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Growing up...manner nazis or lackadaisical lounge abouts?

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  • Growing up...manner nazis or lackadaisical lounge abouts?

    Growing up, we had lots and lots of rules. Most of these rules were related to manners. It was as if my mother was preparing us to one day dine with the President of the United States as a State Dinner.

    At the dinner table, we started with grace...one parent calling upon one of us to begin it. Our parents would then hand us a plate of something in order to "start" and we passed all of the food around. We were never to simply reach in upon seating and begin grabbing for food. As a result, when visiting friends who had 8 children, so there was a total of 15 of us at the table, I of course sat with my hands in my lap, waiting for the food to be passed. The mom looked at me and said "Oh, honey, if you sit there and wait all the food will be gone before you get a bit...dig in!" I almost didn't know how to just reach for what I wanted!

    We could not leave the table without first asking "May I be excused, please?" Of course, we knew better than to ask if our plates weren't clean, and we knew that we'd have to clear the table and do the pots before we could actually leave the kitchen to go to our rooms.

    I have to say, every time I relax and allow my forearm to rest on a table top, I feel rebellious (and like a total slob!)!

    Answering the telephone was another ordeal. We had to wait until at least 2 rings before answering, and then answer with "Hello, Philly residence." When the caller asked for someone, I then had to say "this is Phillygirl, may I ask who is calling?"


    Were your parents free wheeling with the manners...or ready to meet the Queen?
    Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
    Robert Southwell, S.J.

  • #2
    We were a mix.

    Some nights were "fend for yourself" and others were "dinner's ready." If dinner was ready, we were expected to sit down and demonstrate our manners. Fend for yourself meant we were to eat leftovers in front of the TV. My parents taught me the basics but ironically I didn't learn "proper" table manners until I was in the Marine Corps and educated by a visiting instructor from a Finishing School.
    "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."

    -John Locke

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by scott View Post
      We were a mix.

      Some nights were "fend for yourself" and others were "dinner's ready." If dinner was ready, we were expected to sit down and demonstrate our manners. Fend for yourself meant we were to eat leftovers in front of the TV. My parents taught me the basics but ironically I didn't learn "proper" table manners until I was in the Marine Corps and educated by a visiting instructor from a Finishing School.
      I think there is a course in the military where everyone is taught to hold their fork with a fist. Every service guy I know seems to eat that way!
      Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
      Robert Southwell, S.J.

      Comment


      • #4
        Somewhere inbetween.

        There wasn't an absolute demand that every response be "yes, ma'am" and "no, ma'am," but certainly if we were being called (as in to the dinner table), "yeah" would get us in trouble. Dinner was "formal;" we set the table properly, forks on the left over a folded napkin, knives and spoons on the right, salad/desert fork as appropriate. Utensils were to be used properly by the time we were out of high chairs. No speaking unless spoken to or a generally open discussion at the dinner table. Dinner was served when Dad got home from work and had time to change from his jacket and tie into his jumpsuit.

        We all took Fortnightly, which I think is a largely Southern thing, but it's a couple of years of "charm school," for lack of a better description, meeting every second week (hence "Fortnightly"). That was usually around ages 8-10 or maybe 9-11. It was things like how to properly engage in a formal dance such as a waltz (complete with dance cards), plus things like how to formally set a table, which forks, spoons, and knives to use, how to properly open a door for a lady (or, for ladies, how to properly await a gentleman opening a door), that sort of thing. We boys didn't get to go to nice restaurants (not O'Charlie's, but truly nice restaurants) until we had enough time at Fortnightly to engage ourselves properly at such a restaurant, but it was a "birthday treat" after we'd been at it a while to dress up in our Sunday best and go to a really nice restaurant once we'd been at it a while and could demonstrate our skills at conducting ourselves in proper Southern manner. We were all given proper, engraved calling cards for Christmas (all of our birthdays are in October) after that if we passed (we all did). My mother saw to it that we always took our calling cards when we went to any sort of event outside of immediate family (weddings, birthday parties, etc.).

        Most definitely, if we were out somewhere, we were expected by the 'tweens to behave in a very formal, deferential fashion. This was especially true when we were doing charity work for the poor; you were going the right way for an ass-whooping if you didn't show absolute deference to someone of a lower socio-economic status, particularly in their own home. I got a serious ass-kicking one time because, while delivering food baskets to the poor before Christmas, I failed to use a "yes, ma'am" to a very poor Black lady who was, frankly, not very gracious in her receipt of this gift. I wasn't rude; I just did not show complete deference to someone in their own home.

        I was a very slow eater at a young age, before about age ten. It wasn't that I was reluctant or playing with my food; I just ate very slowly. So "may I be excused" almost never happened for me, but it was definitely expected any time before either Mom or Dad (usually Dad) left the table. Certainly if we wanted something, it was "XXXX, please pass the YYYY," and we were always to offer the salt/pepper/potatoes/rolls/butter/whatever to the person to our left and right before returning it to the table.

        I confess that to this very day, I have never really broken my bad habit of elbows on the table.

        We didn't do pots and pans because Mom was very particular about those (and they were still in use some forty years later, a testament to her care of her kitchen ware), but we would sometimes offer to do the dishes. Again, Mom was pretty particular about that and sometimes didn't want us amateurs not getting her dishes as spotless as she expected them to be (Mom could see molecules that the rest of us could not), but we got a pass from getting up without being excused if we were doing so to clear the table after dinner was done.

        In later years, I was the only one to take a particular interest in cooking at first, so I got a bit more leeway than my older brothers in the table area if I was doing some of the cooking.




        Certainly as compared to some of my contemporaries at the time, we were far more lax, and then with some other contemporaries of the time, we were stiflingly formal.
        Bask in the warmth of the Deep South
        No one will be denied:
        Big law suits and bathroom toots;
        We're all getting Dixie-fried.
        But somewhere Hank and Lefty
        Are rollin' in their graves
        While kudzu vines grow over signs that read "Jesus Saves."

        Comment


        • #5
          I invented manners. Born with them. It's instinctual. Some have to be taught.
          If it pays, it stays

          Comment


          • #6
            Country people are often very much more formal than their city mice cousins expect. We had a big family so more formal eating was kind of necessary. Grace first (randomly assigned to kids but always offered first to guests), "Please and thank you" in terms of passing foods. No plate cleaning at my house but if you served yourself something, you'd better damn well eat it. Asking to be excused was mandatory. No phone during dinner - ever. "If they're dead, they'll still be dead in an hour" was how it was put to me. Meals happened on a schedule - no one waited for you. If you missed it, you missed it. It was up to you to forage in a non-work making way, i.e., make a peanut butter sandwich or something (leftovers were always scheduled for reinvention so no eating the last piece of sausage or whatever).

            Always eat what was put before you as a guest and never criticize or compare. Refusing seconds was fine (as per Philly).

            "Ma'am" and "Sir" as appropriate. I literally can't describe how this algorithm works but you know it if you grow up with it. I am a "Ma'am" now but I still "Ma'am" and "Sir" a few others when it's correct.

            Always open doors regardless of sex. Always offer to help if you see someone with bags or burdens. Never remind friends about that $10 you lent them. Always buy a round or a table. Always stop for hitchhikers in winter (it's the law in Wyoming). Never criticize a person on looks or clothes (but don't encourage them, either if it's weird). Always pay instantly for damage. Never argue with a host. Always apologize to hosts or strangers for whatever. Always bring a simple gift for the first invited dinner. Always offer to help a host. Never eat the last anything unless you are absolutely alone and doing the dishes.
            "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
              Country people are often very much more formal than their city mice cousins expect. We had a big family so more formal eating was kind of necessary. Grace first (randomly assigned to kids but always offered first to guests), "Please and thank you" in terms of passing foods. No plate cleaning at my house but if you served yourself something, you'd better damn well eat it. Asking to be excused was mandatory. No phone during dinner - ever. "If they're dead, they'll still be dead in an hour" was how it was put to me. Meals happened on a schedule - no one waited for you. If you missed it, you missed it. It was up to you to forage in a non-work making way, i.e., make a peanut butter sandwich or something (leftovers were always scheduled for reinvention so no eating the last piece of sausage or whatever).

              Always eat what was put before you as a guest and never criticize or compare. Refusing seconds was fine (as per Philly).

              "Ma'am" and "Sir" as appropriate. I literally can't describe how this algorithm works but you know it if you grow up with it. I am a "Ma'am" now but I still "Ma'am" and "Sir" a few others when it's correct.

              Always open doors regardless of sex. Always offer to help if you see someone with bags or burdens. Never remind friends about that $10 you lent them. Always buy a round or a table. Always stop for hitchhikers in winter (it's the law in Wyoming). Never criticize a person on looks or clothes (but don't encourage them, either if it's weird). Always pay instantly for damage. Never argue with a host. Always apologize to hosts or strangers for whatever. Always bring a simple gift for the first invited dinner. Always offer to help a host. Never eat the last anything unless you are absolutely alone and doing the dishes.
              I forgot about that. I definitely judge the character of a person if he takes the last of anything without first waiting a proper amount of time, seeing a stalemate on manners, and then asking if anyone else wanted it or wants to share it. I figure he'll pick my pocket.
              Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
              Robert Southwell, S.J.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                I forgot about that. I definitely judge the character of a person if he takes the last of anything without first waiting a proper amount of time, seeing a stalemate on manners, and then asking if anyone else wanted it or wants to share it. I figure he'll pick my pocket.
                Never spent much time with a group of Chinese people in Chinatown I see. The fastest chopstick wins. Joyce and I got good!!
                If it pays, it stays

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
                  Country people are often very much more formal than their city mice cousins expect. We had a big family so more formal eating was kind of necessary. Grace first (randomly assigned to kids but always offered first to guests), "Please and thank you" in terms of passing foods. No plate cleaning at my house but if you served yourself something, you'd better damn well eat it. Asking to be excused was mandatory. No phone during dinner - ever. "If they're dead, they'll still be dead in an hour" was how it was put to me. Meals happened on a schedule - no one waited for you. If you missed it, you missed it. It was up to you to forage in a non-work making way, i.e., make a peanut butter sandwich or something (leftovers were always scheduled for reinvention so no eating the last piece of sausage or whatever).

                  Always eat what was put before you as a guest and never criticize or compare. Refusing seconds was fine (as per Philly).

                  "Ma'am" and "Sir" as appropriate. I literally can't describe how this algorithm works but you know it if you grow up with it. I am a "Ma'am" now but I still "Ma'am" and "Sir" a few others when it's correct.

                  Always open doors regardless of sex. Always offer to help if you see someone with bags or burdens. Never remind friends about that $10 you lent them. Always buy a round or a table. Always stop for hitchhikers in winter (it's the law in Wyoming). Never criticize a person on looks or clothes (but don't encourage them, either if it's weird). Always pay instantly for damage. Never argue with a host. Always apologize to hosts or strangers for whatever. Always bring a simple gift for the first invited dinner. Always offer to help a host. Never eat the last anything unless you are absolutely alone and doing the dishes.
                  "Meals happened on a schedule"

                  Absolutely! Dinner is now always 2 hours late at one of my sister's house because she plans for the latecomers who then plan for her being late. Another sister stresses over the timeliness and then makes everyone else wait so that the latecomers are included in the big prayer.

                  Long ago, my Mom told me that if she could ever do anything different it was that we could start eating when we said we would eat. When she was alive and could see her dream in action at my house, she complimented me on it so now that's the running family joke. "Don't show up late for Scott's, he'll start without you."

                  It is always okay to show up late, we have food ready for you. But we aren't going to make everyone wait and go hungry just because you couldn't make it. You aren't the guest of honor and if you want to lead Grace, then be there on time. If you can't do that, you can say Grace next time. My sisters are catching on, slowly. This Easter my Dad was late and my sister started without him (first time ever) and he complimented her on that. She was so proud.
                  "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."

                  -John Locke

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Frostbit View Post
                    Never spent much time with a group of Chinese people in Chinatown I see. The fastest chopstick wins. Joyce and I got good!!
                    Assuming there was enough food for everyone, it was always okay to scrounge for the cold food, and it was a game of speed and strategy. Better to eat it than put it into the fridge, and if your want 3rds you have to go get it.
                    "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."

                    -John Locke

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by scott View Post
                      Assuming there was enough food for everyone, it was always okay to scrounge for the cold food, and it was a game of speed and strategy. Better to eat it than put it into the fridge, and if your want 3rds you have to go get it.
                      Oh..that rule didn't apply in the house with immediate family, it only applies outside the home or with guests.
                      Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
                      Robert Southwell, S.J.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                        Growing up, we had lots and lots of rules. Most of these rules were related to manners. It was as if my mother was preparing us to one day dine with the President of the United States as a State Dinner.

                        At the dinner table, we started with grace...one parent calling upon one of us to begin it. Our parents would then hand us a plate of something in order to "start" and we passed all of the food around. We were never to simply reach in upon seating and begin grabbing for food. As a result, when visiting friends who had 8 children, so there was a total of 15 of us at the table, I of course sat with my hands in my lap, waiting for the food to be passed. The mom looked at me and said "Oh, honey, if you sit there and wait all the food will be gone before you get a bit...dig in!" I almost didn't know how to just reach for what I wanted!

                        We could not leave the table without first asking "May I be excused, please?" Of course, we knew better than to ask if our plates weren't clean, and we knew that we'd have to clear the table and do the pots before we could actually leave the kitchen to go to our rooms.

                        I have to say, every time I relax and allow my forearm to rest on a table top, I feel rebellious (and like a total slob!)!

                        Answering the telephone was another ordeal. We had to wait until at least 2 rings before answering, and then answer with "Hello, Philly residence." When the caller asked for someone, I then had to say "this is Phillygirl, may I ask who is calling?"


                        Were your parents free wheeling with the manners...or ready to meet the Queen?
                        I didn't realize I grew-up in your home.

                        We had ten at the table and I'm sure manners saved my parents sanity. Although, we did not eat in silence. My dad and mom would talk to each of us about what we did in and after school and we actually answered. Those were some of the best stories told and as kids, we felt that it was for the us (getting to know our siblings better) as much as it was for our parents.
                        May we raise children who love the unloved things - the dandelion, the worm, the spiderlings.
                        Children who sense the rose needs the thorn and run into rainswept days the same way they turn towards the sun...
                        And when they're grown and someone has to speak for those who have no voice,
                        may they draw upon that wilder bond, those days of tending tender things and be the one.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                          Oh..that rule didn't apply in the house with immediate family, it only applies outside the home or with guests.
                          Ah. Yes, that's similar to my upbringing too.
                          "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."

                          -John Locke

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                            We could not leave the table...if our plates weren't clean...
                            3 days sitting at the table finishing a plate of peas is standard, isn't it?
                            Science that cannot be questioned is propaganda.

                            Cameras in classrooms now.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by JB View Post
                              3 days sitting at the table finishing a plate of peas is standard, isn't it?
                              Longer for liver.
                              May we raise children who love the unloved things - the dandelion, the worm, the spiderlings.
                              Children who sense the rose needs the thorn and run into rainswept days the same way they turn towards the sun...
                              And when they're grown and someone has to speak for those who have no voice,
                              may they draw upon that wilder bond, those days of tending tender things and be the one.

                              Comment

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