Edward Harlow writes etiquette books under the pseudonym of Aunt Civility, a secret shared only by his publisher and his brother, Nicholas. He was hired to write the books by Classical Reads Publishing because he met their criteria: he could memorize facts, such as which fork to use to eat the shrimp cocktail; he turned out copy quickly; and he looked good in a tuxedo (for those times when he would appear in public as Aunt Civility's official representative.)
Good manners don't come naturally to Edward, and that's where his brother comes in. Nicholas, who is also Edward's secretary, keeps his brother in check. However, not even Emily Post anticipated the proper response to murder, and when a fellow guest at Inglenook Resort turns up dead, it's every man (and woman) for himself.
Though Edward is a fictional character in my latest mystery novel, Civility Rules, I think he serves to remind us that manners are the root of a civil society. Remember when men removed their hats as funerals passed by? Or when women didn't swear, at least not in public?
Manners are more than just a fad. They are an intricate part of respecting the other person, and the key to bringing them back into style is to practice them in public. But remember, not everyone knows the rules, so be kind when you point out errors. Here are a few examples of how I had to learn my manners:
When I was at a party, I approached a table of people to say hello. An older gentleman rose when I approached, and though it was difficult for him to remain standing, he didn't return to his seat. He was standing in the presence of a young lady, and he wasn't going to sit until I did. As soon as I figured this out, I found a chair and sat down so that he could be comfortable. He was practicing good manners, but so was I when I noticed his discomfort and responded. One of the keys to good manners is the rule do what you can to make the other person comfortable.
Another time, before I could drive, a friend and I were on a crowded bus headed for the mall. New people boarded, but the two of us didn't notice, as we were deep in conversation and fits of giggles. Suddenly, a woman said to me, "Get up and let that lady have your seat." An elderly woman had boarded the bus and found that all of the seats were taken. We hadn't noticed. I jumped to my feet, said, "Yes, Ma'am," and gave up my seat.
The first woman needed to point out to me the correct response to the situation, and by the way, she did it with a smile. Though I showed a relapse in not recognizing the situation, I had been raised with manners, so I responded to authority with the proper address and by complying with her request.
Nicholas often points out to Edward, "You never use your manners with me!" How true! When we have a familiar relationship with someone, such as a family member, it's easy to forget to say please and thank you. Sometimes, good manners are even discouraged. When I worked in the insurance industry, my clients were Ma'am and Sir. Countless times, the response was, "Don't call me that! It makes me sound old!" Since good manners are not about me as much as about the other person, I stopped the practice, and I noticed that this slight change altered the tone of future conversations. They became more casual. In some ways, a shame.
So, are you ready to test your manners?
You approach Pastor Terry Jones with your friend, Ida Smith. Which is the correct introduction?
1. Ida, I'd like you to meet Pastor Jones.
2. Pastor Jones, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Ida Smith.
3. Terry, this is Ida. Ida, this is Terry.
The correct answer is #2. When making introductions, always use a person's title. Also, the person of higher social rank (the head of the congregation, your boss, etc.) should be addressed first, and the other person should be introduced to them.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this post, and a big thank you to Marilyn Meredith for having me on her blog! Have a wonderful, civil week!
Jacqueline Vick is the author of over twenty short stories, novelettes and mystery novels. Her April 2010 article for Fido Friendly Magazine, “Calling Canine Clairvoyants”, led to the first Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mystery, Barking Mad About Murder, followed by A Bird's Eye View of Murder. Her first Harlow Brothers' mystery, Civility Rules, will be out by January 2016. To find out more, visit her website at www.jacquelinevick.com.