Last Thursday I went to see the Christian Dior exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum here, in Toronto. Every garment, whether for daytime or evening, was shown with gloves — short, mostly black ones with suits and dresses and white, cream and occasionally black, long, above-the-elbow ones for formal wear.
I remember that from when I was growing up. My mother, grandmothers, aunts, their friends, all women in fact always wore gloves when they went out. Even little girls had gloves. I did. And everyone — men, women and children — always dressed for the occasion.
There were no such things as yoga pants. My mother wore a dress or a skirt and sweater set to go grocery shopping. She wore suits or day dresses, and often a hat, when she went to lunch with her friends and even when she went to the hairdresser. When I was with her, so did I. My father always wore a suit, shirt and tie to the office and even to casual dinners and movies. Shoes were always polished to a high gloss and running shoes and shorts and jeans were confined to bike-riding, playing in the park and other sports-related activities.
Being appropriately dressed was a sign of respect as much as anything else, for where you were going and who you were with. We were a civil society; and no, I wasn’t born in the dark ages, although some times it feels that way.
With that, came manners. We had manners back then. We said “please” and “thank you.” We didn’t interrupt, we didn’t shout over people, we didn’t swear, we didn’t talk back. Men held doors open for women. We respected our elders.
And that didn’t mean we were wimps.
We’ve been going downhill for a long time, I’ve blogged about it and whined about it to my friends for years. But the Donald has kicked it up to notches we’d never, in our wildest imagination, ever have thought possible.
Sadly, bad behaviour is contagious, and it’s spread like wildfire. Being rude, crude and mean is the new normal. And it’s not confined to politicians.
It’s a rude and unhelpful “service” person on the other end of the telephone, it’s the teenager on the bus who doesn’t offer his seat to a woman or senior citizen. It’s the sales person who continues to talk to colleague while you’re cooling your heels at the counter. It’s all those who never answer their phones, don’t return calls and hide behind email.
It’s the people who avert their eyes and keep walking when a stranger slips and falls on an icy sidewalk. It’s the boss who berates an employee in public. It’s kids who taunt and bully others and the jerks who push and shove their way to the front of a line.
It’s the impatient drivers who put their hands on their horns and leave them there for what seems like forever, caring not a whit that they are, quite literally, disturbing everyone’s peace.; and accomplishing nothing, by the way. And it’s all those who can’t disagree or debate without pointing fingers and turning it into an angry argument.
Then, yesterday morning I happened upon this article in the Washington Post. The piece is about a book, written by two former White House social secretaries, that’s just been published. It pretty much echoes my feelings and also offers up some suggestions on how we can all do our part “to make an uncivil world more civil.”
Read the article, it’s good. And as for the book, I think it should be required reading for anyone and everyone — from five year old kids to anyone who still has a pulse, and enough of their marbles to understand what they’re reading.