Mind Your Manners

In recent weeks, my wife and I have been fielding questions from our daughters about the behavior of boys. Without getting too specific and to minimize embarrassment, I’ll just say that it’s reminded me that “boys will be boys” is a phrase that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It also made me realize that a part of me would have liked to have had a son, just to show that it’s possible for boys to be raised as gentlemen.

My friend, Loretta, and I are here to remind you to mind your manners.

My friend, Loretta, and I are here to remind you to mind your manners.

As my wife and I approach our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, one question I get frequently is, “How have you made your marriage last?” I actually find myself pointing to a quote by Robert A. Heinlein’s character, Lazarus Long: “Formal courtesy between husband and wife is even more important than it is between strangers.” In short, we do our best to always say “please” and “thank you” and try not to interrupt each other. We try to remember to check with each other when making plans. We don’t always succeed. Sometimes we hurt each others’ feelings, but the fact that we try and even succeed much of the time has made for a relationship that has lasted for many years.

To me, manners are less about Emily Post and more about remembering to respect the other party in a relationship—whether it be personal, casual, or business. Really, I could care less what side of my plate the forks are as long as you respect my feelings. In turn, I’ll do my best to respect yours. My wife and I have done our best to convey that lesson to our daughters and encourage them to seek out companions that respect them in turn.

At one point, I was on a convention panel that discussed whether the appeal of Steampunk was a desire to return to an era of more formal manners. I think there is something to that as far as the appeal of Steampunk to me. If you follow me here and on social media, you’ll find that I don’t speak a lot about politics. Part of that has to do with a tendency of people to forget their manners, especially when discussing politics and social issues on line. Rather than disagreeing and giving reasons for their opinions, they’d rather call the person they disagree with an idiot.

In the novel Friday, Robert A. Heinlein writes: “A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.” Whether you agree with this sentiment or not, I certainly find the lack of common courtesy in some on-line discussions discourages discussion of many issues for me. Certainly in this case, a loss of gentle manners becomes a way of shutting down political discussion, which of course, is utterly detrimental to our society. I hope this is an issue that will rectify itself with time. In the meantime, if you want to discuss politics with me, I’ll be happy to do so in person. I find people, for the most part, are still more polite when they have to look you in the eye.

The Pirates of Sufiro

As you can probably imagine from the quotes I’ve presented, Robert A. Heinlein has long been an influence on me and my writing. I think that’s most apparent in my Old Star/New Earth series and its first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro. The novel is free from my publisher Lachesis Publishing. Won’t you please give it a try?

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8 comments on “Mind Your Manners

  1. And always thank the person who cooked for you!

  2. Really a great post! You have a wonderful take on this very important value! My mother taught her children and SIX BOYS – my brothers, to do the same. Lots of love, Emily

  3. wsmarble says:

    You’ve hit on the crux of what I find most compelling about Steampunk culture…why I believe it is so worthy an obsession. Invoking one of Heinlein’s best efforts is icing on the cake. Now I need to block out some quality time for “The Pirates of Sufiro”…it looks intriguing!

    • Thank you! I hope you like Pirates of Sufiro when you get a chance. Of course the flip-side of Victorian manners is that the rules were often deliberately complex to create artificial social barriers. I’m glad to see that part gone and in my experience, the steampunk movement is very inclusive. What’s more, writers don’t ignore that the time period wasn’t a “golden age” and often use the ills of past time as a metaphor to address problems that are still with us. However, I do think we could use a bit more “please” and “thank you” in our day-to-day interactions.

  4. Good piece. I don’t think manners have as much to do with social status or culture as with sensitive people, no matter their status or culture, who respect their fellow men/women. This can be learned and should be taught–early.

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