Saturday, September 24, 2011

A New Manner? Smile!!

Just read an article – ok, a little crazy that it was a “Dear Abby” newspaper advice column – but the woman who wrote it told Dear Abby that something she had read 20 years ago had changed her life. Unsure of herself as a Middle School student, she happened to read a Dear Abby column that offered advice to another reader recommending that one should “smile and greet people every day.”   This writer said she took that advice and it changed her life.  She started to smile at the world, became involved in activities in school, made friends, and was elected student body president. She now has children, has a master’s degree, and is a public speaker, poet and actor.  She says it was all because Dear Abby wrote about how important it is to smile.

Dear Abby (Abigail Van Buron © 2011) responds to this writer saying that she is glad her advice has been so impactful.  She says that no matter what you wear, “the expression on your face is your greatest asset – or liability.”  She asks whether you would rather start a conversation with someone who looks like they are mad at the world or someone who looks like they’re happy to see you - even if they don’t know you.

Dear Abby says she isn’t suggesting to be phony, but if you develop a habit of looking cheerful and happy, “it attracts.”  She says that there are two kinds of people who can walk into any room – one walks in and says, “Here I am…” The other walks in and says,  “There you are...”

Which one do you think is the winner?  Abby says, “If you want to receive a warm welcome, remember the happier you are to see others, the happier they’ll be to see you.”  I will add to that advice with my car's bumper sticker:  BE NICE.  The footnote to the bumper sticker should be: it makes you feel like you’re helping the world be a better place!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hats Off!

I've not been posting this summer….but I'm back at it….reminding you about manners that have been forgotten (or never taught) and that we need to teach our kids! I'm also trying to discover the history behind all of the manners we regard as proper these days.

At the Yankees game on Labor Day (and every baseball game) - the announcer asked people to stand and take off their hats to sing the national anthem.  I had a sunhat on (because of a bad place on my chin you don't want to hear about)….when the announcer asked people to take off their hats, my first thought in the first millisecond was "I can't take this off for medical reasons" but then I thought "this is a manner that people need to do - no excuse, period" - and I whipped off my hat.  It is absolutely a sign of respect whether you are a man or a woman.

Here's what Emily Post says about hats:

Hats/baseball caps can be left ON:
Outdoors, at Athletic Games, on Public Transportation, at Religious Services as required, in Public Buildings (Post Office, Airport), on Elevators.

Hats/baseball caps should be taken OFF:
In a Home, In an Office, at Mealtime at the Table, in Restaurants, at a Movie or Indoor Performance, when the National Anthem is played, when the Flag of the United States passes by (as in a parade).

But I wanted to know what was the general history behind taking off the hat?  Long ago, the guest, coming in to the host's most vulnerable space - his home - would often make a ritual of taking off his hat.  The hat and the stick (or the helmet and sword depending on the century) would be required to be left at the door.  Uncovering your head and leaving your sword at the door shows that you are disarming yourself, shows respect, and makes yourself similar to your host who is most likely not wearing a hat in his own house or castle.  At the turn of this century, it was also customary for men to remove their hats to protect others from industrial soot.  Emily Post said that women's hats were part of their "costume" and did not need to be taken off….but her more modern descendants who have written the most recent editions of her Etiquette book do not distinguish between men and women when it comes to taking a hat off.  The rules above are for everyone.

How about this?  The forebearer of the hat was the wreath!  The ancient Greeks and Romans wore them at feasts.  The wreath was a pledge that everyone would observe TABLE MANNERS(!) and would not take food meant for another person, would not steal food, and would not ignore the rights of others at the table!  Wreaths reminded humans that they were mortal - they were not Gods - and they needed to pay attention to their limitations, so they were left on during meals.

So, it seems that taking your hat off has come full circle!