Manners: A Dead Language

If you ever watch an old movie, take a movie that took place in the 1950’s for example, you can observe people holding doors open for those coming in and out of a shop. You can witness young men at dances gently approaching young women and politely asking if they could “have this dance.” You would see two people collide on a sidewalk, one dropping their belongings, and the other stops to help them gather their things. When insults arose, even those generally sounded proper. While I acknowledge that real life in the 50’s wasn’t nearly as colorful as the movies portrayed, it opened my eyes to this dead language we call manners.

How many times can you remember yourself looking down at your phone pretending to text when you were about to pass someone you didn’t want to talk to? How many times have you entered a building realizing someone was close behind you, only to shove the door open and try to walk through it quick enough that you didn’t have to hold it for the person behind you? How many times have your friends vented to you while you were enthralled by your phone, only to have to ask them to repeat what they said because you missed it?

It’s okay, we all do it. Not one person on this Earth can say they haven’t done at least one of those things at some point in their life. I often see people using their cellphones as a crutch for countless things. I’ve heard of breakups being done through text messages instead of face-to-face or over the phone. I see men at dance clubs shoving themselves onto young women and grinding on them until they are pushed off. I’ve witnessed someone struggling to hold something they were carrying while numerous people noticed but kept walking on to wherever they were headed. I’ve even noticed a woman in an ice cream shop drop $10 unknowingly while the man behind her bent down and tried to pocket the cash.

When did this become okay? When did society decide it was socially acceptable to become so obnoxious, ignorant, and mannerless? Call my family old fashioned but I was raised with a different set of expectations. While I am definitely guilty of forgetting manners, I was taught that if someone is right behind you, you hold the door open for them. I was taught that if something is important or urgent, a text will not suffice; A phone call is expected. I was taught that if someone you know is passing by, you say hello no matter what mood you’re in, whether you like them or not. I was taught that if I’m having a guest over at the house, they get first choice of what we do, and it’s my job to make sure they’re comfortable and welcomed.

Again, I am in no way perfect, and neither are you. I can openly admit I’ve been that person who walks by the stumbling person in need of a hand. It happens, and sometimes we don’t know how to react. However, I do my best to keep manners alive in a world where common courtesy and humility can many times be nonexistent. I hope reflecting on these instances opens your eyes as much as it opens mine. I hope the next time you’re uncomfortable or see someone you don’t want to talk to, that you put your phone down and say hello anyways. Hold that door open for the person behind you. Say your please and thank you’s. Always remember, holding a door doesn’t take more than ten seconds, and a smile is free.

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