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Modernity Equals Ill-Mannered?

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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  • Sarah Jane July 28, 2011, 12:03 pm

    @Chicken: Yes ma’am! You and I may be in the minority, but my husband opens the door for me and any other woman nearby, and–I repeat– I think it’s sexy as all get-out. But that’s just me 🙂

  • Doris July 28, 2011, 3:32 pm

    Some people have looked outraged, disgusted, or offended when my husband has opened a door for me, but we’ve managed to make most smile when I open the next door for him. For us, it is a matter of who gets to the door first and is the least encumbered. Eliminating courtesy is the opposite of “progressive.” Without courtesy, respect, empathy, and compassion we devolve into self-preserving cavemen/Machiavellians.

  • GroceryGirl July 28, 2011, 4:42 pm

    This is the best etiquette breach story you could offer of your sister’s ex who was “the source of so many stories”?

  • MellowedOne July 29, 2011, 6:52 am

    My take on things…when a person ‘looks’ for personal affront, they will usually find it.

  • Emma July 29, 2011, 11:27 am

    I get the impression that the OP just plain didn’t like the boyfriend or his family and was looking for things to be offended by. I personally don’t mind men (or women) holding the door open for me, but I can definitely see how some people view that as old fashioned. I have also noticed over the years that when men go well out of their way to hold the door for me, it is often because they want an opportunity to flirt with me in the creepiest ways possible and seem to think they are justified in expecting a positive response from me because they did me a “favor” by opening the door!

  • Cat July 29, 2011, 10:01 pm

    It’s a weird coincidence but Boca Raton, FL, was just voted as the rudest city in Florida or the U.S.-I don’t recall which. When a local radio station opened its chat line, it was flooded with Floridians who agreed that Boca folks are rude-even the folks from Boca called in to agree.

    As a native Floridian, I can say that we have a whole lot of different people from all over creation here and we are still learning to work and to live together. Most of the folks I know come from somewhere else.

    I still treasure the evening when a gentleman from Haiti came to my door. He was calling, “Madame! Madame!” He spoke no English and I no Haitian Creole, but I knew exactly what he was saying when he explained to me in Creole, “Madam, you have neglected to set the parking brake on your vehicle and it has rolled from your carport into the four-lane street in front of your house. My friends have pushed it back into your driveway but, as it is locked, it is necessary for you to open the car door and to set the parking brake.”

    I was watching a Walton’s Thanksgiving special years ago with a Singaporean Chinese friend. Grandpa Walton was carving the turkey, the children were all gathered around the table… it was a typical American Thanksgiving full of warm fuzzies.

    Turning around, I noticed that my friend was beet red. She exploded,”What is the matter with you people?! Do you have no manners at all!? Are you all barbarians!?”

    I admit, she lost me on that one. I couldn’t see a problem. You know what it was? It was a lack of respect for Grandpa. He was carving food and serving the children. As the eldest male member of the family, the children should have been serving him! They were treating him as if he were their servant! Now it made sense. Different customs, different ways of viewing a situation.

    Later, there was a television commercial for cancer medications. Grandpa wanted to take a photo of all his grandchildren, all lined up eating ice cream cones. But poor Grandpa was too weak from cancer to go upstairs and get his camera so he never got his photo. He should have taken their product so he’d have felt better.

    If those kids had been from Singapore, someone would have seen to it that the ice cream cones got put down and one of them would have run upstairs and gotten Grandpa that camera. That never seemed to have occurred to the people making the commercial. Maybe we are getting a bit slack on our respect for others.

  • Maimou July 31, 2011, 10:55 pm

    Many years ago ( back in the late 70’s in Atlanta), my husband waited for, in order to hold the door open for the woman behind him who was also exiting their highrise office tower. She snarled that she did not need his patronizing attitude to exit the building, she could do it herself. My husband replied, “Ma’am, I always hold the door open for a lady. I see I’ve made a mistake. You certainly aren’t a lady!”
    Yes, yes, I know, don’t repay rudeness in kind. But since Miss Congeniality’s mama obviously didn’t raise her politely, I prefer to think my husband was just trying to rectify the deficiencies in her upbringing.
    Not too many years ago, I was entering a store behind a woman who had obviously just left church (beautiful suit, lovely hat). She was accompanied by her small son, not more than age 6 or 7. He was also wearing church attire, including the cutest little bow tie. As his mother proceeded regally through the door, (which he held open for her without being told to), she fixed him with a stern gaze and said, “You hold that door for the next lady.” He most certainly did, and I gave him my warmest thanks. It certainly made my day.

  • Enna August 2, 2011, 5:22 am

    @ Maimou, would your hubby hold the door open for anyone? I think that is what clinches it. I have seen men hold doors open for other men etc. That lady was rude, hopefully she just had a bad day and she’s not like that all the time!

  • Veronica August 4, 2011, 5:21 am

    I believe it was bad manners for the woman to insist her father came to a wedding uninvited- it just simply is not done. I agree that opening a door for anyone, is a charming gesture for anyone to make.
    What really blew my mind was the comment from Cat regarding advertisements for cancer medications. This is absolutely heartbreaking to me as I feel that medical research should be a combined effort of the finest minds to develop the best medications possible- how will we find the best cures if a mediocre product with money behind it is able to dominate the market by emotional advertising? Apart from the fact that the best medical care should be free to everyone- every where. It just seems so wrong. I live in Australia and we dont have these ads yet, sadly I am sure we will soon follow suit. Please believe me I am not having a go at your wonderful country just sad at humanity.

  • Echo August 4, 2011, 6:51 am

    The moment I knew I was in love with my fiance was when he opened the door not only for me, but for my friends as well.

  • See August 6, 2011, 10:32 pm

    Manners smanners now a days :D. Actually I was taught to open doors for those who might need it and if I’m walking out a door to hold it for whoever’s behind me. Never really ran into a problem by opening a door for someone and a lot of time people are surprised when i do it. Especially if their hands are full or better yet they have a small child in a stroller or someone in a wheelchair. People don’t always open or hold open the doors for those who do. That’s the best help you can give someone in that situation trust me. I’ve done both and my back can only take pushing a door so much.

  • Toya August 30, 2011, 1:56 am

    You can’t blame a person’s behavior on where a person is from. It’s obvious that that guy was not raised in a family where manners where enforced.

    And regarding the door thing, it bothers me when a guy will only hold the door long enough for their SO to get through the door. Many times, I have been right behind grandma, mom, gf, or wifey and as they make it through the door, the guy will quickly step behind them and I almost get hit in the face with the door. It’s sort of the reason why I also put a hand out to catch the door if I need to because you can’t trust all guys with the simplest task.