Modernity Equals Ill-Mannered?

by admin on July 27, 2011

I have the good fortune to often avoid people with horrible manners, but I am often directly adjacent to bad etiquette so I accumulate several second-hand stories.  The source of so many of these stories was from my sister’s last ex-boyfriend, a musclebound young man with little maturity and a tidy package of body image issues.  Unfortunately for all involved, they ended up going out together for over three years–their freshman year in college right up until they graduated, at which point she finally cut him loose.

My family is very Texan when it comes to ideas of hospitality and etiquette–we try to be as egalitarian and courteous as possible, and this includes everything from general propriety to simple manners such as holding doors open and the like.  On the other hand, he comes from a Floridian family that is both a bit snobbish and boorish at the same time; I had only brief contact with them, but my sister confirmed the general sleaziness and standoffishness of their attitudes.  I often heard stories from my sister of how he would never support her at any events (namely, volleyball games; she was a star in her division and he would prefer to go work out and stroke his ego rather than attend any of the games occurring right on campus). Even when he expressly asked and confirmed his attendance before, he would most often back out the day of.

We invited him to stay with us for extended periods (about a month at a time) during the breaks between their semesters, and pretty much everyone in our family agreed that, while he was high-maintenance enough to not actively destroy the house, none of us particularly appreciated his company and our eating habits were bent constantly to suit his needs.  Worse still, we would often eat as a family, and he would go to cook his own food at a later time (a feat not performed as of yet by any other house guest; we cook pretty nice, big dinners and guests are prone to asking after leftovers).  It seemed like a huge affront to our hospitality–no matter how long he was staying, he was still strictly a guest.

The source of these rude behaviors was pinpointed a few days after she delivered the ultimatum to her boyfriend.  He still insisted that she attend his brother’s wedding–a brother, might I add, she had had little contact with.  She was reluctant, but since the invitation had been extended from the brother as well, she felt it wouldn’t be entirely respectful to decline.  She accepted on the condition that our father would accompany her, as our whole family would be in Atlanta (where their college was) the week before and we wanted to split into two groups–my mother and I going back to Texas with all the stuff I had moved out of my dorm in Pennsylvania, and my father and my sister going down to Florida for the wedding.  This made the mass manoeuvre easy for us and let my sister go to the wedding.  It also meant that my dad finally got to bear witness to the BF’s family.

In general, my father came back with the same poor opinions of the family, but one incident really encapsulates it all and shows the source of the bad manners.  On entering a certain door, my father stepped ahead of my sister and opened the door for her, and she thanked him.  Not a remarkable thing, but the boyfriend’s father felt the need to comment on it.  He noted that a man in their family would never hold open a door for a woman–like it was something to be proud of, or it was some sort of show of feminism or something.  I’m a pretty adamant feminist myself, and I can tell you having such a sentiment only exposes general selfishness on your part: a person should simply hold open doors for other people; in my family it is not a matter of gender–someone will just take initiative and open the door for a group.  It’s a way of showing respect and courtesy, and I try to open doors for people even in the most informal of situations.  Both my sister and my father were disgusted, both at the show of bad manners and somewhat at the implication that a single courteous display damned our family into an anti-progressive black hole of sexist chivalry (?).

I think that was the last straw for my sister.  She had been trying to break up for a long time but that gave her some resolve not to back out of the final breakup.  Also–has anyone else encountered this idea that dropping shows of courtesy or hospitality is a progressive thing? 0701-11

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