Dear Dr. Babooner,
During a recent conversation with my son, I inadvertently let it slip that I think his children, a pair of girls aged 14 and 12, are selfish little heathens who exhibit all the social decorum one would expect from a pair of hungry wolverines.
One example: They put their elbows on the table, lower their faces to a scant 2 inches above the plate and proceed to gnaw and inhale their food, always accompanied by a cascade of grotesque slurping and chewing noises reminiscent of a National Geographic special about the food chain on the African savannah.
In response to this observation, my son said “manners are dead”. “I’m raising these children to be ‘natural creatures'”, he said, “wild and free and unencumbered by the petty rules of society.”
And he pointed out that Emily Post herself considered good etiquette to be a style of behavior intended to help other people feel comfortable. If his children feel comfortable eating their pizza as if they have just buried their faces in the warm entrails of an exhausted antelope, what right do I have to judge them?
He suggested that it was bad manners for me to even bring this up, and especially uncouth for me to pretend that I just let the criticism “slip” when in fact I have been brooding over this for years.
Dr. Babooner, while there may be some truth to the assertion that I have been thinking about this for a long time, it was never my intention to attempt to correct the atrocious behavior of these young barbarians. They are irredeemable. I would sooner try to convince voracious Asian Carp to swim back downstream.
But if etiquette is all about helping others relax, why must I always be the one to sacrifice? How come no one changes his or her behavior to help ME feel comfortable?
I told Crabby Gramps I was alarmed by his use of the world “irredeemable”. That strikes me as a shockingly final judgment for one to level against young relatives. And frankly, I said, his son is correct. Etiquette is dead – finally killed by the Internet in the same way table manners were done in by the State Fair, along with the table itself.
As for feeling “comfortable”, that must come from within. If you are looking for someone else to MAKE you feel comfortable, you are likely to wait for a very long time. Rather, C.G. should just decide to approach dinner with the mindset of a wildlife biologist. Observe and take notes. These are fascinating creatures who cannot be tamed!
You might also just “let it slip” that any “wild and free” creatures roaming in your house will have to wear radio collars and ear tags for the duration – for their own protection, of course. And one can never rule out the judicious use of tranquilizer darts.
But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?