Now Say Thank You

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          So why all the talk about manners this week? Why do we care if the a-hole in the car next to us doesn’t let us into his lane? What is so important about the cashier that does not put down her telephone to ask if there is anything else that we need or even to find out how our day is going? If we are following our all-important premise of not taking it personally then why is any of this important?

           Paul says: Good manners are more than just a nice please and thank you thrown around at home. They are a fundamental benchmark of our society, of the civility and enlightenment of that thing that we call community. Wow. Even as I am writing this, I am thinking to myself that the ability to be courteous is more vital than I originally thought. So let’s break it down a little, if you please. (This is me, flexing my good manners.)

          Manners are linked to sexuality and gender identification. Bobby, our 7-year-old, knows that he cannot punch a girl. Now walking up to his 4-year-old male cousin and plowing his fist square into his chest is fine but hitting his female cousin is out of the question. Can he slap her? Yes (with good 7-year-old reason) but never hit her. That would be bad manners. Boys do not hit girls. That’s the rule.

          We teach our children these gender biased manners all of the time. It is important that you know that I do not think that that is wrong. As we have created new definitions of femininity, so too do we need to create rules for masculinity. One of the first steps is to decide what to keep and what to throw away. As we make these decisions, the practical aspect of manners becomes a barometer for us to measure the new pressures of our society.

          As our boys grow to manhood, it is above all their good manners, their courteousness that will define them as good lovers and partners. It is the ability to know the right time to place a hand on the small of her back.  The ability to listen to her words and her body. Suddenly manners seem more and more important, don’t they?

          Somewhere over our history, we started to link manners with weakness, courteousness with modesty. This is not true. Look at the stories of great lovers and warriors. A musketeer is always quick with the sword but equally quick with his cape lest his lady catch a chill. Lancelot was no pansy but he knew his way around manners. (Right up to the part where he splacked another man’s wife. Now that was just plain rude.)

          Researcher Edwin Flemming looked at modesty in our society and found that there are ten traits linked to modesty, of which courteousness is one. Yet the same study showed that modesty is not related to either a good or bad personality, to strength or weakness of mind. But for some reason we like to act as if manners are synonymous with docility.

          I want to thank you all for reading this. You are very kind and I will cherish this time we had together. Oddly, this is the same thing that I say to Lee after we have sex.

          Lee says: As a courteous person, I say, ‘You’re welcome, Sir. Please place your money on the nightstand.’ Manners are so important in my business.

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