As I wrote last week, I was visiting the southern states of Florida and Georgia with my daughter. The metropolitan feel came out of our Orlando and Tampa ventures. But there was a drastically different sense when entering the city of Savannah. Even though it was the celebratory “season” of St. Patrick’s Day, it was different from the party scenes in Key West during New Year’s Eve celebrations or Florida Spring Break festivities.
We were graced with the genteel nature of the south in our visit to Savannah. You could feel the embodiment of aristocracy in the stately buildings on Whitaker Street or the elegant lifestyle on Bull Street. Even the Spanish moss cascading off the tall oak trees evoked a sense of curtsying maidens and tuxedoed gentlemen retiring to the smoking room.
Oh, the days when manners meant something. If we could go back to, or move forward to a time when manners meant/mean something; where our elders were treated with respect and civility, temperance in speech was practiced and virtue was a badge of glory.
I am a dichotomy in terms. I am a very independent woman. If I were childless and single, I would be very successful in my career as I am outgoing, determined and intelligent woman. But I am married with children and I love the aspect of being a wife and mother. I would love to be at home baking, cleaning, sewing and volunteering with my time. I miss being flexible for my family now that I have a fulltime job outside the home.
I am old-fashioned and yet if I weren’t married, I would be a very modern woman. That seems strange but I love being married. I love my focus being on a house in order and a family in order. I want my family to be courteous, kind and a good example to others. I want them to be good stewards in the community by making sure that we give back both in community service and in an active church life.
Modern or old-fashioned, I do know that I would always have my manners; I would always have my “please” and “thank you’s” and I would address individuals as Mr., Mrs., or Miss when appropriate. I do see this as greatly missing in this society. I think that families are not honoring the etiquette that was so important in the past and they are missing many aspects of a time long gone. I think that the demise of the wife taking the husband’s last name has caused a confusion as to how to address adult women. I understand professional titles and my taking my husband’s last name had nothing to do with me losing my individuality. Believe me, even as a married woman who proudly took her husband’s name, I am an individual.
I am not a friend to my children. I am their parent. I am the parent that can speak about anything and everything to her children and they can say anything and everything to me. We speak about personal, worldly, out-of-the-box topics, but I am their parent. I expect them to respect my authority and I expect them to listen to me, learn from me, and take orders and guidance from me. We have a great deal of fun but when the fun goes too far, and they start treating me like a friend, I let them know.
What I mean by that last statement is, I don’t want to be talked to like I am their friend. I want proper and respectful English used, no swearing, no inappropriate words. Sometimes, my son gets carried away and I have to remind him that I am not his buddy and proper language needs to be used.
When I was growing up, I spoke to my friends differently than I would speak to my teacher, or parent or other person of authority. I would not use slang around my elders and would address my elders with the proper title. I knew that there was an invisible line that separated me from persons of authority. I was, and still am, okay with that. I believe that there is a pyramid and the higher you move up on the pyramid, the greater expectations people will have of you.
Let me go one step further, I don’t want to see my pastor out getting drunk. I am not saying that they shouldn’t do it; I just don’t want to see it. I don’t want my choir kids to see me getting drunk and I don’t want to see my president “yucking it up” on late night television. I know it is done to “bring them down” to the level of the common man, but let’s be real; many politicians in Washington D.C. are wealthy. And I don’t want them to be at my level. I want them to have a better grasp of things than I do. I am aware of this and I do not begrudge them. I applaud them for being successful enough in their business life that they are wealthy. I don’t want them to be on my level. I do not want to see them in a way that would not make their mother or pastor proud or would tarnish the position in which they hold.
That means, yes, I do have higher expectations of them. Because they were chosen to be a person of authority, I do believe they should act in a way befitting their position. Just like you would not see me in a mini-skirt or a string bikini; not just because I shouldn’t wear them with my body-type but because I am a 50+ year old woman. Mini-skirts and string bikinis are for those of younger age. I would say by your late thrities, you should start steering away from skin revealing clothing. Late night television is a lot of fun but not a place for politicians.
Don’t get me wrong, these thoughts came about because of my visit to Savannah, and I know that there is a lot of degradation, salacious acts, lying and cheating, just like many communities in the world. The difference is what happened behind closed doors, stayed behind closed doors. (What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.) My grandfather probably said it best, “Don’t share family secrets.” What he meant by that, was family problems need to stay within and handled by the family. Problems are not meant to be publicized and become the fodder for gossip.
I don’t want to know the sex acts of celebrities. I do not want to know what my friends do behind bedroom doors. I don’t want to hear swearing in public places because you don’t know who could be walking by and you should always want to come across in a positive light, if at all possible. I love the parents that openly swear and speak of personal things in front of their children. I want my children to have respect for me. How can that happen if a bunch of trash is coming out of my mouth.
As we get further into the political season, we all get to hear the bashing that will happen amongst the candidates. Another great saying my grandfather had was, “Don’t try to raise yourself up by putting others down.” If you degrade someone, then others will feel they can do the same to you. It is a vicious circle.
I never heard my mom swear. When I was older she told me that she didn’t swear because she had too much respect for herself. Wow, what a concept to have respect for others AND yourself. I wish there were more people out there who could have that same respect for themselves.
I admit it. I have sworn in my life. I have even sworn in front of my children. I have yet to reach the level of respectability that my mom has for herself. I am a work in progress and I do feel horrible when I say something or do something that is not to the standards that I strive to achieve.
Think about how you portray yourself. If you are a church going person, would your words and actions be acceptable to your congregational family? Would you be embarrassed to have your children speak with their teacher or principal about your words and actions? If you don’t care, then that is a whole other problem. If someone was describing you and you did not know it was you, would you be proud to know that person or ashamed?
Our world needs to think about the genteel South, even if it is an old wives tale, of their cordiality, their soft words, their proper manners. I listen to a lot of old-time radio, so I do know there was a time when it was expected, not a surprise to have a door opened for a woman or a “please” and “thank you” regularly said. There was a time when children addressed all adults with a proper title. You don’t have to be uptight or a snob to use manners and be polite.
I have hopefully instilled in my children a sense of respect in their lives. Maybe they can be strong and continue on this tradition into future generations. Time tarries on and I must close for now and say, “Thank you for reading my blog. I hope your day is filled with love and joy.”