Saturday, August 22, 2009

For the motherless

Recently, I pulled my copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette off the shelf and thumbed through it. Having grown up in the South, mama taught me quite a few rules and customs covered under the broad topic of etiquette. When I was just entering my teens, Mama helped me with invitations, thank you notes, and even guided me through giving a shower for a cousin. As a young woman, I just picked up the telephone whenever I need a little guidance on good manners, and Irene would tell me what to do and why. Alas, Mama is now just pleasant memories, so there I was, consulting the most recognized authority on manners, via the book. Although I just needed to confirm minor detail about appropriate wedding shower etiquette, afterward, I sat for quite a while, enjoying my perusal of this rather lengthy tome on good behavior.

Now, why would anyone have a whole book on etiquette? How else do you know when to use "esquire"? Or how to address correspondence to a federal judge? Or how much to tip a washroom attendant who does not hand you a towel?

Although each edition of Etiquette covers traditional topics such as correspondence, mealtime manners, table settings, and weddings, this later edition, authored by Peggy Post, includes business matters. No, I will never use all of it, but the modern, casual manner of society sometimes makes me realize that there is some need for protocol and decorum. Really, the book deals with basic courtesy and respect, and those go a long way toward improving human relationships. Mama seemed to know just how to handle the most awkward situations, no doubt through training as well as instinct, but there are times when the rest of us need a little help.

I bought this 16th edition some time ago, but I think the new 17th edition would be a great gift for graduates and/or newly weds, because sometimes mama isn't available to help with wording the invitation, choosing the gift, or other mannerly matters.

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