On my grave, I don’t want it to say, ‘SHE NEVER MISSED A DEADLINE.’ I do want it to say BELOVED MOTHER. But also, I want it to say, SHE HAD EXCELLENT MANNERS.
Now, I’m … polite.
I’m … personable.
I’m .. not nice.
I’m … gallant.
But I want to have manners of the kind demonstrated by my friend Whitney, who is practically British.
She would never bring up a problem of her own, even if her arm were detached and gouting arterial blood, before asking after yours. She would never put a morsel of food in her mouth before seeing that you had your lunch (brunch, dinner) with a cloth napkin. Upon me, she did inflict her cat — even though I have allergies to cats that border on rabies. I did not say she’s perfect. But she has excellent, excellent manners.
She also responds to a gift with a handwritten note MENTIONING WHAT THE GIFT IS and how she intends to use it. When you sleep over, she provides cocoa before bed EVEN IF YOU DON”T ASK FOR IT, which why would you, but you want it desperately?
She does no icky things, like look at her Kleenex after she blows her nose. She dresses up for everything.
I think that excellent manners involve restraint.
I think that is what excellent manners really are: they are the practice of civility in the want of the actual good cheer. Good manners mean that you are really listening, instead of just waiting.
What do they mean to you?