:

Ifheisseatedorstandingnearherinasocialgroup,amanleansoverandholdsalighttoawoman’scigarette,ifshehasmadethegestureoftakingoneherself。

Athoughtfulman,thoughhebeanon-smoker,carriesmatchesforthispurposeorevenalighter。

Oneverycorrectman-about-townIknowcarriesbothlighterandcigarettecase,althoughheneversmokes?

himself。

Ifnothingelse,themodernmanfacilitateslungcancer。

Actually,maybedon’tdo?

that。

Withthisreturntomanners,wecansetasideallofthedrearymodernquarrelsthatmakedatinganddiningsofraughtanddisastrousfortoday’supperclass。

Wemightonceagaindistinguishourselvesasapart,above,throughourcodeofconduct:warriormonksarmedwithstarchedcollarsandthepropermannersforshiplaunchings。

JakeTuckwritesscreenplaysandotherthings。

Heisknowntobeamanforall?


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